Restoration In Progress–Work Cut Out For Me

This blog entry is going to begin much the way the others do. I was creeping around on a shopping service, and I found a kimono I liked. In this case, I bought a beautiful antique green furisode (formal kimono for unmarried women with long swinging sleeves). Take a look:

Before I begin, I want to make a few things very very clear.

When I buy things domestically (inside of the USA), my expectations are vastly different than they would be if buying from Japan. Your average white-bread American (of which I am one, if we’re splitting hairs), has no earthly idea how to inspect a kimono, no idea that there are many different kinds of kimono, can’t tell age, and does not know what separates a good condition kimono from one in bad condition. And that’s something that gets weird when buying domestically so much so that I know a number of fellow US buyers that simply refuse to if they can’t inspect the kimono themselves.

Kimono like this are some of the reasons why. And that’s not a pot shot at the seller. My seller was kind, fun, responsive, and in my opinion also very honest. You might be wondering why I am saying I thought of them as very honest even though I’m about to go on a very long list of insanity with this piece. That answer is very simple: they are very far from experts. If we’re being genuine, I’m very far from what one would consider an expert in the subject. But your average non-expert is still shrouded by the magic of kimono like we all were when we first saw one: they tend to think every one of them is an ancient geisha wedding dress owned by a princess.

Okay, that was a touch sarcastic, but it’s actually kind of true. In my experience, those who are selling something they don’t know much about are wrong in one of two directions; they’re either convinced they have a bathrobe or they’re convinced they have the highest, best possible example of anything kimono. My seller was quite measured in their description, was honest about the damage that they could see and understand, and was very responsive.

I could not ask for a better experience.

If you’re a regular reader, then you’ve noticed I haven’t been sprinkling every other line with some hard R expletives. That ends right fucking now, because oh my fucking god is this going to be a goddamn project. This is going to fuck with me. This is going to whoop my lily white ass. Just.

-Deep breath-

Okay, let’s start at the top. How old is this? I’m going with early Taisho. Yes yes, I’m usually very fucking picky about what I label that way without provenance. Why am I saying this here? Because look at the size of these goddamn kamon (family crest). Applique of contemporary kamon taken from this piece for scale:

Pictured: BIG

There’s something of an expiry date on kamon of this size. That fell out of fashion in the early Taisho Era. We’ve also got the texture of the silk, the style of the yuzen (resist dye), and I’m adding the fact that it’s very short but isn’t a child’s kimono.

So in my opinion, this is an early Taisho Era furisode. Okay, so that puts her over 100 years old. Is she in good shape for her age?


No she is not. She is in desperate need of help. If you can hear that weird sound creeping through your walls, I’m sorry. That’s me. I’m screaming into this pillow like a goddamn psychopath because at some point in the 100-whatever years she’s existed, between being made, her proper purposes, and however she got separated from her family: I’m near positive that someone stuck this kimono in a washing machine at some point.

If you’re here to learn–and once again I’m so sorry–then let me say this right the fuck now. Your washers delicate cycle is not gentle enough. Not even with a garment bag. Step away from the Whirlpool.

You wanna risk completely destroying an antique kimono? Put it in the washer. There’s no telling what condition it comes out in. Want it to get way worse? Put it in with something that has magnesium sulfate (fucking epsom salt) in it.

Because I’m an eternal optimist, and my favorite activity is torturing myself, I think I can save this one.

So the normal stuff! Some stains and discoloration. Check it out:

We’ve got fading and some darker marks. I’m gonna be honest. If someone did throw this in the washer, I have no idea how to handle those. Here’s hoping nobody put it in the dryer.

We also have just regular ass stains. Some blue shit and some actual stiff grime on the hem.

Next, we’ve got both couching damage and evidence of couching missing. The damaged threads are missing their metallic plate. And the hanging threads suggest there were other couched areas.

I haven’t made the decision to attempt to replace the couching yet. It’s going to depend on the integrity of the fabric because of this:

Pictured: YIKES

I have to play the why is this hole game. Ugh. There’s one spot, you know which one you have eyes, that is shattered. But it seems to be isolated. I tested (read: yanked on) the fabric around it and it doesn’t want to do the sad banana. That’s true for all of the holes. So what I’m planning on doing is mounting fabric behind them and recreating the missing portions of design on it.

Can I do that? Well…I have an actual fucking degree in illustration, so you bet your ass I can.

My best guess at some of the damage to the fabric has to do with kinsai. There was most certainly some kinsai (gold paint) on these black foliage bits. Have a look:

Pictured: Not shiny. 😦

And it’s been washed the fuck off.

Speaking of washed. Look at the washout in the images. The bleed on the black areas.


I’m panting right now. I’m literally out of breath. But we’re not done. We can never be done. THERE IS NO REST. AAHHHH.

The lining has been replaced, semi accurately, with some 10/10 American Chinoiserie oRiEnTaL dWaGoN fabric. You can tell for sure it’s not Japanese because of how fucking wide it is. See the second picture below. Between my two fingers is the back seam–this should be present on the lining as well, and it is not here. And a hanging loop was added because of fucking course.

Ugh. At least nobody hacked off the hem and turned it into a belt.

Well! I have a long fucking list of shit to do, don’t I? You know, I was sitting here playing with a bit of shattered lining from that piece I linked to up there, and since it can be ground to dust, I wondered if I can snort it and gain the kimono’s powers. That’s a normal thought for an adult to have right?


Wish me luck.


4 thoughts on “Restoration In Progress–Work Cut Out For Me

  1. OMG!
    Indeed I am not the only one that are crazy about kimonos. I am a newbie with some textile experience. I am a norwegian woman living in Norway. At night I am on ebay, when I should have been sleeping. So I have done some bummers and some nice biddings. The quality is good and sometimes bad. STAINING is what I am thinking about at work and at home. How to know what enzymes to use? Silk is like my hair (chemically). It’ s keratin. So I know the big no no’s. I have spendt a fortune on remmedies. My intention is to get the old vintage yellowish stains to white and then find a kind of paint to restore as good as possible. The stains could be from storage. They are yellow/mustard not black. It comes along with lots of vintage silk kimonos. Is it decay, storage or what is it. And some smells mothballs. Iiiiik! I have been ordering an ozon machine, In the meantime fresh air hanging out in the wind will do. My balcony looks like the ship from Monty Python. Sailing away. So my question is. Tricks regarding stainremoval, and quality paint and what to NOT do. No washing machine of course. In Norway we can not buy peroxide 35% as private person because of the fucker Anders Breivik, the terrorist that killed 69 people where 33 of them where under 18. I have used blonding creme for hair. It actually worked. Hope you are doing progress on all your affairs! Best regards Susanne


    1. Oh my god, fuck that guy! Trying to remove yellowing from silk is enough of a hassle without some jackoff ruining it for everyone. Ugh. I can’t say we’re doing better with shit like that in the US, though, because I have to take my shoes and belt off to get on a plane. Horray for security theater.

      So, if you can’t get your hands on peroxide, I did have an entry on removing stains from white silk that might be helpful to you if you can get a product called Rit White Wash. It’s for natural fibers. I cover spot treating with it in that tutorial, but you have to be VERY careful, because it’s a liquid and it does spread. If you’re trying to remove yellowing from an area that’s toned or otherwise “raw” silk, your best bet is actually vinegar. I do it in stages. First straight store bought food grade (5% acidity) distilled white vinegar, let it dry (it’ll look worse before it looks better, don’t panic), then a half and half distilled water and vinegar solution and let it dry. Blot up excess every time. Repeat until insane. Or your stain is better. Whatever comes first.

      Some people panic when they see someone putting something acidic on silk. Well…silk itself has a more acidic PH, and the PH of distilled white vinegar as described is 2.6, and that is not worse than the acidity of the dyes that were used to color the silk in the first place. Don’t soak it for long periods of time, and it’ll be fine.

      I’m with an old teacher of mine recently who is teaching me to mix pigments for dyes for color correction, and I hope to be sharing my experiences with that when I’m confident enough to describe it well very soon.

      As for quality paint, I use Jacquard Textile Color. They come in a lot of shades, and they lay very softly. I work in layers, and tend to let each layer dry before I decide I need another coat. They are mixable to create new shades! I have been totally guilty of covering stains with them, too, because they lay so flat when diluted and applied in layers that you really can’t tell if you do it right. Professional restoration services do this, too.

      I’m going to do some research on what to do if you can’t use peroxide. But to be honest, I actually don’t find myself reaching for the peroxide that often. Because sometimes those yellowing stains are easy to fix, and sometimes they really really aren’t. It very much depends on what happened in the first place. With these beautiful fuckers, we don’t always get to know that. ❤

      …I also shop when I should be sleeping. Hello fellow completely normal adult with no fixations. XD


  2. Thanx for good advice. Patience is crucial. Regarding vinegar and bleeding into fabric. I have been thinking if there is a way to “fence in” the stain with transparent gutta (as in silk painting) to avoid bleeding into surrounding fabric? Just a thought. The Jacquard paint is it ready made or is it pigments that you have to mix together to get the right consistency? I dye fabric with Jacquard and vinegar. I am going to order some Rit White Wash and continue the tedious vinegar stain removing process.Thanx for good advice regarding all my questions. XD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Jacquard paint is ready made, but mixable and soluble. Here’s a link!

      (Obligatory: I’m not affiliated with Jacquard nor do they give me money. They can totally give me products to try if anyone is reading this, though. I will totally whore for pigments.)

      You can absolutely use gutta to build a resist for the white wash, but you’ve got to check it every now and again. Depending on how concentrated you made up your white wash solution (see the tutorial for details), it might jump the resist. I haven’t had it happen to me yet, but I’m side-eyeing it real fucking hard. XD


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