Asanoha 麻の葉 means "hemp leaf" in Japanese.
The asanoha pattern is a traditional Japanese pattern. It represents a geometric abstraction of a hemp leaf. It is made up of many hexagons that are divided into triangles. The lines are all straight, which makes it a pattern that is rather easy to draw and stitch.
Like many traditional patterns, asanoha is a kisshōmonyō 吉祥文様 "lucky omen pattern." Kisshōmonyō patterns represent good luck and can often be found on kimonos worn at festivities or on gift wrappings for happy occasions. Each pattern has its own distinct meaning.
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Hemp has been used during Shintoistic rituals since ancient times. Its seeds were valued as a source of food and oil, the plant itself as material for clothing.
In Japan, hemp was the primary material for clothing among common people. This actually contributed to the development of sashiko. Find out more about the history of sashiko here.
The hemp plant grows incredibly fast, reaching a height of about four meters in just four months. Because of how fast hemp grows, this pattern is often used for children's clothing. Just like the hemp plant grows rapidly, the pattern holds the wish that children may grow up healthily without any harm.
Maybe because the hemp plant is rather undemanding and sturdy, the pattern also symbolizes protection against harm and evil.
The pattern is also widely used as a pattern for interior design. You can encounter it anywhere in Japan, and it never goes out of fashion.
But just in case you're starting to get bored of this pattern, the rokkakuasanoha sashiko pattern may provide just enough variation to keep you interested.
The point where the lines meet to form the middle of a leaf is to be left open. You are supposed to stitch regular lines so that all the stitches line up cleanly and leave an unstitched point in the middle.
If you are unsure how to align the stitches correctly, I recommend you use a pre-printed cloth on your first go to get a good grasp on it:
Pre-printed fabric by Daruma
If you want to do sashiko, but you don't want the hassle of drawing the pattern yourself, Daruma offers fabric that has the pattern printed on it. The lines wash out when you've finished stitching. Super easy!
Leave a comment if you are interested in detailed instructions and I will upload more information as soon as possible.