Sashiko Supplies: What You Need to Get Started

stitching tools Feb 01, 2024
There is a dark wooden table, and on it sits a small fabric foldover pouch, a skein of red sashiko thread, and a small pair of golden scissors. the bottom reads

Sashiko is an ancient Japanese art that goes back hundreds of years; what started out as a necessity in a time when the working classes struggled to get cloth has evolved into a popular craft around the world!

Perhaps you've heard about the benefits of sashiko - from saving money on clothes and reducing demand for fast fashion to creating stronger connections to our garments and finding peace of mind - and you're ready to start stitching. But what supplies do you need?

That's what I'm here to talk about today. I'll show you the best tools for the job, talk about what makes them different from the standard sewing supplies you might be used to, and share links to my favourites. Of course, I'm a big believer in using what you have, especially when you're just starting out, so you'll find my favourite substitutions that you might already have at home, too! 

Disclaimer: this article contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase after following a link, I may earn a small commission, at no extra charge to you. I only recommend products that I believe in!



A needle is an important part of your sashiko tool kit, but not all needles are created equally! So, what's the difference between your standard sewing needle and a sashiko needle? There are two key differences: length, and eye size.


Because sashiko uses only running stitch, the needles are designed to gather a number of stitches on the needle. There are still different sizes of sashiko needles, and it's up to you to find which length you're the most comfortable with. Personally, I like a long needle for stitching something that has lots of straight lines, and a slightly shorter needle when I'm stitching curves! 

The size of the eye is also important, because you want to be able to fit your thread through! Sashiko thread is much thicker than regular sewing thread - it's more like embroidery thread or pearl cotton, but we'll get into that soon - so you want a needle that's relatively easy to thread with thicker thread.

My favourite needles: I like these ones from Olympus.

Good substitutes: Darning needles and crewel embroidery needles offer large eyes, are a good size for sashiko, and usually have a very sharp point!


You can use a variety of threads for sashiko stitching, but some threads are better suited to certain projects than others. The most common thread types used, in my experience, are sashiko thread, pearl cotton, and embroidery floss, so that's what I'll cover here! 

As you might guess, sashiko thread is my preferred option for sashiko stitching, and it's what I use when I stitch. It has a lot of twist which makes it quite strong, and it is not meant to be pulled apart like embroidery floss. The strength and durability of this type of thread makes it ideal for sashiko, especially for repairing high-wear areas.

Sashiko thread can come in different thicknesses, which can be good for different projects. For instance, in situations where you want nice plump stitches, you might opt for a thicker thread. If you have a project with many stitches in a small area, a thinner thread may help give your pattern a bit more definition. Personally, I like Olympus sashiko threads - they just come in one thickness, and it's kind of the goldilocks of sashiko threads, in my opinion! 

Pearl cotton is also a popular choice when sashiko thread is not available. Many people like the luster and shine of pearl cotton, and it doesn't offer much resistance pulling through the fabric. The trade-off is that pearl cotton is not as durable as sashiko thread, so while it is beautiful, it may not be the best option for high-wearing areas.

Lastly, we have embroidery thread. Embroidery thread is a versatile option, because you can alter the thickness by adjusting how many strands you use. It's also a good option for beginners, because many people who are interested in sashiko already have embroidery thread in their space! Embroidery thread is a great option for decorative pieces and embellishment, but it is not very strong, and it wouldn't be my first recommendation for clothing repairs.

My favourite threads: This is a great little starter bundle from Olympus!

Good substitutes: I find that #8 pearl cotton or four strands of embroidery thread are about the right thickness to sub for sashiko thread


You might think that sashiko could be done on any fabric, and while that's technically true, certain options work much better than others. If you're just getting started, choosing the wrong fabric can lead to frustration and might put you off sashiko - and that's the opposite of what we want!

The key thing to look for in fabric for your stitching is a relatively loose weave. Something like linen, unbleached cotton, muslin, or calico is a great option! You just want something that will allow your threaded needle to pass through without too much resistance - a tighter weave, like quilters cotton, means more resistance, and could mean sore hands for you, which we don't want! You can even try puling your threaded needle through the fabric a few times to test how it feels for you before you start stitching.

Another option is to purchase pre-printed fabric that is designed specifically for sashiko stitching. This will often be linen, cotton, or sarashi fabric, and it has the pattern drawn for you, so all you have to do is stitch! 

When it comes to the fiber content of the fabric, it really comes down to personal preference. I tend to opt for natural fibres, like cotton and linen, because they are better for the environment and I like the way the sashiko thread sort of felts to them to create additional durability. 

If you are using sashiko to patch a garment rather than for strictly embellishing, you'll want to find a patching fabric that is similar in weight to your garment. This helps to make sure neither the patch nor the garment get distorted when you're stitching, and also helps make sure the garment will still be comfortable to wear once it's patched. Try feeling both fabrics in your hands - if they feel very similar in weight, stretch, and softness, then they should work together.

My favourite fabrics: I usually upcycle, but this is a beautiful natural linen!

Good substitutes: You can use just about anything with a loose weave here, but I recommend running a threaded needle through it a few times to make sure it will be comfortable for you.


Other Tools

While your needle, thread, and fabric are the key components to your sashiko stitching, there are a few other tools that will make things much easier for you!

Scissors/cutting tools: You'll need something sharp to cut your fabrics and threads! If you love a product with a story and high quality craftsmanship, I love my grip scissors from Shokunin Store. Or if you have dabbled in sewing before, you may already have a good pair of fabric scissors or even a rotary cutting tool, which would also work!

Rulers: Drawing straight lines is a big part of getting straight and even stitches. A regular school ruler works great, but I like the versatility of a quilting ruler.

Mark makers: You'll want something that you can make marks on your fabric with, but that will wash out. There are some great options for heat erasable or water soluble fabric markers and pens, or you can even use kids' washable markers if you're stitching something that will be going through the wash! If you don't have these on hand, you could also use a piece of chalk, a sliver of soap, or just a light lead pencil.

Tip: always test your markers and their washability on your fabric before you start your project to avoid disappointing mishaps!

Thimbles: While this one isn't necessary, it can certainly make your stitching sessions a lot more comfortable. Sashiko thimbles are a bit different to western sewing thimbles in that they sit low on the middle finger, over the palm, rather than on the finger tips.

There are a couple of options for sashiko thimbles, which are also called palm thimbles or coin thimbles. You can get metal versions, or softer leather versions - or you can make one yourself with my free template here >>!

There is a lot of information out there about getting started with sashiko, and with all the beautiful, aesthetically pleasing photos of supply kits and tools, it's easy to put off starting until you have the "right" tools. I hope this has shown you that the tools you need are more accessible than you think, even if you don't have access to a sashiko store. 

If have other questions about the tools for getting started, I'd love for you to leave them in the comments for our next post about tools 👇, and let me know if you have favourite shops or supplies that you love to use for sashiko! We're always adding to our resource list.

And if you're ready to get started, I hope you'll check out my free guide here >>!


Hi, I'm Kate!

I am a strong believer in starting where you are and using what you have, wherever and whatever that may be.

Everyone should get to experience the joy of connecting to others through learning, experimenting, and creating.

Creativity doesn’t have to be expensive or wasteful. Whether we’re using natural materials, reusing materials, or shopping our own stashes first, creating mindfully goes beyond being present in the moment - it extends to being mindful of our environment and the other communities around us, too.