Antique Kimono–Juicy Berries

Bright Berries And Peonies In Bloom On Decadent Textured Silk.

It’s now the new year. I’ve been running this delicious shitshow for a whole year, and so far there are no bodies to hide and I haven’t lit anything on fire lately. Don’t give me that look, you have to do the burn test sometimes to confirm materials. Just because it’s also fun as shit doesn’t mean I’m not being productive. Speaking of not being productive, my flesh prison continues to mock me wrist is still fucky, so we’re showcasing again! I’ve got just enough wrist movement to do some sewing, but it’s really slow going and honestly it’s probably better not to dick around with it. Look at my privileged ass sit here and whine about how bored I am.

So it’s another showcase! Suffice to say, I have a lot of kimono, and I have a lot of space for kimono, and I have plenty of shit to wrestle out of drawers or things coming in that only need gentle touchup cleaning (read: I soak a stain with vinegar then fuck off for a few hours) to show and talk about. It gives me an opportunity to talk about challenges that each kind of kimono might come with. This one came with water spots, and I didn’t get great pictures of them because of how I was able to treat them.

Water spots are a colossal pain in the ass, and they’re also a huge reason that people tend to be overly cautious about cleaning their own kimono. It also really feels like some kimono water spot if you look at them wrong, and then some can take a dip in mineral water and nothing happens, doesn’t it? So let’s talk about water spots, what causes them, and what to do about them.

Water spotting, in my experience, is something of a catch-all term that refers to a stain left behind when fabric gets wet with just water. But the reason for the stain actually tends to be different depending on the source of the water, and the fabric itself. In some cases, water spotting happens because the dyes were not as colorfast as they seemed–meaning they were mobilized by the introduction of water. This is actually something I don’t encounter that often. If dye is going to run, it’s usually pretty obvious about it.

Most of the time when I encounter a water spot it exists for one reason: fucking dirt, basically. You’re not seeing the result of water, you’re seeing the result of impurities in the water or on the kimono interacting with the water, and they basically make fucking mud for a second, and then they dry and you get your shitty water spot.

If you’re just dealing with hard water, there’s a few ways to deal with it. Hard water, for those of us who fucking hated chemistry class but absolutely love fucking around anyway, is water that is high in things like calcium, salts, lime…you know. That crap that builds up on your faucets, on your shower head, in your dishwasher. If you have that, you have hard water. If you, say, pour that water into your garment steamer and go at a kimono with it, you might create water spots because of it.

This is why I always list distilled or purified water as what to use in my cleaning mixtures. If you spill a bit of distilled water on a kimono, provided that spot wasn’t already dirty, it probably won’t do anything. Just blot it up.

So you’ve got a water spot. What do you do? Well, you’ve got options, and only a few of them are violence. One weird but tried and true method is just to use distilled water in a steamer to get the area moist again. I’ve also had good luck with using the vinegar method–if hard water was the culprit, then this is especially effective. Vinegar will clean up that crap on your sink, too, so it makes perfect sense.

Here’s a fun thing that you can do, if it’s just a hard water problem and nothing else: fuck off for a bit while it dries, and then literally scrape it off with your fingernail. Now that doesn’t work for every water spot of this nature, but it works shockingly frequently. Just be gentle, and don’t claw the living shit out of your silk. You’re not trying to match the lucky numbers, and you’re not trying to establish dominance over the stain. Just a little scritch-scritch to kick up the dusty mess that is dried calcium. The fingernail method is actually what was used on this kimono. It had a few water spots on it, and I just scraped them off.

Now if you have a water spotting problem because your silk is dirty, you will need to introduce a solvent or a detergent of some kind. And lemme tell you, sometimes this gets infuriatingly complicated, because what you end up having a is a weird yellowed-browned bullshit blob hanging out beneath a blotchy patch. As it turns out, most kinds of soiling can be treated as pigments. Sometimes my best bet is to get in there and fucking bleach it out and just replace the pigment over it. Note that in this context, I’m not talking about fucking Clorox or some shit–bleaching here means the process of removing color, and there are reductive bleaching methods that do not utilize chlorine, and therefore are not harmful to silk.

That’s about all I have to say about water spotting right now, I think. It’s hard to be super specific without examples at the ready, and I don’t like to wall-O-text at people without examples.

As for this kimono, she’s a fucking delight, yeah? I had a hard time nailing down the color for this one, because every selection seems wrong. In person, she’s a warm pinky-taupe. It was the berries that got me, honestly. They look fucking delicious, and you all know that I am not even slightly above sticking this silky bitch in my mouth. These berries are called “nandina.” It’s actually one of my favorite plants.

Pictured: Oh god yes.

I’m classifying this as an antique, for my usual reasons. Blah blah no provenance, blah blah red lining in the sleeves. Behold.

Pictured: Hey baby are you a beaver because dam.

Presence of a red lining very strongly suggests that the kimono was made before WWII. Also, I didn’t get a good shot of it because I suck, and I’ve already folded it up and put it away so I won’t try again because I’m fucking lazy, but down where the inside lining meets the hakakke (lower skirt lining) there is a scrap of red lining fabric that is reinforcing a seam. It’s not like they just torched kimono that had red linings after they fell out of fashion, many of them just had their linings either partially or fully replaced. That’s what I believe happened here.

It also has shitsuke ito, or those white basting stitches on the armpit holes there. Those are meant to be removed, and they do not provide any real structural purpose. They are to help this kimono keep its shape while it’s being stored. Since it was being folded up and put away pretty much immediately, I left them be.

The silk has a deep texture that reminds me of sandstone, and it’s also decorated with botan (peony) that is embellished with gold couching threads, gosho guruma (royal cart), and candy sweet ume (plum blossoms), and kiku (chrysanthemums). It has a single embroidered kamon (family crest) on the back of tsuta (ivy). In terms of what this kimono is, it’s old enough not to give two fucks about contemporary labeling, but I’d call it a houmongi pretty confidently. That’s a semi-formal women’s kimono with a continuous pattern across the skirt and the sleeves.

There really isn’t any special story behind this one. I bought it because it’s colorful and I like it, and the only problem it seemed to present with was a stain on the lining as such:

Pictured: This motherfucker.

So. This is on the crotch, basically. And it was handled with vinegar soak, which tells me it was probably a sweat stain and not period blood or shit stain. It could potentially have been…ooooother fluids. This is the one stain area I will not taste test. This. Is not. Shoyu.

Join me next time when I wriggle impotently with this gimp-ass wrist at other things! Happy New Year, nerds!

Pictured: Rawr


3 thoughts on “Antique Kimono–Juicy Berries

  1. Hi! I’m new here. I’m enjoying reading your blogs; they’re funny and informative. One question that I haven’t been able to find the answer for is why they stopped with red linings after the war? Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have heard a number of reasons, and I think they’re all probably partially true. The big ones are the matter of being seen as “decadent” towards the end of the war when things were going very poorly and there were material shortages was frowned upon. This same material shortage, caused by several kimono making facilities simply having been shut down, made getting fabric for such a lining next to impossible. And so the red lining died.


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