A blog for the Mt Lawley Stitch'n'Bitchers. If you're in Perth, WA, and you like to knit, crochet or just gossip— or if you want to learn how— come down to Exomod in Mt Lawley every Monday from 7.30pm and catch some crafty action! Email Clementine for more info: indienial (at) gmail (dot) com

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Woolly Apocalypse

Having just moved house, to a place with a whole room I can dedicate to yarn-y pursuits, I decided to hold a yarn warming party this weekend. Unfortunately, it was not to be: I still have a living room full of books and CDs, and also, my stash is in the freezer. That’s right... The unthinkable has happened. Those butterflies of nervous excitement I felt at uncovering my stash turned out to be a fluttering of an entirely different kind:


I realised this last week when I blithely cast on for Ysolda’s Matilda Jane cardigan, and half way through a row, my yarn came to an abrupt end. “That’s odd,” I thought. “Maybe I was knitting with the cast-on tail?”... Alas, it was much worse that that. I picked up the ball of wool and unwound it a bit further, intending to cast on again, and the yarn snapped off in my hand. On closer inspection, I saw that the entire skein was riddled with gnawed ends and frayed bits of fluff.
Ever one to clutch at straws, I prayed in vain that perhaps Igor had eaten this particular yarn, in his crazy feline midnight stealth attacks. But a closer inspection of the bag of yarn proved that it was a woolly apocalypse.

I haven’t had the heart to examine all my stash, but I’m hoping that batch was the worst affected. All of my bags and boxes had moth balls in them, and most of my yarn was in plastic bags, but by no means all of it. I am going out tonight to buy a whole bunch of plastic zip loc bags, and I’d suggest you do the same. While prevention may be better than cure, if you DO get a moth infestation, it’s apparently not the end of the world (I keep telling myself this).

The first step is to examine your stash in daylight. While you can salvage some “nibbled” yarn, throw out any balls which have been chewed to pieces— if there are any apparently “untouched” yarns in the same contained as the moth-eaten ones, I’d recommend treating them just in case. Hell, just treat your whole stash. Better safe than sorry.

A badly infested skein may look fine, but will fall into bits when you try to knit with it, as happened with my stash. If you’re checking finished garments for moths, make sure you’re using bright light because the damage will not be immediately obvious, and can look like irregular tension or snagged sections. In woven or felted fabrics, larva will often chew away the fuzzy top surface fluff of the fabric, making it look shiny rather than fuzzy. I’m dreading going through the roving stash for moths because I’m not really sure how you’d tell anyway! I guess I will have to rely on poop to be the tip-off there.

Wool moth larvae poop is also known as frass, which is another clue you should be on the look-out for. I haven’t seen any in my stash yet, but apparently it looks like finely ground coffee. It will usually be a slightly darker colour than whatever yarn the larva was eating, which must be confusing if the larva is eating your lovely rainbow hand dyed alpaca. Check for frass by shaking whatever container your yarn is in, and then examining the bottom of the container. If there's larva poop, examine your yarn for nibbly ends or sections of yarn where one ply is missing or thinner.

The easiest and most effective way to kill the moths and their larvae is to put your stash in the freezer— according to the pest management guidelines provided by the University of California, infested yarns (or completed garments, for that matter) can be frozen at temperatures under –8 degrees Celsius to kill the pests. Leave them in there for at least a couple of days to make sure. 48 hours in the freezer, then 24 hours out, and 72 hours freezing again will kill all the moths regardless of life cycle. Alternatively, if you’re braver than me, you could heat your yarn to a temperature above 60 degrees Celsius for at least 30 minutes.

I’d suggest looking through your entire stash at least once every six months and making sure no little critters have gotten into it... And I’m sure you’ll find yarns you’d forgotten you’d ever bought, as I did.

Onwards and upwards, after this terrible tragedy, I am going to try and think positive. At least I will have room for new yarns!

This is a Public Service Announcement, ripped off my Stitch'n'Bitch Reminder!


Blogger knitconvict said...

I think I had nightmares about this last night. Lavendar and cloves are apparently good moth deterrents as well.

11:21 am  

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