Sashiko Needlework Reborn: From Functional Technology to Decorative Art

Carol Hayes

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    The term 'sashiko' refers to a quilting stitch used to sew together layers of material. The stitch itself is a simple running stitch, with the beauty created by complex interlocking stitching patterns. In Japan there is a long-standing tradition of layering and re-stitching material to create a thicker, warmer more durable garment. This was particularly true in the poorer regions of Tohoku during the Edo and early Meiji period where the lower classes used this stitching to create and decorate garments made out of homespun hemp and other plant fibres. After first contextualising the sashiko tradition, both in terms of its Edo origins and decreasing popularity in late Meiji, this paper focuses on the contemporary rebirth of sashiko as a form of decorative embroidery, and increasingly as a pure art form. In discussing the rekindled interest in this form of stitching, in both the contemporary quilting world and in the context of the global revival of traditional handicrafts, the paper concludes with reference to the work of contemporary sashiko artists and also to the use of sashiko garments in the final film made by the great director, Akira Kurosawa, Yume.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)263-280
    JournalJapanese Studies
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


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