Koi Fish by Ajisai Press

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Ajisai Press - Koi Fish cover

What is it?

Koi Fish is a blackwork and specialty stitch design by Valentina Sardu for Ajisai Designs. It is based on “Kannon Riding on a Giant Carp” by Hokusai, 1849.

Ajisai Press reprint historical modelbuchs (pattern books), as well as Valentina’s cross stitch and blackwork designs.

Ajisai Press - Koi Fish

Why this chart?

I love blackwork!  It’s just like back-stitching except that you don’t have all of those pesky cross stitches in the way; you are stitching on clear, unobstructed fabric.  Blackwork often stitches up faster than cross stitch because the interiors are left blank or filled in with differing amounts of stitching to give texture and shadows.

The main consideration for blackwork, especially high contrast work such as this black on white is to minimise the amount of carrying threads on the back.  When these show through to the front it reduces the elegance of the piece.

I love how easily blackwork can be personalised; this Koi Fish is crying out for a hand dyed fabric or to be stitched in Koi colours!

Koi Fish is a combination of blackwork, trellis couching, ray stitch and Holbein stitch.  All of these are clearly explained using many diagrams.  All information is presented in Italian and English.

Koi Fish is a surprisingly easy design if you follow the in-depth stitching guide.  However given the varying number of strands, the different stitches and filling stitches, I would recommend this design for intermediate to advanced stitchers.

If you are a beginner and passionate about this design, then don;t let me deter you. Take your time, read all the instructions and start.  Good luck to you, Valentina is available if you have any issues, or you could contact me, as I’m planning to start this design extremely soon.

Ajisai Press - Koi Fish Close up


Valentina’s blackwork designs are only available as PDF downloads via her Ajisai Press site.

To purchase any of Valentina’s designs, register at Ajisai Press, then select and buy designs.  After you have paid your designs, a download link will be placed in the “My Downloads” section of your account. You have two days to click the link and download the PDF.

Please note, the design will not be emailed to you.  You must go back into the site and click on the download link.  This will open the PDF and you can save it from there.

The chart pack for Koi Fish has the cover page containing a photo of the finished design and information on the inspiration for the design.

The second page has the stitch count, size of design on a variety of standard count fabrics and the floss to be used.

This page also marks the beginning of the instructions. Koi Fish rewards patience as you methodically work through the instruction booklet.

The first instruction is to backstitch the outline of the Koi.  The instructions list which floss to use, how many strands of the floss, how to stitch blackwork, diagrams to follow for blackwork stitching and the chart for the outline.

This chart is a little small for those of us used to counted cross stitch.  Also the design is comfortably fit on one page, you may need to enlarge it to stitch from.

Once you have stitched this outline, the next step is trellis stitch.  And so it goes, each step building on the one before; each consecutive step including written instructions, how-to diagrams, photos and chart to complete each step.

Each blackwork fill-in step is also offered with as much attention to detail that I doubt you will ever feel lost stitching this design.

By following the process, step by step, you will create a finished project that has textural elements adding to its beauty.

However, if you love this design, but can’t imagine trying the different stitches and processes, you can always enlarge and print out the last one-page complete chart and stitch the project as backstitch.

The only change I would ask for in the chart pack is a suggestion of how many skeins of each thread are required to stitch this design.  this doesn’t have much impact if you stitch using the DMC or Anchor threads recommended, but it would help if you decide to use one or more hand dyed floss.

Materials Required

To stitch the charts exactly as designed, you will need:

DMC 310 - Black


DMC 310 Black (or Anchor 403)


DMC 844 Ultra Dark Beaver Gray


DMC 844 Ultra Dark Beaver Gray (or Anchor 1041)


Ivory Evenweave or linen (stitch count 125 x 226). This design is best stitched over two due to the specialty stitches.

Wichelt - Ivory
Wichelt – Ivory

28ct evenweave (with 3″ border allowance) fabric size is: 14” x 17”  or  35 x 42cm  or  a fat quarter (18 x 27″).

If you use only 2½” borders on the left and right sides, then you can fit this only a fat eighth (13″ x 18″).

Approximate cost for Project

Approximate cost to stitch this design using the recommended materials (prices are in $US, at recommended retail and do  not include postage):

Chart: $   6.80
Floss:  $   1.35 (est. 3 skeins)
Fabric: $11.85

Total: $20.00  ($33.70 AUD or €19.05  or  £14.60)

Places to Buy

Koi Fish is only available as a PDF download from Ajisai Press. For readers of Cross Stitch Review, Valentina is offering a 20% discount for Ajisai Press.  Coupon code is: CSR20. Expires at the end of February 2015.

The code is unlimited, so it can be used as many times as you want between now and the end of the month. No minimum order value.


Colours Down Under has all the threads and a variety of plain fabrics in stock.

Colour Cascade Fabrics ” I would choose Deep Water or My Island Home”

Tammy offers a 15% discount for readers of this site. Code is: CSReview. Offer ends 27 February 2015.


Traditional Stitches in Calgary have a selection of floss and fabrics to suit your taste.


Casa Cenina in Italy stock a variety of fabrics and floss for your unique creation.

United Kingdom:

SewandSo has  a range of floss and fabrics to make this design uniquely yours.

Chromatic Alchemy  “I wanted to choose a fabric that was interesting but not overpowering for Koi Fish, there is so much detail in this stunning blackwork piece it would be a shame to mask it on a more dramatic fabric. I have chosen Frost, this fabric is light and subtle enough to make the black thread pop but still incorporate that extra element of interest that hand dyed fabrics can bring to a piece.”

Crafty Kitten “that fish would look great on a blue, so summer Sky, Waterfall, Oceanic Fantasia, Sunlit Pool or Sunlit Water.  I think though I would stitch it on Tropical Breeze.’

Sparklies “For this I would stick with black thread and go nuts on the background. Caribbean Blue would be lovely for a watery finish, or Innocent Princess or Etain for a bright Koi colour.”

United States:

123Stitch has the thread in stock and offers a variety of fabrics.

Black Cat Stitchery in Illinois has floss and fabric in stock to make this a project to remember.  Erica is offering a 5% discount for readers of Cross Stitch Review.  Coupon code: CSRSPRING15. Offer ends 31 May 2015.

Stitches n Things has the recommended materials in stock to kit this up for you.

Fiberlicious“In my knowledge, Koi played a very important role in ritual culture of Asians. It symbolized good fortune, great success, prosperity, longevity, courage, ambition and perseverance. Koi fish has a powerful life force which allowed him to swim against currents and even travel upstream. The culture of raising koi fish started from China and was passed to Japan, where koi was raised in ponds as pet.

Koi from Japan has so many unique colors and each color surely represent certain aspects or outcomes in life. For example, if your koi fish has white body and red spots, it will bring you great success in your career. White and red patterned fish will bring you long lasting love. White body and black spots or all black symbolize life changes and transformation. Gold/Silver symbolizes riches and wealth.

In conclusion, depends on which aspects of life you would like to represent, you can choose according colors to stitch your koi fish. I’d suggest using silks from Autumn Collection together with black thread to mix and match to your liking.”


Do you like blackwork? Would you attempt this design?  What floss and fabric combo would you stitch?

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Last Updated: 2 February 2015