Embroidery Library

Sashiko Embroidery


Sashiko embroidery is rooted in Asian culture and tradition. Embroidery was used to bind layers of fabric together to add extra warmth. It was also a functional and pragmatic way to repair worn areas of garments.

In machine embroidery, Sashiko brings graceful symmetry and geometry to projects, while paying tribute to the Asian tradition. This tutorial demonstrates how to use simple Sashiko designs as a method of quilting.

Embroidery Library has several different kinds of Sashiko designs, varying from simple to complex to applique:

Simple Sashiko

Simple Sashiko designs are single running stitch designs. These designs can be used like simple Redwork, or to quilt layers of fabric and batting together. Instructions for using these types of designs to quilt are covered in the tutorial below.

Multi-Color or Complex Sashiko

Complex Sashiko designs retain the traditional look, but also have colorful, complex details. It is not advised that these designs be used to quilt through layers of fabric, as complex areas tamp the batting down flat. Examples for using these Sashiko designs can be found by clicking here.

30 weight cotton thread is recommended (but not required) for the simple stitching areas. We use Madeira Cotona from TheSewphisticatedStitcher.

Applique Sashiko

Applique Sashiko designs combine the simple stitching of the traditional use with a raw-edge applique method. Instructions for stitching these types of Sashiko designs can be found by clicking here.

30 weight cotton thread is recommended (but not required) for the simple stitching areas. We use Madeira Cotona from TheSewphisticatedStitcher.

In this project, we'll demonstrate how to use the simple Sashiko designs to quilt through fabric and batting.

Supplies Needed:

Quilter's cotton

Lightweight batting (we used Warm and Natural)

30 weight cotton. We used Madeira Cotona, which we purchased from
   TheSewphisticatedStitcher.com. They're located in Wisconsin, and give
   great service. We Minnesotans can almost forgive them for being Green
   Bay Packers fans!

**Air-erase pen (or other marking tool)

Use the classic, one-color simple designs from the Sashiko department for this project.

First, draw a square on the fabric to the size you would like the blocks to be. Our blocks will be 8 inches by 8 inches.

Leave enough excess fabric around the square so that it can be hooped.

Mark the placement of the embroidery design. 

Find the center of the square by measuring and marking each side and dividing by two.
Then, draw lines connecting the marks. Where the lines meet is the center of the square. These lines will also
be used for hooping.


If you have embroidery software, print a template to use for placement. If you don't have embroidery software, you can cut a piece of paper the shape and dimensions of the design to help with placement and centering.

Poke a hole in the center of the template and align it with the center mark on the square. Make sure there is at least one inch of space between the edges of the design and the edges of the shape.


Cut two pieces of lightweight batting and another piece of quilter's cotton. These pieces should be the same size as the piece of quilter's cotton that you marked in previous steps.

Use thicker batting to give the areas between the embroidery a raised effect. We are using two pieces of batting for this purpose.

Lay the unmarked cotton fabric down first with the batting on top. Then, place the marked cotton on top of the batting, right side up.


Hoop all the layers together by aligning the marks on the hoop with the lines on the fabric.

No stabilizer is necessary. The layered fabric and batting will provide sufficient support for the simple running stitch Sashiko designs.


Attach the hoop and load the embroidery design. 

Move the hoop so that the needle is directly over the center point on the fabric, and embroider the design.

We used a 75/11 needle with the 30 weight cotton thread. The 30 weight thread is thicker than 40 weight rayon or polyester, but we did not find that any changes to the thread tension settings were necessary.


After the design has finished, cut out the shape. You now have a beautiful Sashiko square to use for a pot holder, trivet, tote bag, or purse. Use the same technique to stitch through all the layers of a quilt!

Click here for a printable version of these project instructions.

You'll need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer. If you don't have it, you can download a free copy by clicking on the icon below.

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Products used in this Project: