Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Sashiko sampler stitch along - let’s get started!

I have finished stitching the first set of blocks for my sashiko sampler stitch along, using the ink black versions of my sashiko panels (A2009 and C2009) and an assortment of bright colours from the 20m sashiko thread range, which were chosen to coordinate with Philip Jacob's 'Black Ming Embroidery' fabric from the new 'Silk Road' range. I set out all the thread possibilities above, but I didn't use the full range I had selected! I used the following shades (from left to right) - #72, #6, #51, #1,#16, #21 & #12, plus #73 instead of #53 (the lilac tones in #73 were great for the wisteria block below and the pinks worked for the small cherry blossom block too) and #76 (also chosen to give me lilac, purple and blue for the iris and Chinese bellflower blocks). 


So, in the end, I only used ten skeins instead of 15, as I added #96, shaded neutral grey, because I needed a colour for the branches on the plum, moon and snowflake kamon below. My first choice, #12 dark red, did not work at all - it was far too close to the parts of #76 I selected to stitch plum blossoms.


I unpicked the #12 thread really carefully (easy to do by snipping the starting and finishing knots) and managed to reuse the salvaged thread along with #21 and #76 to stitch the komezashi (rice stitch) variations hitomezashi (one stitch sashiko) smaller blocks! The photo below shows the sashiko stitch marks after unpicking. Some of the white print has rubbed off a little, but there was enough to see to mark over the lines again with a Clover White Marking Pen (fine).


I used the sashiko thread singly to stitch the branch. There was enough contrast with the black background to show this up well.


These are the hitomezashi blocks. The first set of running stitches (vertical) were done in #12 dark red, and the second set (horizontal) with #21 bright pink on all the blocks. They are very close in light/dark value, so it gives the stitching a little extra interest. I used #76 for the diagonal stitches on the second, third and fourth blocks. I will be writing separate blog posts, with step by step photos and some video clips, for ALL the blocks later, so you'll be able to see exactly how to stitch these if you haven't tried hitomezashi already.

These are the other two blocks where I used #96 grey - the crane and the pine tree. As cranes have black feathers as well as white, it was a way of suggesting the different plumage. Although I could have used a brown thread to represent branches and tree trunks, there are no browns in the coordinating print and I didn't want to introduce any earth tones in this sampler, keeping to the bright, clear colours instead. I don't often use such bright colours in my work, so it was a fun challenge working outside my usual comfort zone!



It is much easier to stitch anything as smaller pieces of fabric rather than a big panel - so much easier to handle for sashiko or any other stitching - so I cut up my sashiko panels before starting to stitch. Any fabric that is easy for stitching sashiko will have a lower thread count than patchwork cottons and therefore more tendency to fray while you are stitching. Ever since I made my earliest sashiko pieces, I have always 'overlocked' or zigzagged the fabric edges on every piece before I start stitching. I don't use my overlocker for this, I just use a 'fauxlock' stitch on my Bernina 153QE - number 16 - narrowed to about 3.5 and lengthened to 3. Before I had this machine, I just used a narrow zigzag. So long as the stitching is right over the edge it will stop fraying, and it needs to be narrow enough to disappear into the quarter inch seam allowance when the pieces are sewn together as patchwork.

I find the basic machine foot is just fine for stitching over the edge. I stitch one side of each block, then move on to the next block, like 'chain piecing' patchwork, rather than stitching all four sides of each block and turning the stitching at the corners, because I find the latter tends to make the corners bunch up very slightly. So, stitch the first side of the first block, then the first side of the second block, and so on, then repeat for the second, third and fourth sides. I will add a photo showing the blocks chain pieced together when I fauxlock the next batch for the next sampler - they end up looking like block bunting until they are cut apart.

I have finished all the sashiko on the blocks for the first sampler and will be writing up posts for those soon, but I also started stitching sashiko for the second sampler (I was away a few weekends ago and knew I'd finish off the black blocks so I prepped the next set!) The next sampler will combine kamon crests and geometric blocks. I could have stitched the geometric blocks as full squares of pattern, which I will do for another sampler -

But for this sampler, using the russet brown panels, I wanted to try out a different look. The russet panels were a limited edition colour of the kamon crest and geometric panels published in 2019, so I didn't have the option of using either two kamon or two geometric panels, unless I combined them with standard colours from the 2020 range. I will combine two different panel colours in a future sampler, but for this one, I wanted to use just the russet panels, but to do something a little different with the geometric ones.

I decided to turn the geometric panels into circular designs, in a similar style to the way Japanese printmaker Hokusai showed the new geometric patterns in his 'Shingata Komoncho' (New Forms of Design) pattern book in the 1820s. This is so easy to do and I think it will look great on the sampler to have both the kamon crests and the geometric designs in circles. I used an 8in circle template to draw a circle on each geometric block. If you don't have a circle template, you could use a plate or any other circular item for this. Check it is centred on the block by measuring the relationship between the circle and the edge of the block at the top, bottom and side edges, and slide the circle template around until each measurement is the same.  If you are drawing your patterns on the blocks yourself and not using the printed panels, I would recommend drawing the patterns as an all over design, then marking the circles the same way.

Draw around the circle (I used the Clover White Marking Pen (fine)), and stitch only the parts of the sashiko design that are inside the circle. I used two different 20m sashiko threads for each block - #17 turquoise and #27 bright mid blue. #27 is almost exactly the same as my coordinating fabric's background colour and the intense blue is quite dark against the russet Kofu Tsumugi fabric, which I thought would give quite a subtle effect, despite #27 looking very bold as a skein of thread. #17 was used to add extra interest to each block, hinting at how the sashiko pattern is stitched and creating a secondary pattern too.  Here are yamagata (mountain shape) and kagome (bamboo basket) stitched.

Once the blocks are washed to remove the printed pattern, you are left with the sashiko design appearing to float on the background.  In the finished quilt, I will hand quilt the circle again around each area of sashiko, which will add definition to the shape.

Sorry - this photo is slightly blurry!

As I am using some panels which were printed last year (the samples of the panels which I kept for reference) and some which are newly printed, I have noticed a slight colour difference between the two. However, alternating between the two sets of blocks in the sampler layout will balance this out visually. The original 2019 black kamon panel from last year  is shown at the top of each photo below, and the 2020 panel at the bottom. Both designs newly printed would be a perfect match. I have a few of the 'old' panel colours left on sale, and the difference is most pronounced with the black and light grey (taupe) colourways. I will make sure the colours match on any panels ordered at the same time - unless you request otherwise!

So, please prepare your panels and we will be ready to start stitching asap! I am going to post about how I stitched each block, and I think I will alternate posts between geometric and kamon crests, because I know some people may be beginners so stitching the geometrics first is best, while there will be other stitchers following this stitch along who already more experienced with sashiko and wanting to stitch the kamon crests first. And there will be some samplers that are all kamon and others that are all geometric... so many possibilities!

No comments: