What is Broken Needle Day?
I first heard of Broken Needle Day a few years after I started sashiko stitching. And maybe that was good because I had had time to really experience and become attached to my hand sewing needles.
And that might sound a bit silly if you are not in love with hand stitching, but for the rest of us - well, I know you know what I mean. They become such valued little tools, and a favorite is no different than a favorite paint brush to an artist. It's the one that 'fits you'.
For me it is a long strong shafted sashiko needle that begins to have the tiniest bend in it, barely noticeable, but which echoes the pressure of my stitching. A good needle improves like any good tool, but sooner or later they all give way, they bend too far, or break, we blunt the tip, or the eye pulls out.
And you feel sad.
Broken needle day is a Japanese holiday (Feb 8) for pausing to be mindful of how much our needles make possible for us. Women who mark this day place their broken needles in cakes of soft tofu, to honor and thank them, and to give them a soft resting place after their good labour.
Again, you may think this sounds silly, but consider it a moment anyway. Look around yourself and notice how much cloth there is and how much of it has been sewn. Look back through what you remember of your history and culture and remember all the sewn cloth made, needed, and used.
I've written elsewhere about the value of cloth in our lives, and about the value of the women's work that created it, but here I am adding another suggestion for respect for these historically 'humble' things - the value of small household tools, particularly the sewing needle.
Doesn't seem quite as silly now does it?