A Fiber Artist’s Worst Nightmare…

…And I don’t mean gauge swatches or pre-washing yarns for colorwork.

Moths. Nasty little things that will seek out your wool and lay eggs in it, so that the larva can eat it. GROSS.

I never put much thought into moth protection before. While I lived with my mother, the only fiber chewing pest I saw was the very occasional dead carpet beetle. I’m assuming it was a carpet beetle anyway, there’s no way I’m googling bugs. Never saw a moth inside the house. Never saw a moth when I lived my current house with fiance and his parents, and never saw a moth when we had the apartment. We bought the house from my in-laws about 3 years ago now, and only just last week I saw a month for the first time, in the living room.

I wasn’t too worried at first, because I had heard from other fiber enthusiasts about their pest woes and I had taken some precautions already. When I began crafting with wool yarns in 2012 I immediately stored them in Ziplock freezer bags to protect them from my mom’s cigarette smoke and dog hair. I still do this, because even though my yarns are in fabric cube bins that keep the cats out, and I don’t smoke, the Ziplock freezer bags create an extra layer between any pest and the tasty wool. And if a bag is compromised, it drastically slows down the pest invasion of the rest of your stash. I also use cedar wood rings to deter pests, though these do need to be sanded or have new cedar oil applied to them occasionally.

ClosetMaid cube storage shelves, where most of the yarn hoard is carefully stored.
Yarn is bagged up within the fabric cubes. Cedar rings will be replaced in each cube.

After seeing the moth flit through the living room, I made a mental note to refresh the cedar rings and put out an extra pheromone trap in the craft room. Eventually. Well, eventually happen today because I found a dead moth last night, on top of my yarn storage shelves. OH HELL NO. I spent my lunch break today (remote working, yay) pulling every cedar ring out of all the fabric cubes and spraying them with new cedar oil. After work I’ll need to go through the plastic storage totes in the closet and do the same with the cedar rings in there. The wooden drawers that I keep my finished pieces in should be fine, I sprayed the crap out of it with cedar oil earlier this year, but now I need to get my ass in gear and actually wash the shawls that have been sitting in the hand-wash basket since before COVID-19 hit…

Cedar rings, cedar oil, and a pheromone trap. Tools for combating pest invasion.
CedarSafe 100% natural Cedar oil, and Colton’s Natural Cedar Spray.

Cedar oil is very easy to find at the hardware store, or ordered online. Some brands, like Colton’s, come in a very convenient spray bottle. I prefer cedar, but you may prefer lavender. I have no science to back up which is better (if either), I just despise lavender scent. I do not recommend moth balls, as they are highly toxic chemical balls. Cedar and lavender are safer.

cedar rings laid into a disposable baking tin, to easily spray the cedar oil onto them.

It is much easier to prevent a pest invasion than it is to combat one, so in summary:

  1. Store your skeins in Ziplock (or similar) bags. The freezer bags are the best because the plastic is heavier. The bags also keep all the skeins for one project organized together.
  2. Store those bagged skeins within a plastic storage tote if possible!
  3. Use a scented repellent like lavender or cedar, placed inside of the plastic storage tote or among the bagged skeins in your shelving, baskets, whatever.
  4. Toss your stash occasionally, like a salad. Moths like to lay their eggs in dark places that aren’t frequently disturbed. Make it a point to go through your stash at least one a year to see if anything has been nibbled on. It also reminds you of what treasures you have hoarded away, which is always nice.
  5. Wash you knits! Dirty knitwear attracts pests. Not dirt from the ground, dirt from YOU. Your sweat, body oils and dead skin cell dirt. Don’t let those shawls or hats that you wore all winter sit around in a basket for months waiting, like some people…
  6. Use a pheromone trap to capture and kill moths that get into your home. The pheromone attracts the male moths, which then get stuck to the adhesive inside the trap. I recent bought a box of Dr. Killingan’s traps.
Dr. Killingan’s pheromone trap. Killing them softly… What a great slogan!

How do you prevent pests invading your yarn, fiber, and/or fabric stash? Share in the comments below!