Antique Kimono–Spring Green Roses

Vibrant Peach Roses In Full Bloom On Muted Green Textured Silk.

It’s only a day into winter, and I’m over here thinking about spring. I actually don’t necessarily prefer one season over another in terms of themes. But hell is cold feet, and although I am basically nocturnal to begin with, I have the audacity to be pissy about it getting dark at four in the fucking afternoon. Although right now I’m just pissy in general because I’m still nursing a shit-tastic sprained wrist, and that means I can stare at my growing pile of restorations and make noises, but I can’t actually be productive. So here’s this piece that I took pictures of.

There really isn’t some amazing story with this one, I just really like it. I picked it up with a few other items from here in the good ol’ US of A. I’m a sucker for these Taisho-romantic watercolor style florals. Especially when they’re roses, peonies, and berries. And this sweet muted green? Mmmm, I could fucking eat this if not for the one problem with it.

In truth, there really wasn’t much of a restoration to be done, either. It was wrinkled, but that wasn’t much of a problem. The was one major issue that this one presented, the one that keeps me from wanting to just gobble up those delicious goddamn colors. And it’s what I’ll be talking about for the most part in this entry: the fucking smell.

Antique kimono come to me in all kinds of conditions. Sometimes, that condition is something I can get an immediate sense of. That sense is smell. That smell is often piss. Lemme tell you, nothing kills my excited new (hah) kimono boner faster than popping open a package and being blasted in the face with the burning stench of god knows fucking what. I once literally whipped a box out of my second story bedroom window just to get it the fuck out of that room as fast as I could, because I have to sleep in here and fucking no.

In my defense, I more just plopped it out the window than full on yeeting it into orbit; and the front door was directly below me. So it’s not like I didn’t just go get it immediately. What’d we learn, Becky? What the fuck did we learn? I learned not to open restorations in my room ever again. That’s what.

Sometimes the smells creep up on you, though. This piece didn’t have a discernible odor until I started ironing those wrinkles out. And those wrinkles were very persistent, so I was a bit more aggressive with removal than I tend to be. And that’s when the gag inducing stale waft of rolling around in an ash tray came up to assault me right up my goddamn nostrils. Rude.

So–side note about ironing kimono. When I get aggressive, I do whip out the steam iron, and then I can literally feel the kimono police twitching.


For the record, that’s not my iron.

But hear me out. Do not just iron or steam iron your kimono all willy-nilly. Silk can and will shrink under high heat. But there’s an attitude out there that I’ve expressed a great deal of distaste for before that treats kimono like they’re made of magic and mythology, and not often made of silk literally dyed with acid dyes and metallic salts. This is chemistry and science, not magic. You dye silk at up to 185°F/85°C.

Let’s put that number into perspective, shall we? You cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F/73°C. Damage to human skin in the first degree starts at 118°F/47°C, and second degree at 131°F/55°C. Human skin is literally destroyed at 162°F/72°C. You can iron silk. Just mind your goddamn temperatures. Know how hot your iron gets, and know what temperature your steam is. Don’t iron kinsai or appliques. Make sure your chicken is fully cooked to avoid salmonella. Do not wrap your chicken in silk. This is not that kind of Subway.

The best thing to use is an indirect, legit garment steamer. Do not be more aggressive than you have to be. Don’t be aggressive in place of patience, either; more often than not a quick gentle steam and then fucking off for a day while it hangs properly will do the trick.

Back to smells!

I’ve actually had ironing release smells before, although usually it’s a vague scent of mothballs or, surprisingly enough, some hint of something perfumey. I don’t much mind the perfumes, but things like mothballs, mildew, piss, and nicotine need to be handled with extreme prejudice. Dear smokers, I’m not here to tell you what to do with your life. I’m really not. But your gunk is an absolute living hell to clean up off of other things.

Since in this case it was just the smell, it was actually pretty easy to deal with. Something you might have noticed about the vinegar method, if you’ve had the occasion to use it at any frequency, is that it’s also really good at neutralizing odors. In this case, since there was no stain, there’s no reason to soak the fabric or pick any seams. I simply fill a spray bottle with half distilled white vinegar and half purified water and mist the air above the kimono with the finest spray setting I can get. I don’t mist it directly. Then I fuck off for a bit. Repeat until smell gone. This one took three treatments. Now it smells like just old silk.

So! Wanna know some weird shit I’ve done to remove stank from kimono? One time, I got one that was so overwhelmingly mildew smelling that I literally gagged when I opened the package. First was vinegar as I’ve mentioned above. A lot of it. When I was pretty confident that there wasn’t anything fucking living on it anymore, it was time to control the odor. Sometimes it feels like vinegar is almost magical on what it can do for you–but as I’ve gone to damn near obnoxious lengths to explain, this isn’t magic. This is chemistry with a touch of whimsical fuckery. Vinegar did not neutralize the fact that this was The Bride Of Fucking Swamp Thing’s kimono. And you could smell her ass coming through half the house.

I have this terrible affliction where sometimes I’ll look at a thing and see how it works, and I’ll look at another thing that’s unrelated and go: I’m gonna fucking wing it. Yeaaah, I folded that kimono, put it in a cardboard box in the bottom of the refrigerator and put one of those baking soda odor things on top of it for a week. It no longer smells like mildew.

That method actually works really well without the refrigerator for mothball smell. I actually didn’t need the refrigerator to begin with, probably.

I got a strong mothball smell out once by buying silica gel packets in bulk–you know, these fuckers:

Pictured: Something clearly meant to be eaten.

And I stuffed neatly folded the kimono in a box and covered it with them. After a few days, the smell was gone. That doesn’t work all of the time for mothballs, though. Baking soda does the best.

Piss is hard. You have to make sure you’ve actually cleaned up whatever is causing that smell first; and it’s not always actually piss. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT put any enzyme cleaners on your silk or wool kimono. You will regret it very quickly. To remove urine or what you suspect could be urine–and yes this can be baby, you after a bender (no judgements here), a precious pet, or just a sus restoration–is good old fashioned soap. Refer to the gentle detergent method; but you can use actual dish soap for this. I used Dawn.

If it’s actually piss causing the smell, that’ll take care of it, too. If it’s clean and still smells like a run down urinal in the world’s saddest kimono carnival, refer back to the misting with vinegar paragraph.

Oh shit! Your kimono is literally covered in kinsai? Well you can’t really mist that with too much vinegar, because vinegar will play the part of solvent and it’s going to eat whatever was used to adhere that kinsai. So try this: Hang it up in the bathroom overnight, and blast it with a humidifier that’s got a cup (as in 1 cup) of distilled white vinegar in it. I’ve had good luck with that, and it did no damage.

So I hope that little winding adventure of odor control weirdness was helpful, if not just entertaining. Back to the kimono of the day, you’ll notice that I’ve slapped the “antique” label on it once again. I’m doing this even though I’m actually pretty sure that it’s properly Taisho. And whyyyyy would I be pretty sure without direct provenance? Well you see:

Pictured: Dat ass kamon

For anyone new, the size of kamon (family crests) started to get smaller and into what we see on contemporary pieces during the middle of the Taisho Era. The little applique I’m holding there is the size of a contemporary kamon, and as you can see, it cannot cover the kamon that was elegantly stitched into this kimono. This speaks to an older taste. But since that sweet, sweet Taisho label is actually quite sought after, and I’m real uppity about some random shit sometimes, I prefer to slap the “antique” label on it when I don’t have provenance to give me a date. Certainly pre-WWII with her awesome red lining.

She’s a delightful piece in muted green silk with rinzu (woven pattern) kiku, and a sweet dyed floral pattern that I sat here and tilted my head back and forth trying to decide if it was a peony or a rose. I’m actually going with a rose, because of the shape of the buds and the leaves, so that would be “bara.”

Join me next time when either I will have descended further into madness, or I will be back on my bullshit.

Pictured: LOL selfie


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