Could the art of ‘sashiko’ help to mend our frayed world?

In the third week of lockdown, for something better to do, I joined an online sashiko workshop. Sashiko, which means ‘little stabs’ in Japanese, is the traditional art of fabric repair. Originating in the 17th century, this patching technique was designed to extend the life of garments. More recently, sashiko has acquired a vogue in the West among the eco-conscious and the middleaged, mostly women, in search of small consolations to compensate for the depredations of age. …

In sashiko, the goal is not to hide the repair but to celebrate it, hence a patch is attached to the inside of the fabric using neat rows of tiny stitches, leaving the tear still visible. Sashiko exemplifies the Japanese principle of wabi-sabi, which has no direct English translation but expresses a sense of beauty in the incomplete and imperfect. It honours the strength to be found in the fineness and delicacy of the work: a patched and repaired garment is a source of reflection, even reverence. On Instagram, you’ll find examples of the skilful use of patches in contrasting colours and patterns that render a mass-produced garment unique and expressive, a product of individual experience and taste and with a delicate and coherent beauty all its own.

By Melanie McGrath, for Psyche Magazine

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