Do you ever wonder what lurks in the nightmares of a knitwear designer? The villain that haunts my dreams isn't a vampire or werewolf. No, this is a different kind of monster—silent, almost invisible, and completely harmless. It's the common clothes moth. I've battled this tiny but formidable foe, at times felt powerless, but eventually took my place atop the evolutionary ladder.
To commemorate my trials and triumphs and to perhaps help a few of my darling readers, I declare this last week in April Clothes Moth Awareness Week here at Knit Darling. Whoo hoo! So pull out all your woolens, and let's get down to business.
Why should I care about clothes moths?
Moths will eat your clothes, and that should scare you. Well probably not all your clothes, just the ones made from silk, feathers, and animal fibers (i.e. wool, alpaca, angora—all my favorites). They will also eat your yarn, which should be even more terrifying if you're a knitter.
Who is at risk for clothes moths?
Desert folk, mountain folk, city folk, and prairie folk alike—almost everyone except for sterile bubble folk are at risk for a moth infestation.
When the weather gets too warm for sweaters, it's time to take action. Carefully inspect any at risk items for signs of moth damage or eggs. If you suspect moths, wash or dry clean the items before storing them away. It also helps to keep your house really clean because hair and food crumbs can attract moths. Moth eggs are kind of like dry sand, and are easy to vacuum away.
How do I protect my yarn stash from moths?
Like garments, I recommend storing yarn in plastic gallon(ish) size bags. Smaller bags like this help organize your yarn collection, as well as quarantine an infestation that might have come with the yarn. Inspect every skein of yarn you buy for evidence of eggs or damage. Damaged yarn will be frayed in areas, and the eggs look kind of like cookie crumbs.
What do I do if I suspect my yarn stash has moth eggs?
A few years ago, while I was working on my book, I experienced a small moth infestation in one of my (many) decorative yarn baskets. This was especially horrifying because I had been spending every waking/non-day-job-working hour knitting samples for my book. At the time I wasn't really storing ALL my yarn in sealed containers, so I felt a little like moth eggs were covering every surface of my apartment—a moth time bomb in a decadent wooly smorgasbord. Whether or not this was actually the situation, is beside the point.
Of course I couldn't easily wash every skein of yarn, so I had to find an alternative. I did a ton of research, and learned that I needed to interrupt the moths' lifecycle. Unfortunately, Moth traps only catch adults. To really be effective I also had to kill the larvae and eggs, which can lay dormant for years. Here are some methods that I recommend:
1. The fastest, easiest solution is to bake the skeins in a warm oven—about 2 hours at 150º F. This is so low, that you don't even have to remove the yarn labels. Be warned, your house will smell like hot wool while you do this, so think twice before inviting your MIL over for lunch.
2. Similarly, if you live in the south and own a car, on a really hot day you can throw the yarn in the back seat to bake in the sun for a few hours.
3. Freeze the skeins for several days at 0º F, remove for one day, then freeze again for several days.
4. Vigorously shake and brush the skeins to destroy fragile larvae and eggs. Though, if you find larvae in your yarn, it's way too late. That yarn is pretty much garbage.
If this hasn't scared you enough, check out my Moth Facts graphic below, and share it with your friends! They will think you're really cool for doing this, trust me.
I wish these little creatures didn't scare me anymore, but they most certainly do. I literally have had nightmares about them—in the past week. Writing this post has been cathartic for me, but I also hope it will inspire you to take moth-preventing measures. There's almost nothing sadder than tossing skeins and skeins of beautiful yarn, or worse yet—a hand-knit sweater, into the garbage.
Do you have any great tips for managing these pesky creatures? Well that's just wonderful! Please share your wisdom in the comments section below.