Decadently Woven Black Silk Adorned With Gilded Cranes In Flight Over Treasure Ships.
In three days, I will have had this kimono for an entire year. And as a delightful songwriter once crooned, when it comes to this piece, the waiting was the hardest part. Nevermind that I had to sit here and scream at what I was pretty sure was red permanent marker on random parts of it, including some of the goddamn embroidery–because my life is nothing if it isn’t a roller coaster of masochism for the delight of many. Okay that was dramatic, but mother of fucking god did the bullshit cocktail I had to use to remove it smell like burning hair and sadness. It starred in its own tutorial here. I hate it. It’s not easy, it’s not safe, and you will be smelling that death potion for days.
But let it be fucking known, that I removed red permanent marker from white silk embroidery that is over one hundred-goddamn-years old without it getting rekt, and I’m going to be riding that high forever.
The other challenge this piece presented me was that the lining was just, in highly technical terms, entirely fucked. So I had to replace it. And that’s where that waiting game came in, because finding a bolt of uncut fabric that was long enough to accommodate this beast without having to steal some organs to pay for it was something of a challenge. Look, I’m sneaky and resourceful, but the neighbor kids only have so many kidneys.
Eventually–I think it was in September, actually–I found a roll of silk from (supposedly) the 1950’s that fit the bill. Is it period correct? Fuck no. But is it the kind of heavily woven, decadent for the sake of decadent silk that this piece deserves? Yes.
And then came the moment of truth. It was time to remove the old lining and replace it with the new. But something happened to me that typically does not. I hesitated.
Wait, what? Hesitate? Me? My last words on this earth will be “stand back and watch a pro,” I’m sure of it. I jam stains in my mouth. And if we need to be particularly relevant, I’ve replaced whole-ass linings before. This is not my first rodeo. (Now I have a mental image of trying to ride a kimono like it’s a bull, and that is just all kinds of chaos. And if I have to deal with that mental image, so do you.)
There is something about the softness and sweetness of antique kimono linings that becomes difficult to describe until you’ve had the opportunity to snuggle with one yourself. So when the time came, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take her out. These two have been together for no less than a hundred goddamn years, and I just don’t feel like separating them today.
So fuck the police, I installed the new lining on top of the old one. It is now double lined. And let me tell you, that was so much harder than just replacing it. But I’m not sorry.
And without further delay, here are the money shots. The before/afters you’re all here for.
If I hadn’t done that on a fucky wrist, then it would have only taken me a few days. But yikes did that take awhile. I didn’t cheat, either. Check out this sweet, sweet, collar and sleeve:
The bottom of the lining, where that thiccccc (yes it needs that many c’s) ass train is had issues with major staining and shattering, so of course that was the biggest reason I needed to replace the lining. Compare the goodness:
And of course the staining:
There is, if you look closely, a warm hue left behind by the reductive bleaching process. I wasn’t going to go insane trying to get rid of it because I will never ever compromise the integrity of a piece chasing perfect. And if I wanted to go any further than that, I would have had to get aggressive enough to start leaning towards things that can be destructive. Nah. It’s fine.
Also a thing I had to do was take care of a bunch of the cotton batting layer that had started coming up and through the shell. That’s something that’s hard to explain, but many Meiji Era kimono, and especially uchikake (outer wedding kimono) have a layer of cotton fluff going all the way down to the hem, and even at the openings of the sleeves. For several reasons, over time this cotton can start creeping through the silk. And when it does that, it can snag and pill on all kinds of shit, and then it becomes a massive pain in the ass to get rid of. I had to deal with that on this Meiji Era furisode before. I dealt with it by using a straight razor. I handled this one the same way, but it presented me a unique challenge, WHICH BRINGS ME TO A SPECIAL UPDATE:
Welcome to the Becky Was Fucking Wrong About Some Shit corner. Today, we’re covering how I have been using the word “rinzu.” Now in case anyone hasn’t noticed yet, I am fluent in Japanese in the same way that if a cow is born in a tree, it’s a bird. I’ve had a lot of terms explained to me, but unless someone is willing to get really specific, sometimes the best I’ve got is whatever general thing someone gave me at the time or whatever exists in English print about it.
I’ve been telling you that “rinzu” refers to a pattern woven into the silk. I’m fucking wrong. “Rinzu” refers to how silk is woven to make it shiny. Now, patterns woven in silk can be rinzu, but that alone does not make them rinzu. The word I really want when I am talking about patterns and images woven into the silk is “jimon,” which literally means “base pattern.”
When I originally learned the word “rinzu,” I learned it from an Issei (first generation Japanese immigrant) lady who was a seamstress by trade, so I just never thought to question or fact check her. But I can actually see why specifics like this might get lost in translation–because she was not a kimono seamstress. From now on, I will be using the correct term. Thank you all for learning with me.
Anyway, here’s why I said this. I used a straight razor to remove the pills. I had to do it over jimon. It took literally a month to do that. Fucking shoot me.
The sound of the shotgun chk-chking means that it’s time for me to end this entry, and to describe this piece properly as we close this restoration. She is a magnificent Meiji Era (October 23, 1868 to July 30, 1912) uchikake, with an all over jimon (woven pattern) of sho-chiku-bai (plum, bambo, and pine) on deep, warm black silk. On the skirt is a yuzen (resist dye technique) of wild nami (waves) with the takarabune (Treasure Ships of the Seven Lucky Gods), carrying the takaramono (treasures). The treasures include the kozuchi (lucky mallet), kakuremino (lucky raincoat), kagi (keys to the gods treasures), kakuregasa (a hat or umbrella depending on who you ask that makes you invisible), the makimono (scrolls of life and wisdom), the hagoromo (robe of feathers that lets you fly), orimono (brocade rolls), kanebukuro (a purse that always has money), and nunubukuro (bag of fortune). You can also see a few Hojyu, which depending on who you ask are flaming pearls or just balls of energy that bring gold and silver.
There are tsuru (cranes) in flight above the ships and big, poufy matsu (pine) embellished with gold and urushi (lacquer) threads. She bears five kiri (paulownia) kamon (family crests).
I am now so exhausted that I’m seeing double, and I think I’ve done my final victory lap for now. I’m going to bed.