Sashiko: the Stitched Geometry of Rural Japan

Barbara Setsu Pickett
Bridges London: Mathematics, Music, Art, Architecture, Culture (2006)
Pages 211–214


Shashiko comes, not from the imperial courts, but from the humble origins of rural Japan. This textile tradition requires only needle, thread and countless hours of patient stitching. No fancy machinery or clever devices are used. It is just cloth, single or layered, held together by running stitches. The results are beautiful: geometric patterns interlock with precision and grace, stunning tessellations emerge. Some of the traditional patterns are easy to decipher but others are less obvious. This paper will examine how these patterns are drawn on the cloth and what design principles the stitcher uses to guide the needle.