Sashiko and ritual crafting

Photo by Sake puppets

Lately I’ve found that crafting is an excellent activity to turn into ritual because crafts requires patience and concentration, especially (for me) anything related to sewing. There’s something deeply satisfying about watching something grow from a rough sketch on paper into a final completed product, and the ritual part comes into play when it touches upon crafts that have been done for generations.

I’ve never really quilted, but I’ve read a lot about the power of quilting, including the communal ritual of the quilting bee (a good example is in the movie How to Make an American Quilt). In these spaces, women got together for storytelling and community-making as well as creation. When I lived in Portland in the early 2000s, a local bar threw a craft night. People would come and bring whatever they were working on, drink beer, and make stuff. There’s a buzz that comes from both beer and creation, and they went well together.

Photo from Firefighters of Edo

Recently, I ran into an article about Japanese quilting, known as sashiko, that fascinated me. Much like the original intent of western quilting, sashiko developed from the need of agrarian people to reinforce and strengthen commonly-available indigo cotton. Over time it developed into a gorgeous artform.

It’s deceptively simple, made from a running stitch in white thread over indigo fabric, but the power is in the final pattern. The patterns are usually geometric, and Wikipedia lists a number of patterns that have been developed over time to become traditional forms. In modern times, it looks like people have developed very playful ways to use it too, like in these very cute sashiko patterns for kids.

Photo from Etsy

It seems like something simple enough to do with a kid for practicing running stitch, but as complicated as we’d wanna make it.

[So how do you turn something into a ritual? You use principals of meditation to bring all of your attention into the present moment, and yet realize that everything you are doing connects you to the past and future. The moment is like a bead on a string! This is a short explanation, but I’ll weave it into future posts. (You can read more about meditative awareness here.)]

If you’d like to read more about sashiko, here are some links:

Leave a comment


  1. So cool. I wish I had a crafty bent … I seem to just make things I can eat. 😉


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