Antique doll kimono – My New Year Challenge – part 1

ningyo_newyearkimono1You may remember the antique doll I found in a consignment shop a few years back — links at the bottom of this post if you’d like to see the story — and how his restoration went. The very talented Anne Weaver did an excellent job repairing the doll, but the person who worked on cleaning and repairing his kimono was only able to stabilize some of the damage to his formal outer kimono; the hand painted 150-year-old silk had degraded and was too fragile to repair adequately.

For the past five years the doll has been wearing only his underthings and waiting for a new kimono. Last night inspiration struck and I started working on it. I logged 3.5 hours of note-taking, deconstructing the old kimono (gently, very gently), and tailoring a new kimono from vintage 20th century tsumugi kimono silk.

ningyo_newyearkimono2I’ve made a few small discoveries, such as raw silk batting inside the lining, and an assortment of stitches in different types of thread. Silk changes as it ages, just like any natural fiber, but as it is protein-based it changes in different ways than plant-based fibers such as cotton and hemp. I’m finding areas where the fabric has stretched and warped a bit and I believe many of the odd thread nips and tucks holding things together were done as part of the 2010 restoration to stabilize the kimono as much as possible.

From Conservation Concerns: A Guide for Collectors and Curators (1992), p. 89:

Signs of Damage

  • Overall fragmentation or sharp diagonal cracks and tears in silk textiles are often the result of weighting that was added to the silk. Additives such as metallic salts were commonly used in the nineteenth century to increase the weight of silks, particularly for garments. The weighting materials have greatly accelerated the deterioration of the silks.
  • Increased fiber deterioration can result from the use of certain dyes and mordants. In particular, an iron mordant will rapidly destroy the fibers to which is has been applied. This is noticeable in textiles where dark brown or black dyes have been used, either in printing, embroidery, or overall dyeing. In extreme cases, elements of a design may be completely voided due to oxidation from iron mordants.

[Emphasis mine. Also, here’s a link to a post I wrote on weighted silks in 2008]

There was significant damage (let’s be honest, total degradation) to the black lapel of his hanjuban, and the silk was successfully replaced (see Meiji Ningyo Restoration part V).

I’ll be working on the new kimono and investigating the old one with the intention of completing the new kimono by the end of this month, in time to celebrate New Year 2016. Follow along as I post photos of the work, notes on what I find, and reference material I’m using, including books from Japan and textile conservation texts in English.

Meiji doll restoration part 1

Meiji doll restoration part 2

Meiji doll restoration part 3

Meiji doll restoration part 4

Meiji doll restoration part 5

Meiji doll restoration part 6 – one photo is missing, I’m working on replacing the file

Meiji doll restoration part 7

Meiji doll restoration part 8

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