Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sad Crafting News + Advice

Untitled I interrupt your regularly programmed blog post to bring you this breaking news:

I have discovered moths in my yarn.

For those of you who don't know, moths* are attracted to and eat natural fibers including wool, silk, alpaca, cashmere, and sometimes cotton. *I'm referring specifically to clothes moths here, not the kind you find in your kitchen.

I had seen a couple last week here and there but didn't think much of it until the past few days, when I began seeing more and more - specifically in the living room near my (mostly wool) yarn. The good news is that I caught it early enough that it appears most, if not all, of my yarn is in pretty good shape and can be salvaged (no holes). The bad news is it's a really lengthy and difficult process to get rid of the moths completely from both my yarn stash and my apartment.

If you find yourself in a similar situation or want to prevent this from happening to you, here's what I did:

PHASE ONE: I separated my natural fibers from my acrylic (synthetic) fibers. Moths do not eat synthetic fibers, which is awesome since that's what I had been using almost exclusively until last fall when I started making beanies. Luckily (and unluckily) for me, the yarn I keep in the living room is only the yarn I'm using for projects that I'm currently working on - everything else is stored in my bedroom closet. Since I've been working with lots of wool lately, almost all my wool was in the living room, meaning my bedroom closet is not affected (good for my closet, sad for all my wool).

I went through all the set aside yarn to assess the damage. Miraculously, it all seems to be in tact! Still, going through this process I saw a couple little buggers, so I'm continuing with the whole decontamination process. I gathered anything potentially affected into several plastic bags, squeezed as much air out as I could, and tied them closed. I read that clothes moths don't particularly like cotton, but since I had some skeins of it mixed in with the wool, I threw them into the bags too. Basically everything with wool (even blends), and everything that was in the living room had the potential to be infected, and was therefore put into airtight bags.

PHASE TWO: Next comes the freezing. According to several sources I read online, the best way to eliminate existing moths, is to either heat them or freeze them. I don't have a reliable enough oven to attempt heating all my wool without fear that I'll burn the apartment down, so I went with freezing. The yarn has to be frozen for at least a week, then set out to thaw for 24 hours, and back into the freezer for another week. This cycle of freezing and thawing will kill any remaining bugs, eggs, or larvae. Because my freezer is already full of lasagna, blueberries, and alcohol, I'll have to do this in batches. Everything that doesn't fit in the freezer, is stored in a plastic bin for now. This process will take me about a month.

PHASE THREE: This paragraph is short, but the process is long, so it gets its own phase: Clean, clean, clean!! You have to vacuum and clean every nook and cranny of your home. Pay special attention to corners, cracks, and floorboards.

PHASE FOUR: Once the yarn has been decontaminated, store it in an airtight container to prevent further moth attacks. I've read some people keep all their wool in zip locks, while others use plastic bin. Whatever you use, make sure it is AIR TIGHT.

So what does this mean for Mighty Mellie? Well, basically everything that I was in the process of working on will be put on hold for at least a few weeks. In the meantime, I will be switching gears to stationary and greeting cards. I'll also continue experimenting with new materials, like wire. And when all else fails, I have my trusty acrylic yarn! Say what you will about synthetic fibers, but at least bugs won't eat them.

Also, in case you're wondering, yes I did consider using moth balls, but basically every article I've read about getting rid of moths strongly advises against them. I was also hesitant for a couple reasons: A) I typically sell my work to others and didn't want to mess with funny smells and chemicals, and B) I don't want to risk my nosey pup being around them either. So I decided not to take any chances. Here's an excerpt from one of the articles I read:

“Moth balls, flakes, or crystals containing naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene are … available for protecting clothes in storage. These materials are toxic and must be kept away from children and pets. They also leave an unpleasant odor on clothes and other cloth objects. If placed in contact with plastic buttons, hangers, or garment bags, they may cause the plastic to soften and melt into the fabric. As these chemicals evaporate, they produce vapors that, in sufficient concentration, will slowly kill insects. The vapors build up to the required concentration only in an airtight container. If the container is not airtight, the chemicals only weakly repel adults and any larvae already on clothes continue to feed.”

So that's that. I was really excited about learning to weave, so I'm considering the possibility of breaking my March Challenge and buying some more wool. We'll see...

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