26 October 2015

A Strategy for Moths

Well aren't moths a pain - you hardly ever see the little devils, just the holes they leave behind. So if you are a woolly person what do you do?

I've heard and read a lot about how to tackle moths, so I thought I'd try to bring it all together in one place and finish up with a simple strategy for moth management.

moth hole in aran hand knit jumper

multiple holes in aged jumper

Lavender bags and Cedar balls

These are often recommended as moth cure alls and equally often derided as ineffective by those whose wool has been bitten. Both lavender and cedar give off aromas which add a lovely fragrance to clothing whilst confusing clothes moths' sense of smell - the idea is to give the moths the message 'no wool here'. However, if the moths do find the wool/cashmere/alpaca despite the aromatic disguise, they will still eat it.

Pheromone traps

These are a fairly new idea and they work by attracting the male moths. There are two ideas at work here - one is that if you hang up these little traps and start to see moths stuck to them (as I said at the beginning - you hardly ever see the actual munchers), then you know what the scale of the problem is. Secondly if you attract away all the male moths, then breeding is interrupted and this should reduce the problem in future years, by reducing the number of eggs being laid. The Victoria and Albert museum use these - so there must be some benefit


A lot of people swear by this (me included), while some still say it doesn't work. Freezing kills the active moths and larvae, but it doesn't kill the eggs, so if there are a lot of eggs then it won't make a noticeable difference. However if you understand a little more about this, then you can still make it work for you.

Freezing the eggs and then warming them up mimics the real world winter followed by spring i.e. you are encouraging the eggs to hatch and produce larvae - which are easily killed by freezing. This means that if you freeze your wool for 48 hours to kill any living larvae/moths, then warm it up for a few days to allow any eggs to hatch, then re-freeze for another 48 hours, you should have killed any hatchlings too.

The Strategy

I would recommend all three of the above strategies.

Have plenty of lavender and cedar balls - try like mad to confuse moths and deter them from finding your stash - and anyway it makes things smell nice (also it is better to store woolly things clean, as animal smells attract the little blighters). In your wardrobe it wouldn't be daft to use individual zip lock bags for special woollies - it will keep moths out, and if they're already in there stop them spreading - also quite handy for popping into the freezer.

Keep pheromone traps to monitor whether a problem is developing, and then double freeze when you find problems.

More about Moths

Tineola bisselliella is the common clothes moth - but it eats a wide variety of things (more on Wikipedia).

It's a rather drab silvery/grey coloured skinny looking moth, they are the easiest part of the life cycle to find because they flutter about occasionally - although they're usually crawling around where you'd prefer they weren't - in your woolly things laying eggs.

The problem is actually with the larval 'wool eating machines' which can be very hard to spot, because they disguise themselves by using the material around them to wrap themselves up in. If you find a lump the size of a grain of rice in your clothes/wool, it's probably a larva which has wrapped itself up in the material, and is busily devouring your precious article within this bubble of wool. You can squish it if you find one, but freezing will kill any that are still tiny or you haven't seen.

The other part of the life cycle which can also be hard to find is the eggs - these look like little grains of sand, and can sometimes be found around the edges of a hole - if you find them then get rid of them, otherwise revert to the freeze, warm, and refreeze strategy above.

What about the holes?

So now you've got a prevention/management strategy what do you do with the things that already have holes in them? How about taking a leaf from Tom of Holland's work and repair to enhance - I recently went on one of his workshops at the Warner Textile Archive in Braintree - I learned two methods of darning and am looking forward to being able to add a decorative darning photo here one day soon

14 October 2015


Last week I went to the Knitting & Stitching Show at Ally Pally - I haven't been for about 5 years, and hadn't intended to put myself in the way of temptation this year. Then I agreed to a request for people to cover the stand for the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers which came up - followed with a 'by the way can you demonstrate?' Well I always demonstrate spinning when on a guild event, so I said yes, of course - then received an email showing me where 'the stage' was ....... oh that kind of demo! When I arrived I found that actually 'the stage' was a desk in front of a handful of benches, so it wasn't really very scary.

I wanted to talk about the possibility of spinning if you own no tools - so started with hand twining, and moved on to how to create a drop spindle from things you might find around the house - making my point with a banana, a knitting needle and a rubber band - it worked enough (just) - I've spun on a better banana, and actually an apple or a potato generally work better - but it got a laugh, and hopefully made people aware of just how low tech spinning can be.

I was surprised that I enjoyed the show so much - I'd forgotten how inspiring it is - I loved the Sophie Digard exhibition & was completely in awe of the amount of work that goes into her pieces and the wonderful use of colour - so much better seen in the real world, than in photos on-line - where it's hard to appreciate the amount of detail in each piece.

I heard that someone was spinning exciting, sparkly yarn from wonderful batts in the main hall and wandered over to see her and her lovely sparkly fibre at Spin City - we had a lovely informative chat which finished 'oh you're the lady with the banana!' which amused me no end. Then yesterday a knit friend on Facebook posted a link to a blog saying 'have you seen this?' - and there I was on 'The Twisted Yarn' - with my banana. So there you go - never underestimate the power of a banana.

I realised that not having been to the show for a while, I appreciated it much more - it seemed fresh and exciting again. It was lovely to focus on the exhibitions and the people - lots of chat - exhausting but fun.

21 August 2011

I feel that this is a little self indulgent - but I had a lot of fun putting it together and you might like to see - the very first picture is Poppy at 7 weeks - the day we brought her home (looking so sad to be wrenched from Mum) and all the others are our pups.

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19 August 2011

Puppies 2 & 3 and The Knitted Maze

Here are the missing two puppies from the previous batch of photo.s Numbers two and three - two is the little girl with such a sweet personality and three is the most Chihuahua like one - also very sweet - rather quiet and cuddly.

Am off to Saffron Walden later to help with the knitted maze project - below is my contribution.

14 August 2011

Spinning in the Museum Gardens (and puppy update)

We were very lucky yesterday - we had lovely weather for spinning and it's a lovely setting. A lot of people don't realise that Harlow museum has beautiful walled gardens - there's a knot garden with lavender, large lawns and paved areas with seating (where we gather to spin) and some lovely planting. I found a couple of dye plants which we may be able to use for our dyeing in October - Solidago (golden rod) and Tansy

The museum is very interesting in itself - with the Roman history of Harlow, bits on the Anglo-Saxons and a room full of exhibits for each decade of the 1900s - you will see stuff your grandma was using! The old bicycles are worth a look too.

There were only a handful of us yesterday but it was still a nice meet - we had a few newbies which was really nice and I continued to spin the yarn I started last weekend at the Sammy Rally - a blend of pink silk (from the travelling tea box) and Samoyed fur from last year's Sammy rally.

My In-laws visited the pups yesterday - they were all very good (the pups that is).

Here are number one, four and five looking much more grown up now.

22 July 2011

My Canine Family

This is dad 'Dylan' - an exceedingly fluffy Chihuahua - taken the day Poppy came home - a handsome little chap - laid back and very cuddly.

This is mum 'Poppy' - wire coated Jack Russell with really cool tufty bits IMHO - looking a little forlorn whilst the babes are suckling fiercely out of shot!

Number four cuddling up to mum between feeds

Number two - we call her 'the little girl' (people seem to think calling her number two is somehow wrong)!- she's the weeist baby - but has metaphorical balls - definitely a strong mind of her own.

This week all their eyes have opened and they're just starting to try and stand (more fun to come when they're totally mobile) - I think at least some of them can hear now - they're ears have certainly flopped forward and become more fluffy.

I've been trying to coax them to lap - with mixed success - Number three is keenest - one, four and five have had a little bit of a go - but the little girl is adamant that this is not for her (yet).

5 July 2011

We have puppies - 5 of them - 4 male, 1 female. Born last night.

Poppy had a bit of an ordeal with number 1, who took 3 hours to arrive, but then two to five arrived within the next 3 hours. She's proving to be an excellent mum - but is now pretty much exhausted - as are we!

These are the first four - safely ensconced in a heated box while number five makes his entrance!