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Designing Modoko Motifs

May 15, 2024

Designing Modoko Motifs


This week we have another fun class review for you of a CreativeSpark class on designing modoko motifs.

The class is called “Modoko Madness” from Shannon and Jason, and was a practical set of steps to teach you how to design your own Modoko motifs, for stitching.

So what is Modoko?

It is stitched from side to side typically using an uneven number of stitches (one, three or five in length) to make up geometric, symmetrical patterns, usually in squares in the form of diamond shapes. There are around 45 patterns known as “Modoko”, which form the main set from which traditional Kogin is stitched. Kogin is a traditional Japanese style of counted thread embroidery, and is best worked on some type of even weave fabric.

Traditionally, kogin embroidery and the modoko designs were stitched to reinforce roughly woven clothing.

(We took a look at this fun embroidery technique in another class before Christmas too, with Shannon and Jason’s “Make your own Kogin Tree” –  )

Class Structure:

This class is based on a lecture by Shannon and Jason, and in 7 stepped out videos, they walk you through the design process, right from the basics.  All you need is some graph / grid paper, a pencil, and an eraser (for the occasional misplaced line.)  There is also a downloadable workbook to follow along with as well.

The class starts by explaining how the designs are marked onto your grid paper, as a series of lines, showing which threads of your fabric you sew over, and leaving gaps for where the thread goes under.  This simple method of running the thread in horizontal lines either over, or under the fabric, is what gives these stunning geometric designs.

For example, the smallest motif is only 3 lines  – 1 over, then 3 over, and 1 over to finish, which gives the tiniest little star-like shape.

The stitches are usually in odd numbers, and you can expand them to make the diamond shapes larger –

Once you get the hang of it, they’re quite fun to draw out, and Shannon and Jason offer plenty of tips along the way, so it seems quite logical, and easy to do.

And then they show how to step it up, and leave gaps to add to the designs –

Once you get your eye in, and understand the series of lines (lines=the warp & weft of the fabric), it becomes like some kind of fun embroiderer’s morse code!

But look at the results of those dotted lines!!!

In the second part of the class, they covered tiling and overlapping designs, and showed how to repeat the same simple motifs in a variety of different ways, to create entirely new designs.

As you can see – even in a single colour, this can be a very effective design tool.

And when a previous design (see further above) is tiled and overlapped… Wow!

One part I really appreciated in this class, was how they showed how to break down a really complex looking design into its smaller components.  For example, the shirt below has 3/4 of the back heavily embroidered, and looking at it, it’s difficult to work out where to start.


They looked at this section –

And demonstrated how the middle of that diamond is made from a couple of repeated smaller, simpler units.

You are encouraged to draw and design along with them at various points in this class, and having followed this through, I feel confident enough to keep going and designing, and see what I come up with!

I would recommend you take a look at this class, as for only $9.99, it’s the perfect start to taking on this form of embroidery, and once you understand it, there’s a wealth of different design options open to you. (For more inspiration, take a look at too – click the ‘en’ tab for english, and you can scroll through their database of classic designs too.)

Creative Spark has generously offered one free “Modoko Madness” class to us to giveaway, so please comment below with why you’d like to learn this modoko motif embroidery technique, and we’ll choose one lucky winner at random next Tuesday 21st May.

Good luck, and do check it out at for yourself.

Enjoy your week!




3 responses to “Designing Modoko Motifs”

  1. Rhonda O'Dea says:

    I’ve always been afraid to try ‘counted’ embroidery so to learn in a class with experienced artists and overcome my fears would be such an amazing experience and an achievement for me.

  2. Susan N. says:

    I like the look of this. I haven’t heard of it before. I can do cross-stitching, but this is kind of intriguing. I can sort of see what you are designing in your sketches, but it looks so different in the actual stitchery. This would be interesting to learn.

  3. Christine Eastham says:

    I haven’t heard of this before, I am interested to try it

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