FCC disclosure: F&W Media sent me a copy of Simple Sashiko in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links.
There is a perfect symmetry in craft books that echo the tone and aesthetic of their projects. Susan Briscoe’s Simple Sashiko: 8 Sashiko Sewing Projects for the Modern Home is one of those books. I took a sashiko class from Pepper Cory at Quilt Market a few years back, and I loved how she described the origin and purpose of the craft in Japan. Sashiko embroidery is for small gifts often given as sweet gestures, such as for housewarming or in thanks for hosting. They show thoughtfulness and consideration, but are never gaudy or over the top. “Simple Sashiko” is a perfect name, really, for all sashiko projects.
This book, like the craft that it takes as its focus, is minimalist and small. In a publishing world that usually requires at least 15 or 20 projects per book, eight might not seem like a lot. But I think that the simplicity of this collection really allows the individual pieces to shine. The book features very small projects, like embroidered greeting cards and samplers, but also “larger” ones like a tote bag, a pillow, and a wall hanging. The stitching designs are plentiful and diverse; the sampler pillow features five itself! It’s useful to have these patterns to use in these eight projects, but I’d imagine they could also be expanded to other small sewn items.
Choosing not to focus too much on the background or origins of sashiko stitching, as Briscoe did, has its pluses and minuses. Simple Sashiko is totally utilitarian, fitting eight projects and excellent instruction in techniques and materials into 48 pages but never feeling cluttered or overwhelming. The photography is stunning, placing modern design against white walls with bits of Japanese art and decor sprinkled in. And the diagrams break down “complex” designs into easy-to-follow steps that even beginners can handle.
But if you’re looking for a book that really delves into the background of sashiko, you won’t find much here. (Briscoe does mention some of the symbolism of the sashiko patterns, but I really wanted to see and hear more about them.) Ultimately, I don’t think it’s a huge problem — Simple Sashiko is not intended to be a compendium of everything sashiko, and there’s a limit to what can reasonably fit into a book of this size.
As someone who needs instant gratification in my sewing life, it takes a pretty great book to get me excited about hand stitching. Simple Sashiko is definitely one of those books. I plan on making that gorgeous pillow for my living room as a simple, small gift to myself. (And let’s be real: that’s the best gift!)