I’m not one to let something beat me. I’ve been thinking about my failed attempt at machine sewing Sashiko embroidery for a while now. I’ve realised that there were two problems with my approach. Firstly, I was trying to sew circles – something a machine just isn’t very good at. Secondly, I was sewing totally illogically.

The solution to these problems is very obvious. For the first problem, sew in straight lines. For the second problem, come up with a plan for sewing BEFORE starting.

And that’s exactly what I’ve done.

The results were excellent compared to the first attempt. I have a little patch of Sashiko embroidery that looks the way I wanted it to and didn’t take forever to hand embroider.

Guide to machine sewing Sashiko from scratch:
Drawing out the pattern

Assuming you haven’t bought a ready-made pattern, the first thing you’ll need to do is draw out your pattern.
First, decide how big you’d like the pattern to be. This will depend on what you’d ultimately like to use it for. For example, if you’re going to make a cushion out of it you’ll need a fairly large piece of fabric. Since the pattern itself can be repeated as much as you like, there is no limit on how large you can make it.
Start of the pattern
Starting with a rectangle or a square draw the lines in the order prescribed in the image above. There should be a gap of 2.5cm between the start of each diagonal line and a gap of 2.5cm between each horizontal line. Of course, if you’d like the repeat to be bigger or smaller, just vary the ratio (i.e. 1cm to 1cm or 3cm to 3cm, etc). Mark the peaks of the zigzags. In my example the point is 1.25cm from the centre of the star and then each point should be 2.5cm from each other. Again you can vary this. How deep you make the zigzags is mostly a matter of preference. I made the 0.75cm (7.5mm) away from the horizontal lines, but if I’d wanted the stars to appear completely symmetrical I would have made them 1.25cm deep.
When you have finished drawing all the zigzags you can mark on the short vertical line. This should reach from the top of one zigzag to the bottom of another. In my pattern they are 3.5cm long. All of the lines should now be marked.

Sewing the pattern
The next step is to put thread to fabric and sew those complex lines.

SewingFollowing the same logical order as for drawing out the pattern (see the picture above, excluding step four) sew along each line and watch the pattern come together. This is fairly straightforward until you reach the short vertical lines. At this point, the best strategy is to sew down each line break the thread and start again. It seems like a waste of thread, but there’s no better way of doing it. If your machine allows you to secure the thread without breaking it do that at the end and beginning of each line and then move the needle to the next, keeping the thread intact. When you have finished you can simply cut the addition thread out, without losing too much along the way.
Finish the embroidery by outlining the square/rectangle and trim all the ends.

Finished sashikoEasy.

Further things you may be interested in…
If you are really interested in Sashiko and would like to find out more about how to do it the traditional way, The Purl Bee have and excellent tutorial. You might even want to try out the pattern they use there.

Google books is an excellent resource for crafters. Quite often if there’s a subject you’re just getting into Google books will have a limited preview of a book that will help you to find out more and get inspired. For example, Paradise Stiched is an excellent introduction and resource for anyone interested in Sashiko.

If you’d like to have a go at creating your own patterns, Sumopaint could be just the thing to get the creative juices flowing. The online application has a tool allowing you to create symmetrical patterns quickly and easily.

Finally, if you’d like to draw your own patterns from scratch it might be helpful to have some square paper on hand. This will help you know where the repeat begins and tell you how big to make everything. Plus, drawing it from scratch would help you to get your head around the logical approach to sewing it. However, if you don’t have the patience to draw everything out from scratch, I’ve drawn up this handy sheet of the pattern used in this post.Sashiko pattern

Good luck! And remember the general rule: if it’s round, hand sew it; if its straight, go straight to the machine!