I’m admit I’m a latecomer to the art of zakka, which I believe represents the kind of sewing I like to do these days: small items made of cotton or natural fibers that are functional and beautiful. Both physical space and time constraints steer me away from larger projects.

So, what is “zakka?” Depending on the person you ask, zakka is a Japanese word that means household goods, many things, or small necessities—and usually refers to a design style in which the simplicity, charm and detail of an item contribute to the individuality of an environment, particularly in a home. Sewn items are often made of organic fabrics, especially linen and cotton, and include—but are not limited to—tote bags, tea towels, table linens, and baskets. Zakka-style sewing encompasses a combination of hand- and machine-sewing techniques that can include sashiko embroidery and patchwork quilting. Zakka’s definition is fluid, allowing for a broad interpretation. The style is influenced by trends such as kawaii (cute), using foreign words and phrases as a design element, and furoshiki (the art of folding fabric to wrap packages or gifts). Simply stated, zakka represents a design aesthetic that combines beauty and simplicity with purpose. While the zakka movement may have begun in Japan, its principles are evident in other cultures, such as Scandinavian or Appalachian folk needlework.

Over the last few years, zakka-style sewing has been growing in popularity, with sewists enthusiastically joining Lindsey Rhodes’ 2012 Zakka Style Sew Along and 2013 Patchwork Please Sew Along. In fact, more than 300 zakka enthusiasts posted photos of more than 1,700 completed projects in the Zakka Style Sew Along pool on Flickr. Asako of Piggledee in Australia has led a local Zakka Sewing Group. On Pinterest, Aunt Pitty Pat has a wonderful collection of Zakka projects on her Zakka page. Jessica Okui of Zakka Life devotes an entire blog to zakka-style original craft projects and tutorials. On Etsy.com, you’ll find more than 3,000 handmade zakka items, and more than 10,000 zakka-related items.

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Zakka-style sewing appeals to me because of its simplicity in design, the practical nature of completed items, the use of linen and cotton, and the prevalence of both hand- and machine sewing. Although I doubt I will be able to keep up with any of the wonderful sew-alongs I’ve described in this post, I intend to do more of this kind of sewing in the future. If you feel the same, here are a few books to get you started:

© 2013 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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4 thoughts on “Zakka colors me happy”

  1. I had never heard of zakka before, but you piqued my interest in it with this post. You learn something new every day!

  2. Really cool! I hadn’t heard of zakka before, but I’ve got to check some of these items. They look really neat!

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