Friday, 8 February 2013


When I first heard about the Harikuyo festival I didn’t have any broken needles to lay to rest so I devised my own needle ceremony. On 8 February each year I put aside an hour or two to clean and sort my hand-made Japanese needles. I like to spend this time in quiet contemplation of what my needles and my other embroidery tools mean to me. Cleaning them and sorting them into their needle felt is my way of showing them appreciation for the joy they bring me.

This year I have broken three needles. This rather surprised me as I have rarely broken a needle in the past. All of the broken needles were size 10 bead needles. I placed them into the felt patch at the back of my Harikuyo needle book, placed there for that very purpose.

© Carol-Anne Conway

If I were to be true to Harikuyo, I would now sink my needles into a piece of tofu and bury them but I’m not sure if I want to part with them. I will contemplate their fate while I clean my needles this evening.

© Carol-Anne Conway

Susan has set up a Mr Linky for everyone to share their Harikuyo blogs this weekend.

Happy Harikuyo


Unknown said...

Here's a question - I absolutely love my handmade Japanese needles, and have had three and used them extensively for over a year now. You mention cleaning them, which I have never seen referenced anywhere. How do I clean mine? I've always been afraid to do anything to them, but I do keep them in the special felt block, and never leave them in the needlework or threaded overnight. I'd love to make sure they last as long as possible. And is there a safe way to sharpen them, or is that not really necessary? Thanks!

Rachel said...

I don't often have broken needles either, but it is a lovely thought.

Susan Elliott said...

I wonder what you decided. I thought Ann's post was wonderful...she didn't want to bury her broken needles but keep them together with their was sweet. Happy New Needle Year. May it be filled with copious hours of beautiful stitching, xo Susan

coral-seas said...

Hi Mary

Japanese needles can be cleaned with a lightly abrasive material such as ScotchBrite or finishing grade glass paper. This will remove the film of dirt without roughening the surface or blunting the tip of the needle. If using glass paper fold the paper around the needle then twist the needle within the paper. My preference is for ScotchBrite. I ‘stab’ the needle backward and forward into the pad and twist it around all the time pinching the pad onto the needle. After scouring with abrasive and before stitching, the needles should be polished with a scrap of fabric to remove all traces of dirt. Dirty needles appear blackened and squeak when you stitch with them.

I know that I do not need to tell you how sharp Japanese needles are – I certainly know how sharp they are – but a word of warning. I turn my needles around and stab the eye end into the ScotchBrite, in doing so I manage to slice the pad of my thumb. The needle is so sharp that I did not know I had done it at the time. It was only when it started to sting later that I became aware of it!

As for sharpening, I have never needed to sharpen my needles but I have deliberately dulled the tip of one to use in the goldwork master class (sssshhh! don’t tell any of my Japanese embroidery friends).