Nancy Eha’s Top 5 Tips for Sashiko Bead Embroidery Dragonfly

How do we say it? This term is pronounced sash-i-ko (the “i” is pronounced as in the word “it”). Sashiko means “little stabs” and has a long history of mainly reinforcement stitching in Japan during the Edo era (1615-1868). According to Nancy Eha, geometric patterns were traditionally used for stitching waves, arrow feathers, mountains, bamboo and overlapping diamonds as the most popular designs of the day.

Sashiko then moved into being used for more decorative purposes on ornate linings inside heavy firemen’s coats in Japan. The firemen would wear their coats inside out for special festivities. These coats could be seen in every Japanese town until after World War II. White was the dominant color of the thread, although other colors of thread were used as well. Each pattern had a name and symbolism. The stitches on the right side of the fabric are about the size of a grain of rice; the running stitches on the wrong side of the fabric are 1/3 the size of those on the right side. This means the space left between the running stitches on the right side of the fabric is 1/3 the size of the stitch.

Beautiful example of Sashiko Bead Embroidery

Beautiful example of Sashiko Bead Embroidery

Today, this stitch is primarily used for decorative surface designs and Nancy leads you every step of the way. Nancy has been teaching how to bead sashiko patterns for over 10 years and says when she saw sashiko for the first time at a quilt show, she thought “if only I could do that with beads!” Thus, a whole new creative process was born.

Nancy teaches you numerous beading stitches (including long stitch, satin stitch, stop stitch, raised satin stitch, back stitch) as well as her adaptation of creating sashiko stitching with beads. As you learn these techniques, you will create a beautiful fabric scroll decorated with a beaded dragonfly and sashiko embellishments.

Sashiko Bead Embroidery workshop project

Sashiko Bead Embroidery workshop project

Nancy is a great instructor and wealth of knowledge in all the bead embroidery techniques she teaches. Read my blog post about Nancy’s other workshop, Bead Text Embroidery Course: The Art of Writing with Seed Beads with Nancy Eha. Here’s a few of her tips from the workshop:

Nancy’s Top 5 Tips for Sashiko Bead Embroidery Dragonfly

1. Match thread to beads
When you chose a thread color or value, do so based on the color of beads you are beading with and not the fabric you are using.

2. Hiding thread from view
The stop stitch is a two-bead stitch that stands upright on the fabric surface. A useful textural stitch, it is also great for eliminating thread from showing when attaching sequins, flower and leaf beads. The top bead in the stop stitch is called the stop bead.

3. Dimensional work
Applied over a raised, padded form, the padded satin stitch provides secure beaded dimension. The number of beads needed per line is determined by wrapping bead lines over the padding. Instead of counting the beads, string and “measure” until you have enough beads to wrap the padding without gaps between beads.

Beaded embroidery: Dimensional work diagram

Dimensional work diagram

4. Sashiko spacing
Sashiko should not look like a continuous line of beads. Leave spaces between the bugle beads, approximately half the size of the bugle, so that from a distance the sashiko maintains its intermittent look.

beaded embroidery: Sashiko stitch spacing sample

Sashiko stitch spacing sample

5. Steer clear of fabric edges
When you are beading on fabric, keep all beading at least a half-inch in from all raw edges of the fabric. After beading you may want to trim and square up the fabric or add a border or binding.

Like what you see so far? Grab some fabric and beads for a delightful journey with Nancy into the wonderful world of Sashiko Bead Embroidery!


For tips and tricks and a Q&A with Nancy, read Bead Embroidery, Beaded Fabric, Beaded Quilts, Beading Techniques.

Featured Image: Beaded dragonfly wings

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  1. Anne C at 8:26 am April 26, 2018

    Beautiful — I’m intrigued! When will the course and kit be available? Are you taking preregistration?

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