Saturday, April 09, 2011


Yesterday, two of my close friends and I got together for lunch and talked about how our lives are changing. Children grow up, husbands change jobs, parents move into convalescent homes. We first became friends when we were wandering around with big bellies and thumb sucking toddlers and now we're talking about retirement and the change of life!

Mrs. Kaneko mentioned in passing that her mother-in-law has started life in a convalescent home and it falls to her the job of cleaning out the mother-in-law's home. What a job! Eventually the house will be torn down so EVERYTHING has to go!

"Are either of you interested in some old kimonos? Tanya, you could cut them up for patchwork..."

Some people make gorgeous patchwork pieces of artwork with old kimonos. But most kimonos are silk so it is hard to use them with cottons. And kimonos have a strikingly oriental feel to them (duh!) and they don't really blend in with calicoes and homespun nor even batiks. People have given me kimonos but I never really know what to do with them. Tetsu's mother's kimonos I've turned into a couple blouses and shirts but people, while admiring them, are often horrified that I actually cut up a valuable kimono and sewed it into a vest to wear with my jeans. ARE YOU CRAZY?! Well, better than sitting in a box for decades.

So the question of whether I was interested or not is difficult to answer... but yes, let's go look at the mother-in-law's kimonos.

Mrs. Kaneko is at her wit's end just thinking about the horrendous job of gutting a two story home that the mother-in-law has lived in for 40 some years. The bedroom was lined with the old style Japanese wardrobes made just for holding kimonos. The shallow trays in the upper part are the exact size of a kimono that has been folded properly and wrapped in special kimono paper.

Mrs. Kaneko may have been overwhelmed, but Mrs. Kamiyama and I had a great time. We pulled kimono after kimono out of the drawers and laid them all on the floor and then spent quite awhile deciding what could be thrown out and what could be used.

Used? No one is going to use these kimonos. They are of the old style... nowadays the young girls, if they wear kimono at all, (to go to a wedding or a party or something), go for the flashy, cute types of kimono. And people my age hardly ever wear kimono at all. So the three of us looked sadly at the unusable kimonos and reluctantly started stuffing the ones that were stained or impractical (the pure black ones) into garbage bags.

But there were so many beauties, so many that I know were worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars! To just be tossing them out? No matter how unusable they are? I started collecting a pile of particularly pretty ones, or ones that might be resewn into something someday.

Next we got to the obi drawers. Obis are the heavy, often brocaded wide belt worn with a kimono. They do not go well in patchwork because they are so stiff and heavy (and often use metallic threads). These are in a whole class by themselves in terms of monetary worth and Mrs. Kaneko's mother had such a gorgeous collection. At one time she must have been a very fashion conscious, fairly wealthy woman to have had all these beautiful things, some of them completely untouched and still in their wrappers. And here her daughter-in-law's friends are just tossing them! Treasures are treasures to the person who values them, but to others they turn out to be excess baggage.

In the end I couldn't bear to throw away the obis. I brought them home with me!

Okay... Anyway, Mrs. Kaneko and Mrs. Kamiyama and I spent about 4 hours going through drawers and closets and cupboards tossing things right and left. All western clothes, unless they still had tags on them got tossed. (The ones with tags will go to the church.) Towels still in boxes, handkerchiefs, father-in-law's old suits (he's been gone for 18 years). Sheets, soap, costume jewelry, hand made sweaters (the mother-in-law's hobby was knitting.) So many things, and so many put away for someday use never to be released from their boxes but still stained from age. Some things there were just too many.

"How many hand towels shall we save?"

"Well since we can choose from at least 60 here I guess I'll take home these three... Take the rest to church?" (Remember we have small churches. The church may have problems figuring out what to do with them too!)

Mrs. Kaneko kept apologizing for dragging us into her cleaning job but Mrs. Kamiyama and I had a great time!

"Why is it that it is so much fun to clean someone else's house but such a drag to clean your own?"

And at the end of 4 hours, this is what our closet and drawers garbage looked like.

And this is the mountain of boxes from the extra towels and suits and handkerchiefs.

"I don't suppose you'd like to come back again and help me with the upstairs next?"

"Count us in!"

Mrs. Kamiyama is good at this. She can ruthlessly throw things away and she brought home very little.

I... on the other hand... felt I had to rescue things.... I brought home two huge bags of kimono and obi. With no plans for using them... How I wish I could find someone who would love them or at least have a way to use them... Mrs. Kaneko suggested I hide the bags from Tetsu... He would NOT be pleased that I was bringing junk home. But actually he thought it good of me to realize their beauty and want to use them. And they really are worth a fortune...

So here is the contents of the obi bag. I'm not even going to try to show all the kimonos I brought home.

Aren't some of these gorgeous? Now what should I do with them?

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