Wednesday, 6 February 2013

hari-kuyo: the last job for tired needles

hari kuyo needle mass festival of broken needles pins pihlaja jelly sweet february 8th

Have you heard of this sweet Japanese tradition before?

Hari-kuyo is the Festival of Broken Needles, held on the 8th of February on which day women lay their spent needles and pins to rest at a temple in a little ceremony of gratitude.

The tired needles are given the last job of piercing into something soft like tofu or jelly, in a recognition of their hard work throughout their usable life. This way they are relieved of their duty and honoured for their faithful service.

I've been collecting some of my bent pins and blunted machine needles for a while not really caring to dispose of them... For this blogpost I've stuck them into a piece of Pihlaja, my favourite Finnish sweet which is like a turkish delight originally made of rowan berries; perfectly soft and sweetly scented for this occasion. I wonder still what to do with them - seems very undignified just to dump the whole thing in the kitchen bin... I read somewhere that they are eventually meant to be thrown into the sea. I'm undecided about it, but maybe I'll take them along on one of our spring beach combings, yet to come...

I first heard of this festival years ago in art college, when we were given a project on Japan and a classmate crafted a very interesting wall hanging based on this hari-kuyo tradition. (Elizabeth, if you are reading and have a picture of it that I can link to, let me know!)

There's another notion to this festival which appeals to me. While being used for stitching, the needles and pins take on the quiet sorrows of women who work with them, so during the ceremony the needles are relieved of any emotional burden that has been transferred to them. I like that.

I've been following the artist/crafter Susan Clarke on her halfandhalf blog for a good while now - currently she's working on a piece connected to this hari-kuyo tradition. Pay her blog a visit, and find her post on the festival here.

So even if you are not in an entirely animistic mood, but have some tiny, worse for wear sewing implements in your pincushions and needle cases, maybe it's a good time to purge your craft space of such spent supplies. And while you gather them up and remember how they got damaged, and what sort of troubles they may have stitched into cloths and craft projects, maybe find a scrap piece of soft felt to stick them into before letting them go whatever way you see fit.

16 comments:

  1. Oh, no. I throwed my broken needles away. All I have left is maybe a crooked pin. It is a very nice tradition.

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    1. if you need some, i have lots of damaged needles :)

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  2. I learned something new today. I´d never heard of this before but it makes perfect sense. I´ll keep this in mind next time I pick up a needle and thread.

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    1. i'm glad i posted about this tradition :)

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  3. I loved reading about this, and it's a lovely tradition (I often love Japanese traditions). I especially like the idea of pins and needles taking on my sorrows and cares as I stitch. I will be sure to be kind to them and relieve them of their emotional burden when it comes time for them to go!

    Actually I'm terrible at changing the needle on my sewing machine. I need to do it way more often.

    And at the moment I have a broken knitting needle I can't bear to throw away. I sat on it, but it's beautiful old plastic (possibly even bakelite) and I don't have anything as perfect in the same size. Plus they came from my mother (and possibly her mother). I superglued it and that worked for a while, but eventually it came apart again at the breaking spot. Perhaps doing something ceremonial would help me part with what is probably now a useless item...

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    1. Suki, I know what it's like to break a vintage bakelite needle - on top of it it's from your mum too...!
      I say check this seller out on etsy http://www.etsy.com/shop/YellowBearWares she makes bracelets from old plastic knitting needles, very affordably too, maybe she could do something with your broken needles..?
      xx

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  4. that was quite interesting aniko!
    and the sweet must be really yummy!

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    1. thanks Evdokia! they are very addictive, because they are so subtle in taste you kind of need to eat 'just one more' to taste them properly :)

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  5. what a lovely tradition. :)

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    1. i'd love to see it for myself - hope one day I can travel to Japan and see it happening

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  6. This sounds amazing. i love traditions that involve womanhood trades like this...

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  7. Loved reading this, so interesting and such a sweet little tradition!

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  8. Oh, how beautiful! I completely understand not being able to just discard a tiny, intimate tool.
    I did something like this with my kneaded eraser, when it got too grimy to use. We wrote an eulogy and gave it a papery grave... We keep it around, in its tiny mausoleum.

    You can see it here: http://weirdamiga.blogspot.com/2012/02/viking-funeral.html

    I do worry about throwing needles into the ocean, and the effect of this on fish... :(

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    1. Hm, valid point about the fish and the needles knocking about in the sea... I'm not keen on that idea actually.

      I like the way you entombed your little eraser, such a nice post!

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