Now did you know that on the 8th February the Kanto region of Japan celebrate Hari-Kuyō, the Festival of Broken Needles? It is a celebration of all the sewing needles and pins broken in their service during the past year and an opportunity to pray for improved sewing skills. People gather at Shinto or Buddhist temples and stick their old and used needles into blocks of tofu or jelly – it’s a way of showing gratitude for their work and putting them to ‘rest’ – it seems to be an act of great tenderness and respect for these humble objects.
I love the value the Japanese place on beautiful and useful tools and have always admired the aesthetic and quality of their goods. When I first saw these beautiful Cohana products last year, I was so excited to find a Japanese company producing unique, gorgeous sewing goods. In the same way that I try and work with small companies and craftspeople to make things for Beyond Measure, Cohana focus on producing exquisite sewing tools in collaboration with skilled crafts people and traditional manufacturers.
With typical Japanese poeticism, the name Cohana is derived from the goddess of Mount Fuji , Konohanasakuya-hime, who is “beautiful like the blooming of cherry tree blossoms”. The products are made in a subtle palette of colours that represent the seasons and nature – yellow, pink, blue, aqua and grey.
The first products I tried were the beautiful braided snips, made one pair at a time by the by skilled artisans of the world-famous Shozaburo company. They are deliciously sharp and feel wonderful in the hand. The handles are wrapped in Iga hand dyed silks braids, a material made primarily for use in armour-making. Presented in a gift box with a soft leather blade cover, they make the perfect gift.
Cohana also offer very special needles too. “Meboso Needles” have been manufactured for more than 400 years in Kanazawa, Ishikawa prefecture. They are extremely fine and highly polished, allowing them to slide easily through layers of fabric. The needle is of course the most important tool for the seamstress and they were kept safely in hand-sewn bags or containers which hung from the neck. This tradition inspired Cohana to work with a local maker of paper tubes to create a delicate needle case for these precious objects, decorated with silver and gold thread from the area.
Finally, we have a new product this month, gorgeous metal paper/pattern weights. These are wonderfully heavy, weighing in at 350g each! But the real draw is the wonderful texture that comes from the casting process – think of those wonderful little Japanese tea kettles. It has a softness and warmth that will only get better over time. The brass version is spun so has a smoother and sleeker texture. Now these would make an amazing set of pattern weights, but I admit that this quality doesn’t come cheap. Each one is available singly so you can build up the colours of your choice, or just have one as a focal point for your sewing table. They make a perfect place to store your dressmaking pencils!
I know that I have had some wonderful feedback on these products since the autumn, the quality really is fantastic and the products are extraordinarily beautiful. I look forward to bringing on more products as Cohana expand the range.
Happy Hari-Kuyō, try not to break too many needles but if you do, you know where to come!