Over the Blue Horizon

Sashiko and Tsugaru Kogin


"Sashiko and Tsugaru Kogin" is a book about a uniquely Japanese needlework technique that both strengthened a fabric used for everyday wear, and made fabrics thicker to provide warmth.   Kogin is characterized by blue and white geometric designs, which are embroidered with thick threads.  This book is now out-of-print and is difficult to find.  

The origins of this technique can be traced to the Tsugaru Peninsula at the northwestern tip of Honshu - Japan's main island – in the 1600's. Two terms that are used to refer to this type of needlework are 'sashiko' and 'kogin'. The first, sashiko, means "to stitch", probably the one that more Westerners are familiar with. Traditionally, sashiko was stitched over an even number of threads. 'Kogin' was the term used to describe designs stitched over an odd number of threads. But over time, both techniques became known as Kogin. The patterns can be all-over designs, a horizontal or vertical straight band, a diagonal band, or a freestanding design. Kogin designs were used on wearable clothing, and are recognized by white threads stitched on a dark blue background. Threads and fabrics were selected which could withstand hard use and frequent laundering.

The text in this book is entirely in Japanese, but almost every page has a photograph or illustration of sashiko or kogin designs, textiles, or people wearing garments with stitching. These were not the clothes of the rich, but rather the clothing of workmen or farmers. Please note that this is not an instruction book with stitching patterns. There are close-ups of stitching, in which you can clearly see the designs.

If you have tried sashiko or kogin, and would like to learn more about it's origin, or find source material for adapting your own designs, this book is for you! Many of the textiles are indigo-dyed, and many are "boro", or raggedy cloth. You'll see pants, vests, jackets, gloves and kimono - even "helmets" for firemen.

This is a brand-new, 83-page softcover book, published by INAX, September 1998. I believe the author's name is Masako Sumitomo. The book measures approx. 8.25 by 8.25 inches.