Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Knitter's Nightmare

Years ago, in the few months of unemployment I had between esthetician school and my first esthetician job, I learned how to knit from Debbie Stoller's Stitch and Bitch. Like an army of other young women that summer, I fell in love with it. I bought plastic needles and soft acrylic yarn from Joanne's Fabrics and knit my little heart out. It especially came in handy when I started working, because I could knit a scarf in between clients. As the years went on, I bought nicer needles and pricier yarn made of natural fibers and worked on more complicated projects, like lace and cables and sweaters and socks. Knitting is a great hobby because it's portable enough to take anywhere, and it makes lazy nights in front of the TV productive. ("I just watched four hours of Buffy re-runs, but now I have a hat!")

The last year has seen a sharp decline in my knitting. We moved to our first condo, and even though one of the reason I like it here is because there is a lot of natural light, there is an unfortunate lack of unnatural light. Basically the light fixtures the developer put in are very fancy looking, but suck. They require expensive little spotlight bulbs that burn out in less than a week. So once the sun goes down, it gets too dim to do anything crafty. So I haven't really picked up the needles in a long time. I tried working on a sock over the summer, which was nice and reminded me of how much I miss knitting. Then I stopped when I realized I had messed up the number of stitches cast on, which is such a newbie mistake I was disgusted with myself. So I put it down and didn't pick it back up.

The other night, Trench asked me if he could borrow some yarn for the Halloween costume he was putting together. I went into my long-neglected stash to see if I could find something. As I delved in, I realized that something was wrong. All my little rolled up cakes of yarn looked rough, like something had been nibbling at them. For the last couple months we had seen tiny little brown flies around the apt. I didn't think much of them because it was summer, and bugs happen in the summer. I thought they were coming from the drains so I'd been pouring bleach down them. Could they be...moths? My suspicions were confirmed I saw a worm crawling on MY PURPLE MERINO.

I had Trench throw the entire basket out immediately. I rescued a sweater that had still been a work in progress...I only needed one more sleeve. Once the infected basket was gone, Trench and I went through the other boxes. (What, you thought I only had one basket of yarn?) All the natural fibers were toast. Acrylics and cottons still looked okay. I went into the closets to see if they had gotten any of my finished knits, and yes they had. I lost hats and scarves. Luckily the scarf/shawl that had taken me two years to finish was fine because I'd been wearing it. Same with Trench's gray scarf with the intricate DNA cable pattern I had made him years ago. We tend to throw our outerwear on the bed in the guest room rather than hang them up in the closet like we should. Laziness for the win! Sweaters that I've made didn't have worms, but did have webbing (re: cocoons) on them. I stuffed them into the freezer. From what I've read (and you know I was doing research as this was happening), freezing temperatures kills larvae. Heat kills eggs. My sweaters, half-finished sweater, and whatever yarn remains of my stash (because those little fuckers don't eat acrylic but could be hiding in it) have been in the freezer for a few days now.

Dry cleaning kills moths, larvae and eggs so I'm taking my finished sweaters, as well as a couple of coats from the closet that have traces on them, to the cleaners today. My almost-finished sweater is sadly going to be a casualty. I threw out the rest of the yarn that went with it, so there's not much point in keeping it, and it had been in the most infested basket. Tonight the rest of my yarn is going to get baked in the oven. Seriously. 110 degrees for 30 minutes (under careful watch, of course). I don't like the idea of insecticides, so I'm going to douse my closets and drawers with eucalyptus and lavender. (Thank the gods they didn't hit my wardrobe! Except for my knits I mostly wear cotton and acrylics.)

If you knit or crochet and have a stash of yarn hanging about, be aware of what's flying around your home. Clothes moths do not look like the normal moths you see flitting around light bulbs in the summer. They are tiny, about the size of a fruit fly, and look like a fleck of wood when standing still. From now on, my stash will be kept in ziploc bags. Once we get a new light fixture for the living room, I'm hoping to return to my knitterly ways, but now I'm slightly terrified of natural fibers. I might just knit with cotton blends for awhile.


  1. oh how horrible!! I had a panic attack this spring when I saw little moths flying around but they were meal moths...Most of my wool is in plastic bags, BUT I'm gonna put some moth balls in there too (yes, I'm weird, I love the smell of moth balls)

  2. This is so appropriate for Halloween week -- seriously frightening!

  3. I've never done any knitting with natural fibers. After reading this, I might never take the plunge! Nightmare, indeed! I'm so sorry to hear that happened to you!

  4. Hmm, I have seen something similar to what you describe and we just rescued my stash from my mom's basement. I'm paranoid too now! I'm really sorry you lost your yarn and your projects :( that sucks. Hugs.

  5. Thanks everyone! I'm still fighting the good fight right now, but I think I'm winning. I have some cotton yarn that's been untainted so I'm attempting to knit a shrug with it.