Wayback Machine Archive Copy: John Marshall Conversation About Arai Hari Kimono Cleaning

Retrieved from Archive Page on Wayback Machine April 2, 2021, John Marshall Copyright 2006:

Conversations with John Marshall

Welcome new friends and old! I've often been asked to write about a variety of Japanese textile and culture related subjects. This page allows me the opportunity to address your requests and to ramble off on side subjects wherever my whim and imagination lead.

Caring fro Kimono Part One: Johnmarshall.to as source

Cleaning and Caring for Your Japanese Textiles

I've received many inquiries regarding how one goes about taking care of kimono and other Japanese garments. I will approach this in two segments. This first section will deal with cleaning, and the next installment will treat general care and storage.

In Japan, traditional garments were disassembled to launder.

 Poor Clare.jpg  johnmarshall.to 2021 source

At first glance, this may seem like a very peculiar practice, however, let's look at it in its historical context: The school I attended as a child was attached to a convent, and as it happened, in first grade I sat next to a glass door that lead to a sunny courtyard. One day I noticed an elderly nun sitting in the sun with her sewing. She was taking apart a huge black habit - it seemed to be a mountain of midnight yardage. I wandered out and sat next to her watching for quite some time before asking her why she would take apart her clothing. She explained that her style of dress dated back to Medieval Times. In those days all the women dressed just as she does today. They didn't have sewing machines, and once or twice a year had to carry all their laundry down to the river to wash. A wet “dress” would be far too heavy for any of them handle, and so they had to take everything apart, wash it, lay it out on the grass to dry, and then sew it all back together again by hand. Sometimes, if a part became worn, they would need to re-arrange some of the pieces, and in this way they would be delighted with a “brand-new” garment as a reward for their efforts.

wayback archive source of johnmarshall.to April 2, 2021
Fabrics staked in center of river.
Kimono have a similar history. Once disassembled, the parts were put back together, much like a jigsaw puzzle, into the original bolt form. Did you happen to see Memoirs of a Geisha? If so, you'll remember the segment, just after the war ended, in which people were working along the river. They were washing kimono fabric. By clamping one end of the bolt with harite,  secured with a stake in the center of the river, the fabric was allowed to float in the water, with the gently agitation of the shallow flow loosening accumulated soil and dust.  
wayback machine johnmarshall.to source image arai hari2
During the laundering process, the fabric is inspected, spots removed, holes repaired, and perhaps the entire bolt over-dyed. Everyday items, such as nemaki (sleep kimono) and juban (underclothing) would be washed at home and dried by straightening the weave on boards placed in the sun.

When it came time to re-assemble the garment, a worn cuff would be turned to the inside shoulder seam, the body itself could be cut at the waist and the ragged hem flipped up (this sewing line would later be concealed by the obi), and the stained kake-eri (false collar) replaced if necessary.
Today there are still a few specialists to whom you may take precious garments. A quick Google search brought up the following web site for an establishment in Kansai, which lists the cleaning fee for a tomesode at around $150 and a furisode at $120; kimono with linings $100, and those without linings $80.

What happens to all the threads that have been removed over time from all the kimono that have been taken apart?

Actually, something quite beautiful is made--
 wayback machine source johnmarshall.to image temari jpg
Picture a rural farm setting, long, long ago. A baby girl is born to a young mother and cherished as the thing most precious to her heart. As the baby is nurtured from infancy to adolescence, her mother will worry over her future lot in life.
As the child blossoms, her mother will save each of those threads pulled from the kimono that have graced and protected her. With a small treasured stone, shell, bead, or written prayer as the core, the mother will start to wind the threads, creating lively, colorful patterns as she works her magic. With each wrap of the fiber, with each change in the pattern, she will pray for her treasure-child's health and happiness.
Until one day a stranger comes to take her away as a bride, perhaps never to be seen again. How can a mother bear such a burden? How can she possibly communicate all that she, with her entire being, wishes for her dear daughter?

This humble ball of thread expresses it all. Perhaps this is all the bride-to-be has to take as her keep-sake of home.

 In the loneliness of a foreign household, in the arms of a stranger, under the watch of a demanding mother-in-law, in the pain of child-birth, she will have her nurture-infused temari to keep the memories of her sun filled childhood, sheltered in the arms of her loving mother, alive in her heart.
Until, one day, with a smiling miracle at her breast, she takes up thread and begins to wind.
 wayback machine copy johnmarshall.to  girls kimono with temari theme
Girl’s kimono with a temari motif

wayback machine johnmarshall.to source image closeup temari design

Copyright John Marshall 2006
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