Sashiko Embroidery on my Bernina

Sashiko Embroidery on my Bernina

Tags: free motion, how-to, quilting, quilting lesson

Ages ago, 20 or more, I watched a demo of how to create Sashiko on a Bernina sewing machine. Sashiko is a form of Japanese embroidery using a basic running stitch originally done by hand so you can imagine it would be difficult to create by machine. In today's world, there are special Sashiko sewing machines. It would be lovely to have one I'm sure. Anyway, I was thinking about this demo I'd seen and figured I must be able to do this so did a little research online.

I discovered I could quite easily do it by using a special stitch I have on my machine that simulates hand quilting. To do Sashiko you use a monofilament thread on the top and embroidery thread in the bobbin. Your embroidery thread should be contrasting your fabric. I tested the stitch first on a scrap of fabric layered with a thin batting in the center.

Sashiko Embroidery by machine

Sashiko Embroidery

I noticed the first few stitches didn't form fully and soon discovered straight lines and curves were very easy, but the monofilament thread broke if I stitched too fast even using a topstitching needle. Oh, and one tip, make sure to start with a full bobbin. You don't get quite as much yardage on a bobbin with embroidery thread as it is thicker.

Circles were very slow and you need to get into the rhythm and momentum of the stitching which was 3 stitches forward, 1 backward. It didn't take long to figure out that I needed to pivot on the 2nd or 3rd stitch forward to keep the circle and stitches looking good.

notes for Sashiko by machine

notes for Sashiko

Once I'd practiced a little, I thought it was time to find a sashiko pattern to stitch out. There are lots of patterns you can use, I found some free ones to use here: Free Sashiko patterns however I soon realized the one I selected wasn't quite accurate (possibly because it was an image file rather than a PDF) so I drew my own using Inkscape (Inkscape is graphics software you can download for free - actually I have a workshop on how to use this and other free software: Free Software for Quilters).

You can download my PDF here for the design I use below: Sashiko Design

Because I wanted to stitch this out a bit faster, I changed my monofilament thread to a fine overlocking thread that I often use in my bobbin for quilting. I used white as my fabric was white so you could barely see it. It worked, but not nearly as well as the monofilament.

Sashiko practice

When stitching a design like this, always do the straight full lines first.

Sashiko practice

Try to start on the sides so you don't need to pull the threads to the back for tying off.

Sashiko panel complete

This was a lot of fun to do!

Whether you do Sashiko or just use the hand quilting look alike stitch, this is a fun way to add some decorative embellishment. Give it a try and let me know how you get on. If you don't have a Bernina, look for a similar stitch and adjust the tension until it looks right.

I used it for this cute pattern, what do you think?

Sarah's Garden quilt pattern

Sarah's Garden

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Carol, I did tighten the top tension some. You will need to practice to see how much is needed as all machines are different as are the threads you use. The finer thread should match the color of your fabric so it blends into the fabric and becomes almost invisible.


You said you used a thick contrasting thread for the bobbin thread and white thin for the top thread. Does that mean you increased the top tension in order to pull the bobbin thread to the surface? Did you use a thin and matching top thread so that it blends enough to not be seen?

Carol Hatcher

I used stitch 1305 which is the largest one of 4 quilting stitches on my Bernina 570 machine. I did tighten the top tension to 8, but it depends on the fabric, thread, needle, and machine you are using as to how much you will need to do that.


I can’t get this to work, do you have any suggestions of why it’s not working? What did you have your tension set to?

Krupa P. Patel

Please have a look at the Inkscape extension I have created that will make Sashiko patterns.

Brent Shields

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