Bebe Taian: A Warning About Kinran

February 13, 2011

A Warning About Kinran

Kinran.

Literally, metal thread. Or rather, it's silk thread with gold or some other metal glued to it.

This is very important to know, especially when cleaning kimono... because these metal thread will deteriorate in bleach and water. A very small amount of bleach to a lot of water. It may also dissolve in just plain water.

I learned this today when cleaning a haneri that was sewn to my Taisho juban. The haneri was a stiff synthetic fabric with what looked* like synthetic kinran (the plastic-wrapped metallic thread used for embroidery). Yeah... five minutes into soaking and lightly agitating the haneri in a bowl of water and bleach, I noticed that the water looked really dirty. Of course it did, since the haneri was turning brown. I turned on the kitchen light. There was a bit of dirt in the water, but there was also... gold. Actual freaking gold. OMG.

The haneri still has its embroidery, since the silk did not dissolve, but the gold is mostly gone. It's still a pretty piece, even though I couldn't get half the stains out of the synthetic fabric. It did show me how to do some of the embroidery patterns that were used! If I get some plain silk haneri, I intend to import silk thread for kimono and make a few haneri for myself. I'll need to practice first, but I've done basic couching and a few different stitches before, so I don't think it'll be too* much of a challenge. I was thinking of restoring the haneri I wrecked, but considering that I can't get the stains out, and the roughness of the synthetic fabric, I think I'll make a reproduction at some point instead. It's still wearable. It's just not as shiny any longer.

So please, when you are thinking of washing something that is very old, remember that long ago, despite the introduction of synthetic fabrics, that real gold and metal was used on various items. Gold and metals that are held on with a thin application of easily-dissolved rice glue.

This has been your kimono-cleaning warning for the week.

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