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.