Have you ever noticed when you learn about something new and then all of a sudden, it’s everywhere? For example, a few months ago I saw a very cool picture on my mother’s Pinterest page. It showed a detail of Sashiko-style embroidery forming little crosses on one side and dashed grid lines on the reverse. A few days later Laura showed me a picture of a quilt with the same stitching on it, and then a week after that, I was in a baby store and wouldn’t you know it, a very similar quilt was on display there as well! The universe was trying to tell me something.
And so with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I got really excited to make a set of Sashiko Placemats using this technique. The process of Sashiko stitching is soothing and repetitive, kind of like a simple knitting project. Once you get started it’s hard to put down! The fun and beauty of this particular stitch is that its result is so unexpected, a totally reversible graphic pattern!
For a beautifully understated and elegant look, I used Kiyohara Linen Blend Solid in Brown for the base and soft off-white Sashiko Thread for the stitching. The finished placemats are so graceful and pretty, perfect for a Thanksgiving feast!
To make a set of four placemats, you’ll need…
- 2 1/2 yards of Kiyohara Linen Blend Solid in Brown, or other midweight woven linen fabric, like Purl Soho’s Daily Linen
- Quilter’s Dream’s Cotton Batting, Craft size, Mid loft
- A 110-yard spool of Gutermann’s Cotton Sewing Thread in color 3630
- 4 packages of Olympus’s Sashiko Thread, 20 meters in Off White
- A hera marker
- Tailor’s chalk
- A Sashiko needle
- A 25mm bias tape maker
- Curved safety pins
If you’d like to make a different number of placemats, you will get 1 mat per 1/2 yard of of fabric and 1 mats per package of Sashiko Thread.
Finished Dimensions: 18 x 14 inches
Cut and Mark
For each placemat cut:
- From the fabric- Two rectangles 20 X 16 inches
- From the fabric- Two binding strips 2 X 42 inches. Put these strips aside until the “Binding” section.
- From the batting- One rectangle 20 X 16 inches
On one of the fabric rectangles use the chalk to mark two lines 1 inch and 1 1/4 inches in from each raw edge. The inside marking is your stitching border and the outer marking is the placemat edge. This marked piece is the top.
Using the hera marker mark a vertical line on the top every 3/4-inches between the left and right stitching borders.
Then, between the top and bottom stitching border, mark a horizontal line every 3/4-inch to create a grid.
Make a little chalk mark at every intersection of the grid. These are your stitch marks.
Lay the second, unmarked rectangle of fabric on a flat surface and make sure it’s very smooth and unwrinkled. Place the batting on top of and smooth it down. Then lay the top, marked side up, on top of the first two layers.
Pin the three layers together every few inches with curved safety pins keeping the layers as flat as possible as you pin.
This is your quilt sandwich. You’ll be sewing the three layers together with the stitching.
You will stitch along the vertical and horizontal lines taking stitches at each intersection.
Using the Sashiko needle and thread start at the back side of quilt sandwich and exit just before the stitching border at the bottom of the left most vertical mark. Take a small running stitch, about 3/8 inches long at the stitching mark, and then exit again just before the next stitch mark. Take another small running stitch at the stitch mark.
Stitch along the entire marked line taking small running stitches at each stitch mark. You can accordion the quilt sandwich onto the needle to take many stitches at one time. It’s fun to get into a rhythm with it.
Pull the thread through the stitches and make sure the fabric isn’t puckering as you go.
Take out the safety pins as you get to them.
When you get to the end of each line of stitching, sew along the stitching border to the next marked line and start again. Begin and end the lengths of thread just inside the stitching border. In other words, don’t tie a knot in the middle of a row of stitching, only at the beginnings and ends. Tie all knots on the back side.
Sew across all of the vertical markings in this manner. The picture above shows the front.
The back of the piece will look like the picture above, with longer wider stitches.
Next, sew across all of the horizontal lines in the same manner to make little crosses as shown above.
When you have stitched over every vertical and horizontal line the front will look like this.
And the back will look like this, with a pattern of dashes.
Cut the three layers of the quilt sandwich along the placemat edge marking, 1/4 inch outside of the stitching border.
Pin the two binding strips together at one end at a 90-degree angle, as shown above. Mark a diagonal line from the top left corner of the top strip to the bottom right corner of the bottom strip, forming a little right triangle at the upper right corner.
Sew the pieces together along this marking and trim the little triangle off 1/4 inch above the seam.
Press the strip flat with the seam allowance towards one side.
Iron the strip into binding tape using the bias tape maker.
Pin the binding tape around all four edges of the placemat, encasing its raw edges. Leave a 3-inch tail at the beginning and end and a 3-inch un-pinned gap between the tails. Make sure to encase all of the knots at the stitching border on the wrong side within the tape.
When you get to a corner create a miter by folding the tape up the next raw edge and creating a 45-degree angle at the corner with the tape as shown above.
Then fold the tape back over on itself to create a neatly mitered corner as shown above. Pin the miter in place and make sure to arrange the back side of the tape in the same manner and pin it in place as well.
Edgestitch the binding tape around all four sides, making sure that you catch both sides of the tape. Backstitch at the beginning and end of this seam.
Lay the un-sewn tails over the 3-inch gap until they meet one another. On the wrong side of the tape mark where the two pieces meet.
Fold the placemat so that you can pin the two pieces of tape right sides together along the markings.
Sew the two sides together along the markings and cut off the excess.
Pin the newly sewn section over the gap, making sure that the seam allowance is tucked inside.
Edgestitch over this section, backstitching at the beginning and end of the seam and you’re all done!
Here is the back!