Restoration In Progress: Sho Chiku Bai Kasane

When I first set eyes on these, I realized that insanity is a spectrum, and that I’m leaning further and further towards the red end of that crazy rainbow every goddamn day. I’m okay with that, though. It’s not boring.

So what in the absolute fuck is a kasane, Becky? I’m glad you asked! Kasane, or as I’ve also seen and spelt it myself gasane refers to kimono that are part of a layered set. They typically have the same design to them with subtle changes between layers, and each layer is a different color. This one specifically is a depiction of gosho guruma (royal cart) set against sho-chiku-bai, which is what it’s called when ume (plum blossoms), matsu (pine), and sasa (bamboo) are all together. You’ll frequently see it on New Years celebratory items.

I’ve stalked a few kasane over the years, but they usually end up way out of my reach, and worse–separated. I have a few kimono in my collection that I’m reasonably sure were originally part of a kasane set, but this makes my first complete set. And let me tell you, even though they were listed separately, when I saw what condition they were in…nothing was going to stop me from getting these home. Not a goddamn thing. Because one of them is an absolute wreck, and I need to fix it.

Let’s have a look!

To put it lightly, they all need a little help. Let’s go over each one individually, because hahaha, I love punishment!

No, for real though, they are three different kimono and therefore they offer me three sets of challenges to face. I gave them all the same kind of inspection that I went over in this entry, so rest assured, I know their names, social security numbers, and mitochondrial DNA.

The Black One

Pictured: This Majestic Fuck

This one is our gosho guruma with matsu. At a glance, the sleeves are shorter on this one than the others. My best guess as to why would be because this one got more mileage. On it’s own, it’s simply a kurotomesode (married women’s formal kimono with five crests), and therefore would probably have the most practical applications. As this is an antique kimono, late Taisho to Early Showa Era–so late 20’s to early 30’s–it would have been made with the fashionable long sleeves that the kimono of this age have. And indeed, her sisters have them. There is, I suppose, the possibility that this was meant to be a furisode (formal kimono for unmarried women with long swinging sleeves) set that their wings clipped. But I don’t think so.

The good news is that I don’t have to shorten the sleeves of the other two. The person who shortened these sleeves did not remove material, they simply tucked the excess up into the seam allowance. I can feel it beneath the shell. I have a massive soft spot for those Taisho-Romance long sleeves, so this made me squeal like a little fucking piggie.

Pictured: YES.

That’s all sleeve in there. Fuck yeah.

The black one is marred with a few smudges of crud here and there, and that’s basically to be expected. I don’t anticipate much in the way of trouble there.

The staining I’m most concerned about is the spotting above that big poofy matsu (pine) that’s sitting on top of the carriage. The matsu was originally speckled with kinsai, and some of it remains but most of it has worn off. I’ll have to address that. But the spotting above it could be oxidation from the sizing (adhesive used on the kinsai) or something worse. For once, I didn’t lick it. My worse case scenario is just covering it up, I guess.

Speaking of covering shit up, I’ll have some pigment replacement to do on this piece. Some of the black is fading quite heavily on the collar and on the skirt.

Too much time in the sun, I guess.

Black on black pigment replacement is really easy, and I’ve done it several times, so I don’t anticipate any problems here. But here’s an odd little thing, there’s some major scuffing inside on the hakkake (inner skirt lining). I’ll throw a few things at it to see if it’s surface level, but my first inspection seems like the design is missing rather than stained.

Fucking weird, right? No problem, really. Those are easy colors to recreate.

…and of course it needs couching repairs. Because my life is couching repairs.

Pictured: My banged up fingers.

That’s okay. I’ve had a metric fuck ton of practice with couching, so I got this.

The Red One

This one makes my mouth water.

This one is by far in the best shape. There isn’t much in the way of major staining, she’s sexy as hell, and the fabric itself is in great condition. The pattern is our wonderful gosho guruma (royal cart), this time accompanied by sasa (bamboo) on a deep, luscious red silk.

Insofar as staining goes, we have a few marks, the worse being this fucker right here:

Pictured: This fucker.

I have no idea what that is, because I didn’t lick that one, either. Maybe I will. Hold up.

It doesn’t taste like anything. Well that was a wasted lick.

Okay what I do know about it is that it’s a surface stain, and it has a different texture to it than the silk does by itself. It’s weird and thick, but it doesn’t seem to want to be scratched off. I’ll try a few solvents on it and see if I get lucky.

Other than that, we have a few areas of little smudges here and there, nothing that exciting.

This seems like a good place to point out the little white stitches that are all over the place. Most of them are shitsuke ito (basting stitches) that are meant to be removed. Tiny white stitches at the sleeve openings, at the collar, and at the hem are decorative, but if they’re big, long, and pierce both the lining and the shell visibly, then they’re meant for keeping the kimono in shape, and keep the layers from shifting about and wrinkling up oddly until it’s to be worn.

Here’s a short derailment.

I ran across a thread the other day where someone was asking about the shitsuke ito (basting stitches) on the sleeve opening of their haori, and many of the answering people said they were not to be removed. That stitches in kimono are visible so that they can be un-stitched for arai hari (the traditional way to wash a kimono). I did a lot of blinking. I then physically got up and started inspecting my kimono and haori collection because there is always the possibility that I’ve legitimately gone insane. I want to be the kind of person who learns gracefully when I’m wrong, so it’s important to me to be certain when I go against the grain on such things.

But many of the responders seemed to legitimately think that the lining was sewn to the shell with those large, uneven white stitches so that it can be taken apart. And that’s just not true. If you take those threads out, nothing happens. So I made a few pictures showcasing what the real stitching between the seams looks like, and how most stitching, unless decorative, on kimono are not visible.

It was terrifying to engage, because I hate being in a position when I tell a bunch of people they’re wrong about something. It’s so, so very important to me that if I end up in a position where I do that, that the person I’m talking to doesn’t feel like I think they’re bad, or stupid, or lesser. I was made to feel that way a lot growing up. It’s not fun, and I don’t want to be that person.

Nobody else responded, but the person who owned the haori was able to follow my instructions and remove the basting stitches without issue.

TL;DR: Giant white stitches come out. Basting stitches are typically loose and easy to remove. Decorative stitches are harder, tighter. Construction stitches are hidden between the seam allowance panels by a millimeter or two, and are not difficult to remove, but are certainly not popping through all the layers.

That got serious for a second, didn’t it? Well, nobody’s all dick jokes and expletives. Anyway! Other than that staining, the rest of the piece is in really great shape. This piece might be where I start, because I can probably complete its issues in one night.

The White One

And then there’s this majestic piece of shit. This was the piece that made me make the decision to get this set, because holy balls, is she in rough shape.

This kimono has our delightful gosho guruma (royal cart) and ume (plum blossoms), completing our sho-chiku-bai set. At a glance, she looks pretty good, yeah? Haha! Everyone is wrong.

She is stained all to fuck. TO. FUCK. That sweet, pale cream just barely almost white silk has been marred from shoulder to hem. It looks like someone wiped their ass with it. It doesn’t smell like that, though. So it has that going for it, which is nice.

My best guess is moisture. But it kind of doesn’t matter. The only “no way back” scenario is if someone used chlorine bleach on it. I’ll be attacking it with vinegar first to create mustard gas see what’s up, but I’m getting the feeling that I’m going to have to whip out the big guns for this one. Whatever. Bring it.

The next major issue are these little holes. They’re tiny and I’ve handled things like this before.

The couching also needs to be straightened up a bit. Because of course it does.

It looks intact, but I don’t know if the stitches are strong. I’ll find out when I try to straighten it, I guess. If they all pop, then I’ll have to redo it. Yaaaaaay.

And the last thing that will need to be handled on the white one is the kamon (family crests). Unlike being resist dyed and drawn in like the other two, on the white one they’re done in kinsai. And the kinsai needs to be touched up just a bit.

And that about sums up what all I have to do with this set. It’s not a major priority, because if you so much as glance at this blog occasionally, you’ll know that I’m working on a good ten different pieces right now. I switch back and forth, or if I’m doing stain removals, I’ll often have several kimono that need the same kind of treatment set up at the same time. No, I can’t scrub five kimono at a time, but realistically, you want to let the solvent do most of the work anyway. Which means I get to be lazy productive.

Wish me luck, I guess.


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