Sashiko Fireworks — Free Hand Embroidery Design

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Perhaps it’s my way of getting in touch with my heritage, but I seem to be continually drawn to traditional Japanese crafts and folk arts. I’ve always wanted to give sashiko a try (so many possible patterns and not enough time!). Sashiko, which means “little stabs” in English, is a traditional Japanese hand embroidery design. Historically sashiko was used to repair/decorate clothing and often put on patches. It’s a running stitch that uses a long needle to pull threads along a linear design. There are hundreds of traditional patterns with patterns often abstracted from natural forms like wisteria, the ocean, and so on.
 
I thought it would be fun to use this technique to do something a bit more contemporary. It’s nice to take something in your wardrobe that’s rather plain and give it new life, so I decided to embellish the front of a skirt with an embroidery pattern loosely based on fireworks (I thought the fireworks were reminiscent of a chrysanthemum, which is common in Asian art).

Materials
- sashiko needle (may substitute a doll needle or longest needle you have)
- skirt
- template
 
Thread/Stitch
- metallic embroidery floss, double strand
- sashiko stitch

Step 1

Download the fireworks embroidery design. Copy and print the template to a size that will work on your garment.
 

Step 2

Trace the design onto the garment with the water-soluble pen and then embroider.

Step 3

The sashiko technique bunches the fabric on the needle (see A) causing lots of wrinkles, so iron or steam the completed embroidery.

Step 4

Traditional sashiko uses a dense cotton thread, but I wanted some sparkle, so I used metallic embroidery
floss. The skirt I used had distinct panels and pleats, so I decided a center placement would work best. I
could also envision this design repeated several times or placed off to one side. If a skirt isn’t an option,
consider embroidering your fireworks onto a shirt, pillow, or anything else that needs some sparkle.
 
Tip: Metallic floss is quite slippery. It can be challenging to knot, plus it gets caught on itself and frays easily. I used a long single strand doubled over to avoid fraying and a quilter’s knot at the beginning.

Step 5

This free hand embroidery design is reprinted with permission from "Knot Thread Stitch: Exploring Creativity through Embroidery and Mixed Media" by Lisa Solomon (Quarry Books).



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