Textile Society of America



Lucy AraiFollow

Date of this Version



Textile Narratives & Conversions: Proceedings of the 10th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, October 11–14, Toronto, Ontario


Copyright 2006 by the author.


The objective for this workshop is to experientially understand the connection between textile and math by drafting and stitching simple underlying grids from which all sashiko patterns are derived. This demonstrates the intrinsic connection between textiles and math.

This hands-on presentation taught the essentials of sashiko pattern drafting and stitching to facilitate an experiential understanding of geometry and subdivision of the stitched plane. Each participant received a threaded needle and a fabric square prepared with a grid, the underlying structure for all traditional sashiko patterns. I guided the participants through the process of sewing and drawing stitches through the grid in the efficient sequence of parallel lines. A selection of traditional patterns that have the stitching orders and subdivisions identified was provided in the materials insert provided in the symposium packet.

The activities will illustrate the how math is a structural component of sashiko and how math defines the process for developing sashiko patterns.

What is sashiko?

Sashiko is running-stitch embroidery and a quilting technique sewn with white thread into indigo dyed fabric, and is characteristically identified by complex geometric patterns.

Who sewed sashiko? When and where was it done?

Sashiko was developed and practiced by the farmers of Northern Japan. It flourished during the last feudal era of Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate between 1615-1868, because the ruling classes retained the rights to silk, cotton and wool: the warm and durable fabrics. The farmers had to use the indigenous bast fibers of their region to make their clothing.