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Hitomezashi Sashiko on the Ashton Top (Part 1) - Guest Blog on The Thread Blog

Back in late 2020, I was asked by Masha Karpushina, editor of The Thread Blog by to contribute a Sashiko tutorial as guest blogger. This tutorial is called Hitomezashi Sahiko on the Ashton Top. It comes as a 2 part tutorial and the first installment focuses on grid preparation before stitching happens.

I was absolutely thrilled and honoured to be presented this opportunity and said yes instantly. Then when I had some time to contemplate what I had said yes to, I was completely terrified. I’ve never done anything like this before, and therefore, it attracted and repelled me simultaneously. In my heart, I knew that this special combination of bowel-emptying fear mixed with utter exhilaration is the perfect indication that I should embrace this new challenge. But boy, it put me in this place of discomfort watching each and every fear rise up in my being, and it was unnerving.

So what was I afraid of? Well, there’s always imposter syndrome nagging at me about not being worthy enough to write about Sashiko, this beautiful and exquisite art form. Who do I think I am? Who am I compared to all the Sashiko masters that have come before me. Well, I am definitely NOT a master, just a humble beginner sharing some tips and tricks for my humble explorations in Sashiko. Maybe there’s value that I can offer to beginners out there who are hesitant to try out Sashiko, or who are unsure of how to start putting Sashiko on a garment. And perhaps I can help calm others’ fears and doubts regarding its execution, and give them the final nudge to give it a go. That is basically my goal in writing this tutorial, and with that in mind, it helped to allay the imposter syndrome nerves.

The biggest fear though was the fear of failure. What if I write crappy text, or take terrible photos? The stitching will be photographed really up close - what if the stitching is rubbish, and it’s out there for all to see? What if I’m simply no good at Sashiko at all, and at producing tutorials? Here’s the truth: I failed at ALL the above mentioned “what ifs”. I submitted my first attempt at the tutorial, thinking it was spectacular, and Masha wrote back saying she couldn’t use most of the photos and that the tutorial was too clunky.

Yes, it was a big hit to my ego which caused a mini earthquake in my bones. The worst thing(s) that I imagined in my mind occurred: I failed! However, the good thing was that all that resulted was some ego-deflation and humiliation. There were 2 choices that were open to me at that point in time: 1) give up, 2) get up from failing and try again. I took my chances with option 2. I told Masha that I would be willing to do it all over again from scratch, paying close attention to her criticism, and correcting my mistakes. Fortunately, Masha saw that there was some value in the tutorial amidst all the flaws, and gave me the opportunity for a do-over. Thank God for Masha - for her patience, generosity and guidance! I swept up the pieces of my broken ego, rolled up my sleeves, embraced this 2nd chance and did my best to address everything that went wrong to make it right.

Masha offered to present the tutorial in instalments so that it wouldn’t be so clunky. When I was re-structuring the text, I learned how to present it in a more digestible form for readers. Most of my photos had to be trashed, and I learned how to take better photos.

I learned how to frame the pictures from a different perspective, developed a keener eye for better light, and challenged myself to find a better location for the outdoor shoot. I didn’t have a studio set-up, so I relied mainly on natural sunlight for the photos, and discovered the narrow window of time that sunlight falls into my kitchen for the best shots. I learned how to slow down my work for better quality in the stitching. I learned how to take pleasure in everything that I did instead of giving in to stress and anxiety. I enjoyed the second attempt much more than the first. Mainly because I was rediscovering everything I did as if I was doing it for the first time. I took my time, instead of rushing through it. For my first attempt, I made the mistake of just “churning it out”; and for my second, I gave myself space and time to truly relish the task every step of the way. And I hope that in the end, this pleasure that I experienced with the project can be felt by the readers through the words and photos. Yes, fear was still there (what if I fail the second time around!!!), lurking in the background; but I learned how to transform it to an effervescent curiosity. I convinced my hostile inner critic to be a friendly neighbour.

When Masha approved of the second submission, and this tutorial went live on The Thread Blog 2 days ago, I was beyond excited. I was elated. My heart danced because it felt like a real personal achievement. It’s not like I had won medals, but I was really glad and proud that I managed to get over myself and learn from the experience. The risk of failure or failure itself is essential for growth. It feels awful and pukey in the moment when it’s happening, but the ability to work through these feelings of discomfort is vital to get through to the other side. Feelings of doubt, uncertainty or even embarrassment is OK in any new endeavour - they are indications that new boundaries are about to be broken, and that we are sprouting, blooming, blossoming and thriving.

Here’s a video teaser of the tutorial, but please visit The Thread Blog for all the details. Your support is greatly appreciated. And I also look forward to your feedback if you chose to reach out to me in the comments section.

The next instalment which focuses on some basic stitching patterns will follow soon. I will give you all a heads-up when it does. Then after that there will be a pattern review of the Ashton Top by Helen’s Closet Patterns on The Thread Blog as well. Thanks for reading and listening! See you soon!

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