Unit 6: Art Connection

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Sashiko: Japanese Quilting

Sashiko is a very old form of quilting. About 3000 years ago in Japan, some clever person discovered that sewing together many pieces of cloth made the cloth stronger, and clothes warmer. They used repeated patterns of stitches, which became known as Sashiko.

Sashiko means “little stabs” in Japanese. It is called this because it uses simple, small stitches, and the method of sewing is like little stabs of a needle into the cloth. Most cloth in ancient Japan was dyed in indigo, a deep blue plant dye. The indigo helped to make the cloth strong. Most Sashiko uses white thread on indigo fabric.

Sashiko had many useful features. Firemen in old Japan wore clothing made with Sashiko. The clothing was drenched with water before the firemen went out to fight a fire. The Sashiko patterns were sewn into the inside of the firemen's clothing. They would wear the patterns on the outside for special occasions.

Many Sashiko patterns look like things found in nature. Some are thought to bring good luck. Here are a few Sashiko patterns and their meanings.

Tortoise Shell Pattern
Kikko (Tortoise Shell)
The tortoise was a symbol of good luck and long life.
Seigaiha (Wave)
Waves were symbols of the ocean. Ancient people believed that the ocean went on forever.
Basket weave
Kagome (Basket Weave)
This pattern looks like the pattern used to make bamboo baskets.

Word Wise

A certain way of doing something: Our art teacher showed us his special method of cleaning paintbrushes.

A quality or characteristic of a person or thing: Lana's friendliness is one of her best features.

To make completely wet: My father drenched the tomato plants before we left for the weekend.

To represent something: A dove is thought to symbolize peace.

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Data Hunt

Design your own Sashiko pattern. You need the following:

  • ruler
  • grid paper
  • pencil
  1. Choose a pattern based on something that you know, such as a computer keyboard, your favorite flower, or an animal.
  2. Create a shape to represent the item. Then use the grid paper to make a repeating pattern of the design. You may need to alter the image in order to make the pattern fit.
  3. Color the background blue, and the “stitches” white. You've just created your very own Sashiko!