vintage japanese sashiko

What is Sashiko? - The History of Traditional Embroidery in Japan

What is Sashiko?


Sashiko is a traditional Japanese embroidery technique that has been handed down from generation to generation.
Its simple and beautiful technique was developed from the wisdom of daily life of common people. Sashiko dates back to the early 16th century, about 500 years ago. The birthplace of this technique is not certain, as it is found all over the country, but the stitched fabrics from the Tohoku region in particular are widely known.
It is said that this technique originated in the Tohoku region, where people used stitches on their clothing to protect them from the cold and to reinforce them against the harsh cold.


Cotton could not be cultivated in places with severe cold. Cotton cloth was very expensive. People did not throw away cotton. Sashiko was born through repeated repairs. The fibers were filled stitch by stitch with threads, and the warm air was kept inside. This is the handiwork of people who lived in a harsh living environment, and who used their wits and strength to get by.




Repeated repairs in this way made the fabric very thick.
Sashiko was women's work, but when it became too thick for women to sew, men sewed it. This is called "Otoko-Sashi" (meaning men's Sashiko). Men sew with a very thick needle.
It is a wild Sashiko stitch." If an item has been made with "Otoko-Sashi" stitches, the item itself is full of history.


Sturdy Sashiko

Sashiko is not only for protection from the cold.
In the Edo period (1603-1867), sashiko was also very useful in Tokyo, where there were many fires. Sashiko wears for firefighters were made of two or three layers of fabric with fine stitching. Gloves and hoods were also covered with dazzling stitching.
When a fire broke out, the firefighters would go to work wearing sturdy, easy-to-move sashiko clothing and covering their heads with water. Sashiko items filled with plenty of water protected the firefighters from the flames.
The firefighters who had played a major role in extinguishing the flames turned their sashiko wears inside out. The townspeople admired the sight of the firefighters as they leisurely returned home, showing the dynamic drawings on the reverse side of their garments.

sashiko firefighter's gloves


Sashiko collection in my store


Written by:
Reiko Shiozawa, a
 Selector of  Vintage Blue Japan
This is a blog by a Japanese store owner who deals only in authentic Japanese vintage.

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