Technique Tuesday: machine sashiko

Greetings fellow thread lovers and welcome to Technique Tuesday, the second of four technique-based tutorials featuring Aurifil thread. We’re nearing the 1 year anniversary of the Aurifilosophy Special Exhibit at Fall 2019 International Quilt Festival in Houston, TX and we wanted to shine a light on the brilliant makers included with their remarkable methods.  

Many thanks to Aurifilosophers Barbara Persing, Patricia Belyea, Annie Smith, and Karen L. Miller for sharing their time proven techniques with us.

This week we’re thrilled to highlight a traditional hand quilting technique now attainable by machine. Quilt Designer, Author, and Aurifilosopher Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts shares this simple approach to Sashiko quilting using Aurifil 12wt thread.

As co-owners of Okan Arts, Patricia and her daughter Victoria import vintage Japanese textiles and lead tours to Japan. Patricia focuses on making innovative quilts, speaking and teaching. If you have a desire to work with beautiful imported Japanese fabrics, be sure to peruse the lovely yukata cotton collection at Okan Arts online.

To get started, let’s turn to a short intro from Okan Arts.

Sashiko, typically a running stitch made with white thread on indigo fabric, translates to little stabs. Used functionally to strengthen worn out clothes or to add bulky warmth to clothing, sashiko stitch patterns repeat common geometric motifs like waves, mountains, bamboo, and more.

With each stitch, the sashiko stitcher wishes for her family’s good health and a rich harvest.

Patricia and Victoria have been using the BabyLock Sashiko 2 machine to mimic the beauty of traditional sashiko stitching for several years. Here are a few quilts completed using the Sashiko 2 machine:

Patricia shares a few simple steps to guide us through using the Sashiko 2 machine stitching below:

— Prep a quilt sandwich for stitching by tailor basting (from behind) with Aurifil 40 or 50wt thread.  Tailor basting allows easy movement across the quilt sandwich without stopping to remove basting pins.

— Mark the sashiko stitching lines on the quilt top. Patricia prefers to use the water erasable marker or compressed pencil by Clover.

— Fill the Sashiko 2 machine bobbin with Aurifil 12wt thread in a color that’s pleasing to your finished project. There is no top thread in the machine. Instead, the thread in the bobbin shows on the top and bottom sides of the quilt sandwich.

— Patricia uses the Organ Sashiko Machine Needles in Size 18 when working with Aurifil 12wt thread.

— When the Sashiko 2 makes a stitch on top, it doubles back and takes a second stitch right on top of the first stitch, making the stitching look twice as heavy.

— To quilt, begin at an outer edge and gently guide the fabric under the needle along the marked design lines.

— The Sashiko 2 has adjustments for 4 stitch lengths and 4 gap lengths allowing you to choose a setting that is close to your natural hand stitch length.

— The Sashiko 2 machine comes set up to use a 30wt or 50wt thread. Adjustments to the bobbin tension are necessary when using Aurifil 12wt thread.

— The reverse side of the dashed machine stitching is a locking chain stitch.

— When stitching is complete, knot and sink loose ends. Patricia uses the Clover Milliner Gold Eye Needles for this step.

Have you used the BabyLock Sashiko 2 machine for your quilting? We’d love to see anything you’ve created with this method.

Many thanks to Patricia for sharing this technique with us.

About Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts
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Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts

To visit the Okan Arts website that focuses on creativity, quilting and Japan +click here

To shop for Japanese cottons in the Okan Arts online store +click here


At Aurifil we believe that education is key… that sharing extensive knowledge and truths on the construction, nature, and behavior of Aurifil threads will inspire, educate, and enable all makers to achieve brilliant results.

With that in mind, we’ve trained and certified a team of dynamic, charismatic, and brand-loyal designers, artisans, and educators to offer Aurifilosophy programs using a structured presentation and thread demonstration.

Aurifilosophers will travel the countryside to educate on thread basics, including information on weight and ply, spool positioning, needle recommendations, and tension settings. They’ll offer helpful tips and tricks and will share projects and photos aimed to inspire and expand your creative use of Aurifil threads. At each Aurifilosophy event, program attendees will receive a bag of exclusive Aurifil swag!

To learn more about Aurifilosophy, view upcoming events, or locate an Aurifilosopher to speak at your shop, guild or group event, check out our website.


  1. I’ve been wondering how this machine works. Thanks for this article. I’ll continue with hand stitch sashiko as I don’t have room for any more machines!

    I love the fabrics from Okan arts

  2. I love what Patricia does and I am a great Japanese fabric fan too! A couple of years ago I completed this hanging for a challenge based on a piece of music “The Flaxen Haired Girl” and I called it ‘Flight’ and did raw edged butterflies in shape of UK and stitched the flight patterns with my Sashiko machine. My machine is the original Sashiko (not S2! as in USA). I have had my machine for about 12 years and always use Aurifil but I used the recommended weight of 40 I could send you a pic and close up if you contact me.

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