Friday, 10 February 2012

Taking time to appreciate small things...

In my attempts to declutter and get organised, I found myself sorting through my sewing box and spent time really looking at some of the tools and objects I have accumulated over the years.

I read a lovely article recently that has made me think about the value of objects in my life. The article is here and it describes the Japanese festival of Hari-Kuyo (Festival of Broken Needles). On the 8th of February, women attend ceremonies in shrines and temples to honour their worn out needles and pins. The broken needles are "laid to rest", often in soft jelly or tofu cakes, in appreciation of their service. It also seems to be a time to appreciate other small, everyday items which so often escape notice.

When I first read the article this seemed like a nice idea but a very complicated ritual for such a tiny thing.

So I thought about it some more. I thought about how it must have been when the festival began 400 years ago - needles and pins would have been made by hand and would have been treasured. I know that they were often given as gifts in England. To break one must have been a sad occasion: maybe a ceremony to honour these doesn't seem so strange. 

After all, our earliest ancestors laid broken tools into the ground with funereal respect. The act sums up the appreciation of all that the object stands for: the raw materials that made it; the time and skill taken in its construction; the length of its service; the things it has enabled its owner to accomplish. It is as if these tools had become part of the owner: extending his abilities beyond the natural strengths of the human body.

In the modern world, where needles and pins (and most other things) are mass produced by machines, it is easy to forget what an object means, what it 'stands for'. Our possessions are so many that we scarcely notice them and they are so easily replaceable that we barely spare a thought for their components, who made them or what they have helped us to achieve.

So on Wednesday (the 8th) I celebrated my own little Festival of Broken Needles to try and reconnect a little with these small objects. 

A little stuffing serves as a soft "resting place"....

I decorated the container with a small piece of embroidered linen before putting in the needles and pins and closing the lid over them...

And during all this, I thought about what they have helped me to achieve. I thought about all the things that I have sewn recently. I thought about how much my skills have improved over the years.  For all that, I am very thankful.

Our tools help us to be who we are and we may even feel lost without them. Whether the tool is a needle or a favourite pen, paintbrush or knife it seems fitting to honour all that it has helped us to become, before consigning it to the dustbin!

What is your favourite tool? And how do you feel when it comes to the end of its life? I would love to hear your thoughts.


  1. This is a lovely post Kirsty and your little container for your pins and needles looks great, a good resting place after all the work they have done.

  2. Really inspiring idea! And very evocative.


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