Okan Arts co-owners Patricia Belyea and Victoria Stone discuss the Sashiko 2 sewing machine. Patricia (Mom) asks the questions. Victoria, a Sashiko 2 expert, responds.
PB: The project you are working on today is an outline of a dragonfly. How easy is that to do?
VS This organic shape is fairly simple to do because I’m stitching on a small quilt sandwich. So I can quickly and easily move the project around in the throat of the machine.
When I’m working on a bigger quilt, it’s much easier to do straight or slightly curved stitch lines as it’s difficult to twirl around the large quilt sandwich.
There’s a ‘free-motion’ setting on the machine that simply raises the pressure foot off the project. The highest setting is 3, the lowest is 0. For stitching around the dragonfly, I’m using a setting of 1.8, which gives me maneuverability but also helps hold the project in place.
PB Can you actually create traditional sashiko stitch patterns with this sewing machine?
VS Yes! In fact the instruction manual for the Sashiko 2 comes with directions on how to replicate those designs. However you end up with long lines of thread on the back of the project as you move to the different points of the repetitive stitch pattern. It’s assumed that your project, maybe a piece of clothing or a bag, will be lined to hide the long threads.
I don’t do those sorts of patterns because using the machine for quilting means that the backside of my project will be visible, as it’s the backside of the quilt.
PB How do you approach using the Sashiko 2 for quilting?
VS I like to design the stitch pattern to complement the piecing of the quilt top. The machine does straight lines quite well, and I enjoy using a geometric stitching style to show off the organic shapes that my mom creates with her inserted curves.
To design my quilt patterns, I take a photo of the quilt top with my cell phone. I print out the photo and draw lines on it until I find a stitch pattern I like. Then I scale up the stitch pattern and transcribe it onto the quilt.
When I stitch the quilts, I set up the Sashiko 2 machine to match my mom’s hand stitching. Mom always adds in a little bit of hand stitching to each quilt. The only way you can tell the difference between the two sets of stitching is to look on the back.
PB How complicated is it to use the Sashiko 2?
VS It’s a very simple machine to use. There’s one button, and two levers—for stitch length and stitch spacing.
The Sashiko 2 is all about the tension. Because the machine only does a sashiko stitch, with no top thread, it’s important to keep an eye on the thickness of the project and the weight of the thread.
With some practice, you soon get used to the pace and the sound of the machine.
PB How about thread?
VS I recommend as smooth a thread as possible. The thread needs to move in and out of the eye of the needle, and it slides against itself through the various parts of the sewing mechanism.
If the thread is not smooth and tightly spun, it likely will catch on itself and snap. I really discourage the use of metallic threads as they tend to be either loosely spun or too elastic to properly hold tension in the machine.
My preference is Aurifil cotton threads as they are so smooth.
The Sashiko 2 is factory-calibrated to run with 30wt to 50wt thread. I like to do something unusual. I adjust the bobbin tension so I can stitch with heavier 12wt thread for the Big Stitch look.
PB Is there anything more that you think is important when using the Sashiko 2?
VS It’s good to have a constant. I make a sample tile with fabrics and batting that match my quilt project and then test the stitching. Once I’m satisfied with the stitches, I move to my real project.
If I have any problems with my quilt stitching, I can go back to the sample tile and sort things out.