Monday, January 03, 2011

Silver Threads and Broken Needles...

Beading is such a zen activity: stitch, add a bead, stitch, add a bead... SNAP! Dammit, there goes another needle. I love bead embroidery, but I do not love stitching through Ultrasuede. Beading needles are notoriously thin and the repeated passage through that tough fabric causes great stress on them. The eye gets smaller, the needles bend, and eventually they break.

Marble Man, super-tired of hearing me swear, googled beading needles and came across an article about Hari-kuyo, an annual quirky Japanese festival for seamstresses and embroiderers to bid farewell to broken needles. Sounds like I need to buy a ticket on that train.

"On the day of the memorial service – 8 February throughout most of Japan, but 8 December in much of the Kansai region and western Japan – seamstresses and embroiderers take a day of rest from their craft, and bring their used, bent and broken needles and pins to their temple or shrine. As they pay their respects, their needles and pins are stuck upright into blocks of tofu or konnyaku (a kind of edible jelly made from a plant-based flour). Tofu and konnyaku are used because of their soft texture; which is thought to soothe the needles after their labour, effectively wrapping them with tenderness and gratitude. A priest incants a sutra, marking the needles’ passage from use, and offers a blessing, which is thought to rub off on the person who has made the offering. The essence of hari-kuyo is to honour the needles for their hard work, give thanks for their service over the preceding year, and also to pray for improved needlework skills in the future. The used needles and pins are often sent to Awashima Shrine, where they are then laid to rest. In some regions, the blocks of tofu and konnyaku, with their pins sticking out, are farewelled by being floated down a river."

From The Japanese Foundation, Sydney

Instead of cursing my sorry luck at breaking a needle on a regular basis, I think I'll keep a block of tofu handy to place them in and thank them for their hard service. How's that for a new and unusual New Year's Resolution?

copyright 2011 Shibori Girl


Createology said...

I love this story regarding well used needles. Gives an entire new appreciation for breaking needles while sewing or beading. Happy stitching...

Robin said...

What a warm and loving tradition, I really like that.

PS I'm going to be humming Silver Threads and Golden Needles all day now LOL.

My photography is available for purchase - visit Around the Island Photography and bring home something beautiful today!

Dawn N said...

I haven't broken a needle for a long time... until New Year's Day. Looks like it might be a bad year for me.

Snap said...

I LOVE it! Great new/old tradition!

beadsandblooms said...

Love this! And it would be so appropriate for my needles as I tend to use them until they are almost bent into a "U" or snap in two. Talk about your hard service! lol

Anonymous said...

Great post :) I hadn't heard of this before, what a wonderful tradition!

Thought I can imagine the 'health & safety police' going crazy if we did that here in the UK, lol!

lori vliegen said...

needles and tofu......fabulous way to start the new year!! i just hope you don't fill up that block of tofu too quickly.......! happiness and hugs to you for a creatively beaded new year!!! xox, :))

MelJoy Creations said...

Finally a good use for those bent and broken needles! Great post. :) I have about half a dozen seriously bent needles lying around. Not ever sure what I'll do with them, but I just can't seem to throw them out! Too funny.
Happy New Year and tons of success for you this year!

PiPa said...

One of the cutest thing I've ever read!Love Japan!

MarbleMan said...

I think the most amazing part is that this celebration has been going on for 400 years! Wowsa.

Marsha Wiest-Hines said...

Makes me feel part of something ancient and ritualistic! I love it Kate. Thanks for sharing this.

rochambeau said...

Oh this is wonderful to here Kate!
Before I read about Hari-kuyo, I was having an idea. COuld you poke the swede with a larger needle before you use your beading needle? Or would that be too much time?
Happy New Year to you and to Marble Man.


Rhonda Roo said...

Oh, now see, that's cool. I like honoring things that have given us help -- trees, needles, coffee. (what? of COURSE there's coffee rituals!)

But then i wonder-does the tofu all the needles are getting stuck in get some sort of ceremony too? maybe a shout out or by line or something?

Cha. Anyhoo, COOLNESS, thanks to you and marvel man! (hee i renamed him just this once) :)

PS- my new year's resolution is the same ever year: dont die.