Inside: 29 Japanese embroidery ideas and techniques to try something a little different and learn about a different culture.

Ultimately, the Japanese techniques of embroidery aren’t too different from the standard work that we know, but each of their different types of stitching have different purposes, functional and visual. The Americanized version is strictly for visuals, artwork, and crafting hobbies, while Japanese embroidery is both repairing and embellishing a garment.

I have always loved to learn about art and crafts from other countries and cultures, not only does it broaden your crafting horizons but it allows you to learn more about the culture itself! That’s something I highly value.

Other cultures tend to care for their personal belongings more than we do in the U.S, and they tend to express stories and cultural beliefs through their artwork even more.

Learn through the art, not only a new skill of embroidery, but learn about the culture as well!

Two different sashiko patterns

Check out these Japanese embroidery ideas and techniques.

What Is Sashiko?

If you’ve even slightly dove into searching for information about Japanese embroidery, you have probably seen the word sashiko all over the place! This is a specific style of embroidery from Japan, the origins of which are more practical than any American style embroidery, that’s for sure.

Sashiko is the style of embroidery that has historically been used in Japan to repair clothing, but creates a repeated pattern.

Culturally, in just about every other country, their resources and materials were very dear to them and were highly protected and cared for. And sashiko is one of the prime examples of this.

When clothing, fabrics, and materials had a tear in them, the Japanese used this method of hand stitching to repair them and fix the holes.

It appears in geometric shapes, with a twist in the thread, and in small stitches.

Sashiko became more of a decorative stitch over time, combining function and style. There are examples of this in American patchwork today, usually seen in denim and upcycling.

Indigo-blue fabric is the most common color of the fabric at the time, and the thread used in these repairs was usually white. So you will find a common theme of white on blue in these projects, even now when they are used for aesthetic purposes.

How Is Sashiko Different From Embroidery?

Ultimately, they are not too different. There is a distinct style and design that is assigned to traditional sashiko ideas and practices, but they both use similar techniques and needle work.

To get technical with you, the biggest difference between the two is the thread used and the thread work. The thread is thicker for sashiko than it is for embroidery, and is made to resist wear and tear in the clothing.

The other big difference between the two is that embroidery usually creates a full image, while sashiko has created a patterned image, usually of geometric shapes and sometimes pulling inspiration from nature, especially sky motifs.
It’s fun to pick apart tiny differences in cultures, no?

I love to see two countries with histories in the same hobby be so different. My favorite part is that sashiko tends to be influenced by nature and the sky… how cute! While western embroidery tends to be influenced by just about anything, I love to see that the Japanese valued and admired the sky so much that it became tradition to continue to make art inspired by it.

How lovely.

Japanese Embroidery Techniques

While sashiko is the most commonly mentioned of the Japanese embroidery techniques, there are technically two others that I should mention. They are very similar to each other but if you remember how functional these stitches are, you’ll probably understand that while they are similar, they serve different purposes.

These two other common techniques are called boro and bunka.

Bunka is kind of in its own world, and it essentially uses this specific style of stitching to create a clear image.
Boro uses the sashiko stitching techniques collecting small pieces of fabric on top of the rest to create a patchwork effect. The purpose of this is to thicken up the garment, creating warmer clothes. Very tedious work, but effective for its purpose.

If all of this has interested you, doing a deep dive into Japanese embroidery would be a fascinating study for you! I’ve collected some of the best examples for you to go off of and start looking into it even more.

Close up sashiko embroidery pattern

Japanese Embroidery Ideas

Want to see some examples of everything we’ve been talking about? Check out these Japanese embroidery ideas that totally showcase how different the embroidery we are used to differs from the Japanese versions of it.

1. Patterns
2. Patch Mending
3. Sashiko Embroidery Stitch
4. Simple Pattern
5. Rich Colors
6. Kids Pattern

Sashiko embroidery on denim

Sashiko Patterns

Aside from repairing clothing, Sashiko is recognized for the stunning patterns the stitches create. Geometrically inspired or nature inspired, it is all a beautiful artwork and craft that has been built upon for generations.

7. Styled Coaster Set
8. Boho Sashiko
9. Harmony Pattern
10. Colorful Stars
11. Denim Design

Boro patchwork embroidery

Boro Embroidery

Boro embroidery is similar to that of sashiko in that it uses the same stitches patterns, but adds pieces of fabric to create a patchwork pattern as well.

Check out some of these examples of traditional boro embroidery!

12. Boro Coasters
13. Boro Stitching Tutorial
14. Recycled Denim
15. Loop Bag
16. Patch Style

Bunka Embroidery

Bunka embroidery is a totally different style from sashiko and boro, but is more similar to that of the western embroidery we know and love.

It’s a more precise image, usually of stunning colors and images!

Check them out and get inspired to learn this technique!

17. Stunning Red
18. Brilliant Colors
19. Irises
20. Flowers And Bees
21. Birds

Here are tons of other floral embroidery ideas if you’re itching for more!

A close stitched Japanese embroidery patterns

Japanese Patterns

Japanese art will always include beautiful imagery of nature: clouds, birds, flowers, et cetera.

Get inspired to make some of these Japanese embroidery patterns or something similar! Having nature around in your home or on your jeans will always be beautiful and lovely reminders of the world around you.

22. Japanese Inspired
23. Birds And Florals
24. The Moon
25. Diamond Flowers
26. Line Pattern
27. Design Variety
28. Sashiko Sampler
29. Table Runner

Japanese embroidery has more history and meaning behind it than you might have originally thought, yeah? Seeing where traditions and modern hobbies come from has always been so interesting to me, I love every opportunity to dig in on something we are so accustomed to doing in America.

I wouldn’t think that other countries would have such different versions of something as simple as embroidery, but to see where we differ in style, technique, and origin makes the world feel so much bigger and reminds me of how much I still have to learn from other cultures! I refuse to toss away patches of fabric– it can be used to create such a cool and functional coat.

It’s definitely a style I would see often in fashion and up-cycling trends, but to think about so many of them being made by hand simply because that is “how it’s done” is simply mind blowing.