Thursday, February 9, 2012

festival of broken needles






Hand sewing slows the heart it seems. Or it does mine. Perhaps like writing longhand it cannot be done at speed. Begs not to be. One stitch, one breath. The rhythmic dip and dive of the long nose, round eyed needle lets the thoughts lift loose. And the heart feels unburdened. Sometimes hand sewing is more a joy than a job.


A needle is a fine tool. Simple, portable, industrious. But what to do if it breaks? If it is bent and no longer able to sew true? Thank it. Lament it. Offer comfort. Japanese women do. For hundreds of years Japanese women have honoured their needles and pins on Hari-Kuyo. On February 8 women take their tired needles and worn out pins to Shinto or Buddhist shrines and lay them to rest in the Festival of Broken Needles. Bent pins and broken needles are made to lie down on a soft bed specially sewn or plunged into cakes of bean curd. Softness comforts the needles and pins who before have known only sharpness. Sutras are said to thank the needles for their hard work, for a year of straight stitches, for repairs, for their sorrows inherited direct from the seamstresses hand.

Last night I saw a fox step out of the darkness. Kitsune - the Shinto messenger - a good omen, I thought, for burying needles. I made my bent pins and one broken needle a bed stitched with sashiko, plumped with fleece - a button and spare thread for company. I thanked them and then I laid aside sewing for the day.

If the fox came for them he would be able to carry the soft parcel in his mouth with ease - no booby trapped tofu to choke on.


"Oh my needle, how sad! You were a special gift, beyond the ordinary, prominent among all ironware. Deft and swift like some knight errant, straight and true like a loyal subject, your sharp point seemed to talk, your round eye seemed to see."
from Lament for a Needle.  Anon Choson dynasty, Korea.

11 comments:

  1. Beautiful Carolyn, I really need to get seeing <3

    ReplyDelete
  2. *sewing. or may be it is seeing x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let's see and sew soon then dear Louise.

      Delete
  3. So beautiful that you captured your tender celebration. And such vivid beautiful colours [:-)] I wrapped a single bent pin in some soft cotton, and tucked it into a pretty spot near my Bean Trellis garden.

    I've started over again three times on my first little square of sashiko stitching, (it will be a pot-holder one of these days!) but yesterday I had a long talk with Susan of the excellent Sashiko Stitchers and A Threaded Needle, and she set me straight and gave me many really excellent tips. She's a very warm & generous teaching resource!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure your pin is snug under the snow sleeping out the rest of winter. Lovely that you made contact with Susan! Any tips for sharing? I found a pencil for transferring patterns onto tracing paper - the tracing can then be ironed onto the reverse of your work.

      Delete
    2. Oh, she was full of great tips. What a warm & good teacher! So, she revolutionized my sashiko stitching by turning me on to the technique of using featherweight fusible interfacing fabric and stitching from the back of the fabric, which she outlines in the "dragonfly above the earth" project listed on www.sashikostitchers.com --I'm so glad I learned this early on as I imagine it's hard to switch ones stitching (long-short-long) after getting in the habit of sewing from the front of the fabric.

      Finally my Maru Bishamon pot-holder is coming along! Now I just need to find my camera's battery charger (arrgh!) so I can show you pictures.

      I made some food the other night that I SO wanted to show you. Okay, back to work. I started a jar of preserved lemons salting away today; they'll be ready for adding deliciousness to my middle-eastern themed meals in a month :-)

      Delete
    3. Oh I'm glad she was good to you. She looks kindly in her picture. I'll be keen to hear what you think of the interfacing trick.

      Delete
  4. Such a beautiful blog, Blorgie! Your unique eye and sensibility so rewarding to explore...

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a wonderful tradition! Now when I have bent and broken pins and needles, I will have something special I can do. Beautiful pictures of lovely work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank-you for your kind comment Tammy. A broken needle or bent pin will not seem such a waste now. We can thank them and put them aside for next February.

      Delete