20 January 2019

But is it Boro?

I keep seeing images popping up on Instagram, where random squares and rectangles are stitched in place using running stitches and a thick thread. I have done a little Sashiko before (a type of Japanese embroidery) but this was different. I have since discovered that it is a form of Japanese stitching known as Boro.  There is an interesting article in this book about it.

It appears to have originally been some kind of utility repair stitching. Stitches are normally straight lines to hold new patches in place on work garments, or if you want to be fancy you can use Sashiko motifs.

While at a quilt show a few months back I picked up this kit for a very good price, it has lots of squares of Indigo Shibori fabrics which have been dyed using a beancurd as a resist for the design.

The fabrics are quite coarse in quality and not very useful for regular quilting, however...
I turned 50 in November (how did that happen?!!?) and treated myself to a very special birthday present.

My old machine cover doesn't fit, so I decided to have a go at making a new one, using this technique.  I have to say that instructions seem to be very thin on the ground! It is described in the V & A book as a type of freeform patchwork and as such there seems to be very little in the way of rules!  The basic idea is to cover a foundation fabric with squares or rectangles of your chosen patches and then hold them in place with running stitches.

The kit came with a very thin white cotton intended for sashing so I am using that as my base.  I have cut the foundations a few inches bigger than I need, one piece for the main cover and two side panels.  I cut the squares into random pieces and pinned them on.

Err now what? I didn't want pins in my way as I hand stitch and I didn't really want to use glue as I don't intend to wash this, so I machine basted with the longest stitch I could to hold them temporarily in place.  I have no idea if this is how you are supposed to do it!  I will stitch mainly straight lines, but I couldn't resist adding in a couple of repeats of this stencil to break it up.

I don't have any Sashiko thread and I don't really want to have to buy any, so I am using what I have, some Perle Cotton and Aurifil 12wt and a spool of unknown cotton.

I will start with the side panels to get the hang of the stitching.  I am sure this is not the right way to do this technique but I don't really mind.  If you look at finished pieces they are all bit utilitarian and rough and ready.  Wish me luck!

If anyone has done this before and knows the 'correct' way to do it, I would love to know!


  1. perle cotton should be just fine for Sashiko - it is about the same weight I would think. It will be pretty when done!

  2. I look forward to seeing how this turns out, it sounds like an interesting project. Happy stitching!

  3. You can now get a machine that does the Boro stitching but you would need to do a lot of it to cover the cost.
    I saw a really nice ladies skirt done with the Boro stitching but I have enough sewing already to be starting something different.

  4. It sounds like you're going to have quite an adventure with it!

  5. There is a fascinating article in Quiltmania May/June 2012 pg.25 called Boro "Rags from Japan's North". Maybe you have a copy of the magazine.

  6. Looks like you are on the right track. I don't think there are any rules for Boro. I have patched some blue jeans a few times with patches and running stitches and used perle.

  7. I love how you're experimenting with fabrics and threads. I did a whole sashiko quilt once, but it was totally planned out and quite the opposite of what you're doing. Thank you for linking up to the Peacock Party.