Fiber arts · sashiko

Working Against Language Barriers

AI generated image of a rabbit wearing a backpack attempting to read a subway map written in japanese.

I follow Atsushi Futatsuya on instagram and am a member of his patreon

As a Japanese crafter who lives in the US and teaches in the US craft community a key concern of his is that the practice of sashiko has become removed from its cultural roots and has become distorted.  In this post he uses the analogy of a guest who after a brief visit decides to become a tour guide without even bothering to learn the language.  

The question is what happens to the guest who returns home inspired and wants to continue learning?  

This is what I’m faced with.  I’m very much starting the learning process of sashiko and one of the concerns that I’m facing is a limited number of resources in English.  Other than the Upcycle Stitches blog and Watts Sashiko I haven’t been able to find any concentrated sources of text based information for sashiko online and the number of books are limited. The translated editions are largely focused on showing off projects rather than providing technique or history.  

From reading Mr. Futatsuya’s writings I’ve seen that he’s explained the lack of information on a few elements in Japanese culture as well as a lack of the high proficiency in English that he possesses.  He says that Japanese people are modest and do not feel comfortable putting themselves in a position of teaching or to share their stories as sashiko is an “ordinary” activity.  I can see this with my own mother as she doesn’t see anything special about her long experience as a quilter and more importantly doesn’t feel that she has the skill (or patience) to teach effectively.  

The lesson being, written or video resources will be scarce and are also likely scare even if you can read Japanese.  So value what resources you do have and remember that this is only part of the story.  

One of the reasons I started blogging about fiber arts was to provide a place for me to collect resources and organize them.  I’ll continue collecting what information I can find and try to put it into what context I can. I do have access to academic resources through my employer so hopefully I can provide references to academic articles which may be more difficult for people to find otherwise.