Above: One of my first attempts used as a birthday card for a friend made using 16 count Aida
More of my first attempts stitched on Aida cloth. The fun was just playing with color and learning stitches. I had no plans for these practice pieces although the pin cushion came out well.
In August, Susan Briscoe, published her book “The Ultimate Kogin Collection” and then, in November her “Book of Boro” was published. This is the same talented woman who gave me a perfect introduction to Sashiko when her book “The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook” was published in May 2005.
When I first began seeing examples of Kogin Sashiko (pronounced, I believe, as ‘Co-geen’. Please let me know if I am incorrect) on social media I admit that I was not terribly interested. I wasn’t looking for another needlework obsession and I did not find the effect all that interesting. When ‘The Ultimate Kogin Collection’ arrived in my mailbox I began to “feel” the possibilities, and in short order, I had decided to give it a try. I had some Aida cloth on hand and both sashiko thread as well as a lot of DMC 6-stranded embroidery thread. My early attempts were made with what I had.
Eventually, I decided that I enjoyed Kogin enough to invest in true “Kogin Cloth”. Imported from Japan, Kogin cloth, is an 18 count 100% cotton. It has a richer, beefier, feel than Aida (which is also usually cotton). Additionally, I bought some smaller samples of linen even weave 18 count which I do like as well, but finding it in 18 count is a bit of a challenge. I have a lovely piece of 28 count aqua linen that I want to experiment with soon. Thus far, my preference is Kogin Cloth, which has also been occasionally hard to find in colors. In the USA I shop at Quilting Foxes, Shibori Dragon, and Stitched Modern. Stitched Modern is a needlework store, but they have has a nice selection of even weave linens worth trying. There are m a n y wonderful resources in Japan which you can easily find on ETSY. Canadians have an amazing resource in A Threaded Needle! This may be the place I order from when I have a larger order and can afford the shipping, because her selection is spectacular...for all things Kogin, Sashiko, Japanese and needlework related goods.
Kogin thread is a bit thicker than Sashiko thread and is available at all of the shops I noted above. I have to admit that I have not invested heavily in this sort of thread yet. Partially because of cost, partially because of scarce availability and a less than optimal color range. For monochromatic work though it cannot be beat for great coverage! I find embroidery threads work well if handled properly and I happen to have a lot of it on hand. Also, embroidery threads are so much easier to find, are less expensive and available in soooo many colors. I do find that a laying tool helps a lot in maximizing the coverage of embroidery 6-stranded floss. A laying tool can be as simple as using your Kogin needle or buying a traditional, inexpensive, takaburi. Using this simple tool to keep your thread smooth is very helpful.
The book, “Modern Kogin” is another library addition that I like. The two books I have have provided me with a lot of options for stitching, but I know that an order of Japanese Kogin books will be in my future at some point...unless some enterprising company in the USA begins to import and market the books here. The language difference would be a minimal issue since reading the patterns does not require Japanese language skills...although how great a translation would be!
Above and Below: A selection of coasters that I made for another friend. Simple but effective.
Most recently I wanted to just experiment. I have a lot still to learn and will never be an expert, but I do find experimenting to be extremely useful. I had a scrap of this mustard Kogin cloth left and many orphan threads. My aim was to simply start stitching intuitively with no pattern used, no plan or eventual use in mind. One stitch to follow the next. Just a blank scrap of cloth and some otherwise possibly never used threads. One of things that I like about both Sashiko and Kogin in the symmetry. I find both to be very relaxing and grounding, but I also appreciate a bit of dis-symmetry, something that is, truly, wani-sabi.
This is what my rambling needle turned out. Thoroughly playful and, I thought, without a purpose. Now that it “has become” though I can and do envision it as a part of a shirt or jacket.
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