Yagasuri Kimono Restoration: The Beginning and Cleaning

Project 12, part 1 – Hoisting Wet Kimono is My Hobby

The benefit of my new kimono hangar is easier photos of kimono. The downside is that when they’re hung up it’s like having a Japanese scarecrow in the house! 😀

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! I’m still chipping away at my Edo Coat Restoration and Victorian Undergarments projects, but I recently acquired this vintage beauty that was in need of a little love and wanted to share the restoration process!

The weird thing about kimono is that, in Japan, there’s not a lot of differentiation regarding what era they’re from by secondhand sellers. Typically, they’re either “antique” (which means pre-war), or “recycled,” which means post-war. Some sellers are kind enough to date things by era, but that’s typically about as much as you get. The good news is, there’s nothing more I love than a good rabbit-hole of research! Originally I thought this purple and cream kimono that I bought from Yahoo Japan Auctions was of a more recent “recycled” vintage – Showa, most likely, but I was thinking 1980s based on the overall excellent condition.

“Overall excellent.” We’ll get to the these little nagging details in a moment…

It’s wool, though, which is quite unusual for a kimono with this pattern (more on that shortly) – and, in fact, is the reason I bought it! Silk is amazing, but not in the rain, and the Pacific Northwest gets a lot of rain. 🙂 It’s also got more rounded rather than squared-off sleeves, which is usually a hint that a kimono is a bit older as well. When I started looking into the history of wool kimono, I found that they experienced a major boom in the 1960s. Then I hit the jackpot – an organization in the Netherlands called the Textile Research Centre! They have the holy Grail for textile research – garments with proven provenance of a known date. ❤ And when I dug through their collections, I found a kimono that could be the twin of mine save for the length (mine is about 9cm longer) and the pattern:

Source: TRC

Victory! Mine is likely from the same period – mid-1960s – which, as a bonus, makes it very well-suited indeed to featuring on this blog. 😀 The pattern on mine is yagasuri, or arrow-fletching pattern. (It’s called yabane when it’s only a few arrows, and yagasuri when it’s a full repeating pattern like mine.) It’s been around since the Heian Era, but became popular as wedding clothes for women in the Edo period as a good luck charm to ensure that the woman, like an arrow, wouldn’t return. (In other words, it was hoped that her marriage would be a happy one and she wouldn’t need to go back to live with her parents.) In the Meiji period it was popularized with hakama for school uniforms for girls, and is still often used for graduations and other similar celebrations.

I usually have pretty good luck when it comes to second-hand kimono, but unfortunately in this case there were some undisclosed stains in various locations ranging from prominent to “totally hide-able.”

This one, and the one above, are two of the worst.

I’m fairly certain, given the splash patterns, that they’re shoyu/soy sauce. The problem is…who knows how old they are? Maybe they got stained recently…maybe not. But the good news is, this kimono being wool means I can immerse it in water with no fear! Well. Maybe a little fear. 😀 I always work from least-invasive to most-, so I started by trying out the vinegar method for stain removal from Silk & Bones:

Pictured: the surprisingly elegant process of saturating stains with vinegar.

After soaking the stains with vinegar and then washing the kimono, I had removed the “vintage” smell, but not the stains. I’m guessing vinegar works better on silk than wool? But I’m still glad I did this first, as it’s a good disinfectant and helped with the scent as well! Next up was another new product for me, Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover.

Not, in fact, recommended by my grandmother, but by one of the lolitas on Discord.

I had to wear gloves for this one, as it was labeled as a potential irritant, and I have pretty sensitive skin. No sense risking it! I tested it on an inside seam to ensure it didn’t affect the dye first, then saturated all the stains. Then…back in the tub for another full wash. I have to admit, I was getting pretty tired of hoisting a sopping wet kimono haha, especially because the water was cold! The stain had lightened up some though, so I decided to do one more round (except I only treated the two front stains, and didn’t wash the whole kimono afterward.)


It’s a LOT lighter! The stains on the body of the kimono (there were I few I didn’t photograph), and the one on the lower lapel are totally “good enough.” They’re light enough that with the busy pattern they won’t be visible unless someone is much too close for comfort. 😀 The one remaining on the upper lapel is much improved, but is still too apparent to be acceptable though. So join me next time on Mukashi no Sewing and find out what I’ve got in store for Plan B! 😀 ❤

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