Greetings! Today we’re excited to connect with Aurifil Designer and Aurifilosopher Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts. Patricia shares an inspiring view into the world of machine Sashiko using Aurifil 12wt thread.
If you missed the January introduction of Aurifilosophy and this fun new Thread Matters series click here to read more. Consider scheduling an Aurifilosophy Program for your shop, group or guild – learn more here.
Karen L. Miller ~ Redbird Quilt Co.
There’s a magical sewing machine called Sashiko 2 by Baby Lock that makes dashed stitches amazingly like hand stitching. Here at Okan Arts in Seattle, co-owner Victoria Stone is Queen Of The Machine!
Victoria’s favorite thread to use in the machine is Aurifil 12wt. That may seem odd as technically the Sashiko 2 is set up to stitch 30wt to 50wt thread—much finer thread. To get the Sashiko 2 to work with the heavier 12 wt thread, Victoria makes tension adjustments on the bobbin case until she gets the machine to produce perfect stitches.
The Sashiko 2 does only one thing. It makes dashed stitches on top and a continuous line of stitches on the bottom. This is achieved by the stitch mechanism of a hooked needle and a latch wire.
Another unique feature of the machine is that all the thread is pulled from the bobbin. There is no upper thread. The stitch mechanism pulls up a loop of thread, stitches forward, and then locks down the thread—essentially making a double stitch.
This double stitch doubles the weight of the thread on top. So every stitch made with 12wt thread looks like it was made with 6wt thread! More wizardry!
To begin quilting a recent project, Victoria photographed the quilt top and printed the photo a few times. Using a Sharpie, she sketched some stitch designs on the images.
Here are some of her preliminary ideas for Akoya, a quilt top made with Sanae Naito’s pearl-necklace-patterned cotton.
Ultimately Victoria was inspired by Waclaw Szpakowski, a Polish architect who drew mesmerizing maze-like drawings in his later life. Her final straight-line design is a cross between a spiral and a labyrinth.
Victoria tailor basted the quilt top, batting, and quilt back together. As she explained: Tailor basting allows me to mark my stitch design on the quilt top without having to navigate basting pins. Also, the lack of pins reduces bulk as I move the rolled-up project through the neck of the machine.
Victoria marked her stitch design on the quilt top with a compressed chalk pencil.
The Sashiko 2 machine can be adjusted to four stitch lengths and four stitch gaps. Below you can see a fixed stitch length with variable stitch spacing. The color and weight of thread, the length of stitches, and the density of the quilting all impact the overall look of a finished quilt.
To get started, Victoria choose her stitch length and spacing. Then she adjusted the tension of the machine while using Aurifil 12wt thread on a petite sample quilt sandwich.
Once she was satisfied with the stitching on the front and back, and the color of the thread on the quilt fabrics, Victoria loaded up six bobbins for her project. The 12wt thread takes up a lot of room on standard-sized bobbins. So they empty fast. It’s much easier for me to switch out bobbins while I work instead of refilling just one, she stated.
Victoria continued: Once everything is set up, using the Sashiko 2 is remarkably easy. There’s one button, one dial, and two levers. The button drops the presser foot, the dial changes the foot height so I can do curves, and the two levers adjust the stitch length and spacing.
As a Sashiko 2 expert, Victoria advises: It’s important to stay steady and controlled. To create a consistent stitch, I have to maintain a consistent speed. And I can’t push the material through the machine. I just guide the quilt sandwich and let the feed dogs do all the work.
Another tip from Victoria: I always start stitching from the middle of my projects and work out. That way I avoid fabric bunching in the center of quilt, especially on the back.
Victoria has been working with the Sashiko 2 for well over a year now. She’s finished sample quilts for Okan Arts workshops and larger 60″ x 60″ quilts. Aurifil 12wt thread ranks as her favorite for the Big Stitch look and for its durability when it’s pulled by the Sashiko 2’s latched needle.
To learn more about Okan Arts, please visit: https://okanarts.com
Okan Arts is an authorized seller of the Baby Lock Sashiko 2 machine and Patricia Belyea is both an Aurifil Designer & Aurifilosopher.
Patricia Belyea, a Seattle quilting leader, speaks and teaches around the country. Her specialty is teaching quilters how to piece complex curves. Her family business, Okan Arts, sells vintage Japanese textiles.