Our Blue & White invitation for a Crazy Sashiko Competition was received with enthusiasm and a wide range of masterpieces arrived from the loyal followers of Blue & White. But Sashiko is basically serious, purposeful sewing, not crazy. It is a simple running stitch sewing to strengthen and reinforce cloth, sometimes to mend, sometimes to thicken clothing for wearing, warming, and working, cloths for carrying and sleeping or using. Sashiko is functional and made to work.
But it is summer at Blue & White. Why not have fun, we thought, so we invited friends and neighbors to a Crazy Sashiko event. More than 65 entries arrived and we displayed them in our ever-changing window. The result is a fun and eye- stopping, idea filled window of a wide swath of stitched creations loosely called Sashiko. Some are traditional, some are works of impressive patience and care. Some are slightly crazy, but all are joy giving and express inner thoughts.
The works are handsome and off the normally stitched sashiko path. They are filled with heart and dexterity. The most touching were the works of Reiko Inaba who does handsome applique work of kimono and fish, drawing from her treasure mounds of antique kimono and under wear, mosquito netting and futon material. She arrived with her husband first thing on the first morning to see the display, embarrassingly not yet up, on her way to hospital for yet another checkup.
Stopping in at Blue & White came first on her priority list.
She has been creating appliqued pieces for us for maybe 15 years or so, always bringing along vegetables she has grown, fish she has smoked, fruit she has dried. Until recently her energy has been unflagging. Her Sashiko is bouncy. Her eye for old fabrics knowing. Wanting to do something different this time, she decided to use strips of torn silk kimono material for her thread and produced a colorful collage of design and texture which warmed my cockles with its warm individuality.
It sits unassumingly beside a carry bag of gentle sashiko squares by Megumi Kajikawa, a stalwart staff member of Blue & White.
Next to them is a thundering boys’ day banner that has been stitched in thick fairly widely spaced stitches as if to emboss the already dynamic composition of a fearless samurai leading the battle on his bright eyed stallion.
Got your back! The reverse side of the Samurai is a peaceable scene of rising sun and sails at sea.
Zokin, or dustrags are a popular canvas for sashiko. The stitches connect two sides of an old towel when doubled over, and give the finished cloth style and grace while reinforcing it for hard work. The color of work: the beauty of function.
Below the Zokin is a small and playful indigo furoshiki by Blue & White’s favorite artisan, Reiko Okunushi. Thick white unbleached cotton thread, double ply, makes strong and whimsical patterns on the square of indigo that can be used as a wrapping cloth or even a small table cloth to lay down a picnic for two.
Everyone had made such an effort – a group of grannies had painstakingly stitched their dustcloths, newly recharged by the challenge. 22 women from Gungendo in Shimane handed in a long, patiently patched panel of sashiko. There were clothes and noren and crazy glasses and strips of bright colored ends of tenugui stitched together with white sashiko thread – folded over it could be a sensational obi on an indigo kimono, we thought, for someone who dared stand out in a crowd. All were so good that we realized there should be prizes for everyone. So we made 45 original blue and white necklaces made of long rolled triangles of the thick paper of leftover pages of Blue & White calendars. No overnight affair.
And while all the participants got a necklace or a tenugui, we did give 5 honorable mentions for creativity, imagination, sensitive use of materials, indigo patchwork originality, and sashiko perfection.
The Craziest: Indigo wrapped glasses and a hotspring mark on sashiko eyes made from an old clothes hanger by Mitsuko Katoh (yes! a relative. My clever sister-in-law, but I was not involved in the judging.)
The Blue and White Prize: a wonderfully original Blue & White noren of random odd shapes of stuffed and stitched indigo hanging on braided twists of rope – too wild and unwieldy to photograph.
The Most Colorful: by Fusako Matsumoto
Best use of materials: Reiko Inaba’s kimono spiral on mosquito netting
Most useful: a zokin/ dustcloth by a sewing group of Obaachan/ Grannies
This was the first Crazy Sashiko event at Blue & White, but it was received with such gusto and enthusiasm from passersby that we look forward to making it annual.
We may even find a way to manage international entries. So wherever you are, think Crazy Sashiko next August!
And many of these sashiko masterpieces will be featured on our 2013 Sashiko calendar that will come out in October. It will give a burst of original creativity every month for the kitchen, the study or your work room.
The last word
Indigo Patchwork and Sashiko perfection: by Kayo Hayashi