Sashiko-ori is a modern fabric rooted in steep tradition, developed by Tectoco with the Sanwa Orimono workshop in Fukushima.
Tectoco worked with Kenichi Oba of Sanwa Orimono to create these unique fabrics. They differ from the traditional hand stitched designs of sashiko. With Sashiko-ori, the sashiko-like pattern is woven into the fabric as it is made on a loom!
A mid-weight, 100% cotton with a beautiful softness to them – I’m picturing these intricate designs as shackets, tops and dresses that would be conversation starters everywhere you went!
Click the images to see more of each design and see below for the origin story of Sashiko-ori.
Sashiko is traditional Japanese folk-art that has evolved over centuries from a frugal necessity into the decorative art it is today. The word Sashiko (刺し子) translates literally as ‘little stabs’, a reference to the running stitch used to make repeating or interlocking patterns in fabric. It originated with the farmers in the Tohoku region of Japan – used to reinforce and add warmth to their working clothes.
Mr Oba of Sanwa Orimono, developed the Sashiko-ori technique. It is woven on a loom yet it retains the texture of hand-stitched sashiko.
Mr Oba’s family has been in textile production since the 40s. However the 70s saw the introduction of larger factories and more overseas products, which lead to many of the original textile workshops closing down. At this point Mr Oba considered selling the business but decided to consult with Yoshitaka Yanagi Sensei, whose family were key proponents of the folk art movement in Japan.
Yanagi Sensei spent a lot of time imparting his teachings on weaving to Mr Oba, as well as reviewing samples and providing advice. During this period Sashiko-ori was born from the combination of various techniques using weaving machines.
Sashiko-ori is a fabric in which the warp or weft threads are floated during the weaving process to create a sashiko-like pattern. Unfortunately over time the number of people who have the skills to handle this type of loom has gradually decreased to the point where there is no one other than Mr Oba who can do this technique.
How does it work?
Simply put, many warp threads are set on the top or bottom, and multiple weft threads are inserted in between. The weft thread is woven above and below the warp thread, gradually forming part of the overall pattern.
Whether the weft thread goes above for below is programmed on cardboard guides called “Mongami”. One piece of Mongami cardboard represents one pass of the weft thread. So the larger and more complex the pattern, the more pieces of mongami are required. Usually one weave uses 480 sheets at most, but this pattern uses 912!
To create this design Tectoco drew it first by hand. It was then transformed into mongami one by one by a specialist. Next, the machine is then set up with this pattern requiring 2460 warp threads and 306 weft threads. Preparation is complete but it is not ready for production yet. Mr. Oba tests and adjusts the strength and speed of the machine many times to find the perfect balance that brings about a beautiful and regular grain in the fabric. It takes about one hour to weave one meter.
Mr Oba notes it is possible to speed up the weave but this would sacrifice the texture of the fabric. He finds the perfect balance based on years of intuition and experience.
This weaving technique is both old and innovative!
Tectoco was inspired by this juxtaposition to create a “new retro” design that would fit with the current era.
The design constraints of Sahiko-ori are that it must be created along the weft or warp threads. Creating a geometric design reminiscent of pixel art.
When Tectoco presented the large and complex design for this fabric to Mr. Oba he was up for the challenge.
His first thought was that this design was born of a way of thinking by no ordinary person.
Tectoco approached the design challenge of infusing individuality to the geometric lines by turning to the natural world. Images of forests and flowers inspired the shapes in the final design. And if you look closely, you can see the figure of a fairy. But everyone sees different images among the geometric, abstract patterns!
Mr Oba is nothing if not positive and generous – without which the Tectoco Sashiko-ori would not exist. Tectoco wants you to enjoy the different patterns one by one, knowing that there is a craftsman like Mr. Oba behind the complicated design.