Today, February 8, is the day of the Harikuyo Festival in Japan.
The day when kimono makers, seamstresses, quilters and embroiderers go to a shrine with their used up needles to properly lay them to rest. "Hari" means needle and "kuyo" means memorial service and for the last few years, I have been honoring this festival by holding my own personal harikuyo.
To my great delight, many of you have joined me.
This year I have only four broken needles in the felt on the last page of my needlebook...
But even though there are only four, it is the first year that a Japanese embroidery needle has landed in the burial group. In fact, I don't ever think I have broken a Japanese needle since I started Japanese embroidery many, many years ago.
That means that the needle that is second from the left below has been in my Japanese needle felt for over 20 years...
That's a long time. It's also kind of interesting that this is the year when I've put Japanese embroidery back on the front burner.
In fact, in April I will be starting a piece called Queen of Flowers, its subject being the Chinese Tree Peony. It also happens to be my favorite flower.
In Japan, broken needles are placed in a block of tofu...something soft that relieves the needles from the harshness of their labors. This year, I chose a soft and fluffy cotton ball.
I wrote a note of gratitude and folded the needles into an old scrap of pattern paper...
And buried them amongst the tree peonies in my garden...
Wishing that the spirit of my needles will combine with that of the tree peonies and inspire and guide me through my embroidering of this flower later this year.
Even though it's still freezing, I can see that the tree peonies are beginning to bud. Jim told me this morning that he sensed Spring was coming because he was already beginning to sneeze.
I didn't believe him then...
But now I do.
We spend this day not only honoring our needles for their service but also by being grateful for the skills that we've acquired over this past year. The more hours we spend with a needle in our hands, the better stitchers we have become.
Likewise, so much of the time we spend with our needles is meditative. We are thinking of our family and friends, we are suffering from grief or the loss of a loved one, we are joyful because of a wedding or a birth...all of these emotions that travel from us through the needle and into our embroideries are honored as well. Pray that sadness and anxieties are laid to rest along with your needles and that any joy and happiness is retained with you.
So many of you have made Harikuyo needlebooks in the past few years. I'd love to hear how they are working out or how you may have chosen to honor your broken needles this year. Just leave a comment below and let us know.
For those of you who are new here, you might be asking "What is Harikuyo?"
Check out these prior posts on the Japanese tradition:
Spring is coming everyone. Jim says so and I think his nose is even more reliable than Punxsutawney Phil.