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Tips From The Lefty Knitter

Hello, knitters!
This is Jessica, the Lefty Knitter of KnitChats. Spring has sprung! It’s here, it’s here! If you experienced subzero temperatures and record snowfall this past winter like my area did, you’ve probably been eager to see all the signs of Spring: budding trees, emerging flowers, pollinators, birds, and insects.


Speaking of insects, there are insects which come in the house, uninvited, and they set up camp without our knowledge. They mate, lay eggs, and their emerging larvae eat our precious yarns! Carpet Beetles and Wool Moths. With Spring, especially after a cold, hard winter, the springtime bulbs and tubers emerge and bloom with more vigor than with milder winters. The insects tend to emerge and hatch with just as much enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, that means the moth larvae and carpet beetle larvae are also hatching and munching with all that enthusiasm.Carpet Beetles are mottled, hard-shelled, beetles which are primarily black with brown spots or brown with cream-colored spots. They’re really small; smaller than the ball on a quilting pin. Carpet Beetles will eat fabrics of natural and man-made fibers as well as dried insect and animal remains and foods in the pantry. In my area, they’re very common, but I hadn’t seen one before until two years ago.

Wool Moths are small (just over 1⁄4-inches in length) with a metallic sheen on their wings.


Enter SHOCK!

The house we live in has trumpet vine growing on the south side which serves as the perfect feeding site for carpet beetles, which feed on the pollen of flowers. They tend to climb into the house via the screens in the summer and fall, but may also fly in when you walk in the door or hitch a ride on you. They’re so tiny they’ll easily slip in undetected. Two years ago, I went to my stash to look for a yarn and a carpet beetle fell off a shawl I’d knitted. I was in an instant panic and set off to google what this could be. Much to my dismay, it was indeed a wool-eating-critter.

One-by-one, I opened my stash drawers, inspecting all my yarns for any signs of having been munched. I threw out a handful of partial skeins which were munched and a few full-skeins. I was heartbroken, but mostly just grossed out. How could this happen to me? I’m obsessed with vacuuming and we have wood floors so critters can’t really hide. I felt shame – deep shame and embarrassment. However, I was put at ease upon reading a blog post several years old by Stephanie McFee (AKA: Yarn Harlot). She too experienced an attack on her stash and made me realize it just happens. We love what these insects also love: wool!



Yarn Harlot’s advice is very practical and simple: every spring and every fall, toss your stash. WHAT?! Toss it?! Yes, but no – not like that. Take some deep breaths and hang with me. Get your yarns and spinning fibers out of your storage, open up the skeins; unroll your unspun batts and braids, spinners (unless you have them vacuum sealed). Give the skeins a few gentle snaps and inspect them for munching. If you suspect any critters or you just want to be proactive, put your wool on a baking sheet in the middle of your (preheated) oven at its lowest heat. Mine will only bake as low as 170*F. Bake as much as you can fit in a single layer for two hours and do this to your entire stash. If you live where it’s already pretty hot in a car this time of year, put it all in a black trash bag and stick it in the backseat of your car or SUV for a couple weeks to let it bake that way. The heat kills all stages of life in moths and carpet beetles. This also can be done with your fabrics if you have a stash.

Alternatively, one can do the freeze and thaw cycle for moths (this doesn’t work for carpet beetles from everything I have read). Bag and place your yarns in the deep freeze for two weeks, thaw for two days and refreeze. Repeat the cycle one or two more times.

Another option is to wash all your yarns and hang them out on the line for a few days because the critters prefer hiding in the dark and their eggs are dry like dust rather than sticky so they’ll fall right off.

Upon inspection, if you see that some of your yarn has been eaten, it is generally suggested to throw it in the trash or compost pile. Oftentimes, the critters will have munched enough you’ll have oodles of ends and the structure of the yarn itself is completely compromised. Despite recommendations, I did keep some of my yarns which were only slightly damaged. I washed them after baking and cooling.

While my yarns and fibers were baking, I took my drawers completely apart baking, and vacuumed them out as well as the inside “bare bones” of my storage and underneath as well. I washed my storage out with 50/50 water and white vinegar. White vinegar and grain alcohol disrupts the hormones of the carpet beetle, inhibiting them from mating, and deters them from the area. They may also dislike cedarwood (I have read conflicting information regarding the effectiveness of cedarwood). I put grain alcohol (cheap Vodka works) with cedarwood essential oil in a glass bottle and shook it up really well to incorporate them. Then, I sprayed the drawers and the “bare bones” of my storage down with the mixture after washing the drawers out with white vinegar. Unfortunately, carpet beetles like sweet florals so I don’t think (I could be wrong because I couldn’t find anything to prove or disprove my understanding) Lavender sachets will work (I had them in the drawers when they were infested).

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