Today I am not spinning this, which is what would be next on my wheel, were I not otherwise occupied.
Merino/bamboo/sparkle batt from Hanks in the Hood.
Today I am cleaning and working, and cleaning. It’s time for the bi-annual tossing of the stash. Last year when I said that I was "tossing" the stash, a bunch of knitters wrote and said that they would like it if I tossed it their way, and I realized that the term might have multiple meanings. I don’t mean that I’m tossing things as in throwing them away – I mean that I’m tossing the stash, like you would a salad. I go through the whole thing, in all its bags, boxes and shelves, and I have a look. I vacuum out the shelves, put things back in a (more or less) orderly fashion, and check carefully for vermin. I look for evidence of mice moving into a cozy skein of merino, carpet beetles looking for a skein that’s up against a baseboard or wall, and yeah. I look for moths.
At this point in my knitting experience, I believe that Toronto is Moth Central. I also believe that if a Toronto knitter tells you they’ve never seen a moth in their stash, they might need to add the word "yet" to the end of it – and part of me wonders if they’re lying. I think moths are like the knitterly version of herpes. Lots of people have it, but nobody talks about it, and we all pretend that we’re don’t have them if we do – but we do, and I have.
I don’t have a lot – certainly nothing you would call an infestation, but I live in a house built in 1880, and at least part of my home is insulated with horsehair and old newspapers. Whatever people had kicking around that they could fill the chinks with to defend themselves against a Canadian winter is stuffed in my walls. (I don’t know if it’s true of my house, but some of my neighbours have found wool (clean fleeces) as insulation during renovations too.) Our houses are literally built of moth food, and then if you’re a knitter, and you go and stuff more wool into the place, you’re literally laying out a buffet, and it’s only natural that moths would come where the food is. All a house built in 1880 needs to have a nagging little moth problem is one owner over the last hundred and thirty years who didn’t beat them into submission, which is pretty hard to expect, considering wool rugs, wool curtains, wool clothes and wool blankets. At least once a year I used to see one of the foul winged beasts flutter through the living room and it would send me into a terrible panic. Where are they? What are the eating? DO THEY HAVE THE CASHMERE?
Now I accept them as a natural part of my ecosystem – like mosquitoes, or mice. They live here, so do I , and I do what I can to minimize them, but really, I accept that they’re pretty inevitable. Even if this house were totally moth free, I can’t believe it would stay that way. I engage in a lot of high risk behaviour. I bring yarn, fleece and roving in all year round, and all I would need to do to touch off something bad was bring in something from a shop that had moths. (This is another secret we don’t talk about. Some shops have moths. All they have in them is moth food. How can they not? It’s not dirty or bad, it just makes sense.) The age of my home, the climate of where I live and the fact that I consort with lots of other knitters means that I need to be very, very, very careful not to let a single moth get the upper hand around here.
Thus, I am vigilant, bordering on neurotic. I keep everything in ziplocks. (Moths can eat through plastic, but it’s harder for them, and I’m all for anything that could slow them down.) Twice a year, spring and fall (when moths, carpet beetles and mice are most active) I toss the stash. I put my eyes on every skein of yarn. They all get an inspection and a shake out. Maybe an afternoon in the sun, if there is any. Every container is vacuumed and washed – if it’s washable, and the yarn is rotated top to bottom and back to front. I don’t keep things in baskets. (If you’ve ever lived the dream, then you know that basket + wool + moth + time = your worst nightmare.) Our boxes of woollies (because moths like nothing better than dirty sweaters, socks and hats) are washed regularly, and go for a lay out in the sun.
This system has served me well. On the rare occasion that I’ve found evidence of an incursion, it’s been small, and I was able to totally eradicate it. If I suspect vermin (moth or carpet beetle) that skein leaves. I don’t try to wash it, keep it, or make it better. I kick it to the curb instantly, without regret or a second look, and if I’m tempted to feel bad about losing the skein, I remember that this is the price of doing business. If you’re going to have this much moth food in one place – if you’re going to essentially invite them, hire a bartender, put up twinkle lights, lay out a smashing spread, and then walk away – then you can neither be surprised or upset when they come. (I sometimes have to remind myself of that to feel better.)
My fear, that I would have a foothold situation where the moths ever got the best of me and somehow managed to invade the bulk of the stash, that idea is more than enough to keep me vacuuming, tidying- organizing, inspecting and washing on a pretty spring day when I would rather be spinning. So I’m pretending I’m spinning, and admitting that I worry about moths, and that I’ve seen the interlopers before, and they are ugly, and they want my yarn and yours, and they will stop at nothing to get it, and I wish knitters talked more about this, so that we could band together and form a mighty wave of prevention and treatment.
Honk if you’ve seen a moth in your stash. They are nothing to be ashamed of.
Now go vacuum. You’ll feel better.