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 For this blogpost I've stuck them into a piece of Pihlaja, my favourite Finnish sweet which is like a turkish delight originally made of rowan berries; perfectly soft and sweetly scented for this occasion.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.