One of the most important components of sashiko stitching is the needle, and it should come as no surprise that there are needles manufactured specifically for this purpose.
But what exactly is a sashiko needle? And what kind of sashiko needle is right for you?
It comes down to thickness, length, strength, and sharpness.
A sashiko needle is really any needle that’s long enough to load several stitches at once, sharp enough to pierce several layers of fabric, and strong enough not to warp from continuous stitching. So a sashiko needle needs to be longer (at least 50mm long), thicker, sharper, and stronger than other types of sewing needles, and feature a relatively large eye.
It’s for this reason that ‘proper’ sashiko needles, milliners needles, and crewel needles can all be used effectively for sashiko stitching. The reason many people prefer ‘proper’ sashiko needles is because the are specifically designed to be warp resistant.
How to choose a sashiko needle?
It depends on a lot of factors. It depends on the type of fabric and the thickness of the fabric being used; a longer, thicker sashiko needle would be useful for piercing through several layers of heavy thick fabric.
It depends on your hands and fingers; different hand types with more or less dextrous fingers will hold and handle sashiko needles differently.
It depends on the project you intend to do; does the sashiko pattern consist primarily of straight lines, or is it more curved and intricate? A shorter sashiko needle might work better for stitching a tight, complex pattern.
I know some people who use milliner’s needles, others who stitch with an assortment of Tulip sashiko needles.
For example, I regularly use a John James crewel needle. It has a finer shaft, which I prefer, and the size of the eye is easy for threading—not technically a sashiko needle, but it has all the properties desired for stitching sashiko.
For those who are going to do a lot of sashiko, my suggestion would be to have a variety of needles on hand—thick and fine, long, and short—and use the one appropriate for the fabric you are sewing. Sashiko needles are not expensive and to have a variety to choose from when stitching a project is ideal.
Finding the right sashiko needle comes with practice. And sashiko is all about practice! With experience, enjoyment, and, to use a Japanese euphemism, a mindfulness of the fabric, you will find what works for you.