sampling with layers of cloth and sashiko

I dyed my beginning woven samples in a ferrous indigo vat (photograph), so the color has a grey/blue cast.  I liked using the natural indigo, but decided to use fiber reactive dye for the project because of the crocking (color rubbing off)  that can occur with Indigo and I planned to use white thread for the stitching. Imagine the coat getting wet and blue color bleeding into the white, no, no!

For the coat,  I planned to use a layer of 3/16″ thickness natural cotton quilt batting behind the fabric and finally a layer of fine navy blue cotton lawn for the lining.  I serged the edges of the fabric samples to prevent fraying, assembled the four squares,  and hand-basted them together.   I had previously purchased a sampling package of sashiko style needles and packages of 40m white embroidery thread from Japan (

Backing up a bit, I had taken a free-form embroidery class (no hoop) a couple of years ago, and  thought it would be a great technique to apply embellishment to my handwoven projects.  It was a weekend class and I am quite the novice, but I never let that stop me from thinking I could do it on this project.  I bought “The Ultimate Sashiko sourcebook”, patterns, projects and inspirations by Susan Briscoe (on  It’s a wonderful how-to book, lots of photographs, detailed instructions, and lots of historical information as well. I like books with lots of photos!  Hmm, I also spend a lot of time on Pinterest and ($$ money) on

I read through the book, got more than a little overwhelmed (what am I doing?) and then decided, what the heck, time is wasting, thread the needle and give it a go!   I didn’t really know how best to transfer patterns onto the cloth, the book gave lots of instructions, but in the end I used a purple disappearing fabric marker and a ruler to draw out a few ideas.

First, I discovered that embroidery on a single layer of cloth is very than stitching through three layers.  The effect of going through three layers creates a ‘quilted’ appearance, and getting stitches even takes practice and a lot of patience.  I’m still working on both. But, I really enjoyed the process and even if it’s not perfect, it will be cool and it will be my creation and in the end that is all that really matters to me.    I love this learning process and I would never want to take a short cut to perfecting it (if I live long enough).

The photograph shows the initial samples I created.  I then tried sewing them all together to create a panel, like I originally planned to do for the coat project.   I learned that sewing together three fairly thick pieces of cloth to other pieces of fairly thick pieces of cloth creates a rather lumpy , uneven surface, which just would not work for me.

Oh, I probably haven’t mentioned that last Summer I took an eight week sewing (with handwoven fabric) class (required for the degree). That was my first encounter with a sewing machine, but that is another story.  Anyway, I absolutely was overwhelmed  for the eight weeks, but in the end I made a bag, a vest and a shirt with fabric all woven by me. I still have to finish up a few things on the vest and the shirt (hey it’s not Summer yet), but I learned lots, most of it I quickly forgot, but what I remember I’ve been putting to good use on this project.

I hope you’re enjoying reading about my adventures creating a grad show project.  Next entry I will fill you in about designing and creating the ‘muslin'(s) for the coat.