When I first touched the new Indian handwoven silk and blockprinted fabrics, I wanted to design something that would frame the beautiful scroll patterns and plaid-like weave of these natural-dyed prints.
Small patchwork pieces of silk on an indigo background was my vision. And handstitching. I wanted to sew a table runner that featured sashiko-inspired decorative stitching. Simple. It would also be in keeping with the handwoven indigo hemp and organic cotton made by the Lao weavers of Ock Pop Tok.
Marilyn Murphy’s words in her recent blog on boro cloth inspired me: “ . . . I’m taken in by each tatter of an edge, by the unevenness of stitches, and the meandering of the thread . . .” –especially since I knew my stitches would definitely be uneven.
I started with
- 1 yard each of indigo hemp fabric and natural–and-green cotton
- 5 small Indian silk swatches of varying shapes, Spools of thread for hand quilting
- Tools were basic: a steam iron, sewing shears, embroidery scissors, seam ripper, straight pins, and #9 needles with large eyes (sharps).
Because the hemp was only 14”wide, while the cotton was 28” wide, I laid the indigo hemp down the length of the cotton, with a larger margin of cotton on one side for some asymmetrical drama. Next, I laid the silk swatches on the fabric, moving them around until I found a layout I liked. (I took a photo so I wouldn’t forget the pattern, then set the swatches aside.)
I hemmed the ragged edges of the cotton by pressing both raw edges in ¼”,then again ½” and hemming with a blind stitch.
Instead of hemming the indigo hemp to match the length of the cotton, I decided to have it overlap on top and bottom edges for some more “ragged beauty.”
Also I liked the fringe created by the raveling on one ragged edge and pulled the weft threads on the other edge to match.
Since the sashiko stitching would be on the indigo. I cut a piece of natural lightweight linen as backing for the hemp, ironing its edges inward ¼” and pinning it in place on the hemp.
Using cream-colored thread, I stitched 10 lengthwise rows of a running stitch (the staple of sashiko) along one selvedge edge to make a simple border on one side of the indigo. (Be sure to leave about ¾” next to the selvedge stitch-free.)
I attached the indigo piece to the cotton with the same running stitch. First, I stitched 4 rows parallel to the existing stitches with colored threads (orange and rust). Then I stitched a single row of running stitches across one width edge and the remaining lengthwise. Last, I stitched 2 rows along the remaining width edge.
Last touch—review the layout image I snapped earlier. Then roll the edges of each piece and stitch to prevent fraying. Attach each piece according to the layout, with a couple of rows of running stitches inside the stitched edges.
I fiddled slightly with the layout during this stage and adjusted for the fact that the hemmed silk pieces were now smaller from being stitched.
Perhaps this table runner wants to become a wall hanging. I’ll have to listen to what the fabric tells me next! All I know is that these beautiful India silks will talk you into something.
ClothRoads welcomes Marlene Blessing to our list of bloggers. She is the former editorial director of Interweave’s beading magazines and book division. She is a frequent contributor to STITCH magazine and a lifelong sewist and fabric junkie.