STITCH LINES...... Ramblings on life as a quilter, stitcher, traveler, photographer, gardener and lover of books, cats and fine chocolate....

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hari-Kuyo, Festival of Broken Needles

Image from Google Images
For hundreds of years, February 8 has been celebrated as Hari-Koyu - Festival of Broken Needles - in Japan. (Hari means needle and Koyu means memorial service). Seamstresses, tailors, kimono-makers, and embroiderers bring their broken and worn needles and pins to Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples to honour them and "lay them to rest". Prayers of thanks and respect are offered to thank the tools for their service. They are then plunged into a slab of tofu to soothe them after their hard work, and to protect their sharp points, preventing them doing any harm before they are laid to rest. By offering prayers and showing respect, it is hoped that the needle will pass it's energy to the owner and make them a better stitcher in the coming year. Priests will bless the needles and thank them for work well done. No sewing is done on this day.
There is an old Shinto belief that inanimate objects, as well as living things,  have a soul and spirit, and to simply discard a tool which has been useful and served you well, would be disrespectful. The Japanese have great respect for objects in their everyday life, and believe they should be treated with care and not lost or wasted. (Perhaps there is a good lesson here for today's modern "throw-away" generation?)
I have long been fascinated with Japanese culture. I'm sure much of that comes from the fact that as a child, I had a Japanese penpal. We wrote back and forth for about 5 years I think, and I still have every one of her letters. Shizue plastered the envelopes with beautiful commemorative stamps as I collected stamps then; you can read my previous post about that here.
Through the years, my Japanese fascination has continued; I had a Japanese roommate while teaching in British Columbia, love doing Kumihimo, have tried Sashiko, and I am always amazed by the skills of Japanese quilters and the beauty of their quilts. I have long wanted to travel to Japan, but in light of last year's earthquake and tsunami damage, I don't know if that will ever happen now...
But I do love the idea of this festival, honouring needles and other sewing tools. We would all do well to spend a few minutes today thinking about how lucky we are to have such wonderful sewing and quilting tools and equipment at our disposal. And yes - perhaps we should thank our needles for their service! What better way to honour them than to give them a wonderful home? My friend Susan over at Plays With Needles has designed a beautiful needlebook and is offering an E-course. Details were revealed today. You can read all about it and sign up for the class here. Even if you do not wish to make the needlebook, have a look at Susan's other posts about Hari-Kuyo and her needlebook herehere, and here. The eye candy alone is worth the look!!  :)


"Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts? " ~ Confucius


GailM. said...

I visited her site. What a sweet needle book. It's only in the last couple of years that I've been using needlebooks, and I really enjoy making them. I keep one with each of my unfinished embroidery projects.... I really want to do a silk ribbon embroidery one, using many of the techniques I learned in your class... I must dig out my stuff and make up a snowbird kit...just incase I have a rainy day or two while south. Nice post!

bubbygigi said...

Linda, I saved a bent needle all year in my needlebook for today's fastival. What should I do with it now?
Out of respect, I will do other things rather than sew today. Thank you for the very informative post. Have a good day.

Anonymous said...

I also did not sew in honor of Hari-Kuyo. We visited Japan 4 years ago to attend a Traditional Japanese Wedding, performed by a Shinto priest. I also love all things Japanese, espically our beautiful daughter-in-law, Shiho Sato from Sandai.
Oh the silk!!!!!!
Mary in Amherst

Kathy said...

Very interesting post! I have visited Japan a few times and studied Japanese but I did not know about the Festival of Broken Needles.

Susan Elliott said...

Thanks for the plug LInda. You're a real pal!

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