Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Very Small Disaster

I wanted to talk about my vacation last week, or maybe my new fencing, and how it is shaping up. And I will talk about those things, honest. Today, however… well, I have a disaster on my hands. Now, as disasters go, it could be a lot worse. This one is small. The house is still standing, and no one has died. I am reminding myself of these things frequently, sometimes aloud, albeit under my breath.

It all started last year, when I bought some cobweb weight cashmere yarn from my local yarn store. It was a closeout lot leftover from some designer’s workroom, and I got a really good deal on it. I intended to ply it together and make myself a nice heavy shawl on the loom. It was a lovely plan. And then I did something very very very stupid. Well, several somethings, actually. And this isn’t my usual boneheaded but slightly adorable kind of thing, either. You see, I didn’t bother to quarantine the cashmere, but instead just put it into my studio and forgot about it for a few months. Those of you who are serious fiber enthusiasts are almost certainly moaning right now, because you already know what happened next.

A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to spin up said cashmere, and get it tucked into a bin. The bag was rather large, as the yarn was on cones. I pulled it out, and to my absolute horror, it was infested with wool moths. Here is where we meet my second serious mistake. Though (almost) everything was packed neatly away in the studio, almost none of it was in airtight containers. This is why I quarantine most things in the freezer for a few days before putting it into the studio. However, it leaves the entire stash, easily something in the neighborhood of fifty or sixty pounds of wool and silk (including fabric yardage) at risk for infestation. So I baked the cashmere in the oven to kill the bugs, and spent the next two days combing through everything I owned. I got lucky. Only six cones of cashmere were damaged. Nothing else had been touched. I said a prayer of thanks, packed everything away, and moved on with my life.

Which is where I really screwed up.

You see, I did not take the opportunity to move my stash into better storage. Nor did I give my studio a spritz with diatomaceous earth, or take the opportunity to make moth repellant sachets. I meant to. It was on my list. And yes, you guessed it, I missed something. And I now know exactly what it was. The cashmere had been stacked on top of a storage tote, inside which was a plastic garbage bag which contained an as-yet unwashed Karakul fleece (it’s a kind of sheep’s wool, good for making rugs). The thing is, wool moths LOVE unwashed wool. The nastier the better. This particular fleece was pretty darned ripe, and I was waiting for spring and good weather to take it out into the yard and wash it. Trust me, that is NOT a smell you want to be cooped up with for any length of time. Well, I guess that is unless you are a female wool moth looking for a place to lay your eggs.

I discovered all of this yesterday afternoon about two hours before the kids got home. Ironically, literally moments before discovering the infestation, I was having a semi-serious melt down about the size of my stash. I really do have too much stuff. The cleaning of the basement during screen free week left me with even more to put in my studio. There just isn’t any room. So I decided then and there to do yet another serious purge. I have more stash than I can possibly get through in the next decade. Enough is enough. So I pulled out the first bin (which happened to be said Karakul fleece) and decided to set-to. At that very moment, I realized that there were wriggling things all over it… and the floor… and the wall… and the shelves. I have a real problem with slimy white things that wriggle. It is just possible that I may have emitted some rather girly and possibly even completely undignified noises. Look, they were in my hair at that point.

I cannot even express to you how many wool moths are in my studio. Thousands. Nearly everything is infested. There is a lot of damage. I may, in fact, have to nearly start over. A few things were in sealed plastic, and of course none of the tools were damaged. I am baking the yarn in the oven, two trays at a time. Clean fleeces that are waiting to be carded and spun are going through the drier in pillow cases. The two remaining unwashed alpaca blankets are going into the oven on trays. The Karakul went straight into the trash. OUTSIDE. I have been at this for over 16 hours, now, and I have barely made a dent. Oh, and then there are the clothes for the whole family (we wear a lot of wool), Shawn’s hand-woven French tapestry, and did I mention the fact that every rug in the house is wool? Oh, and I just found out that the little blighters can live on shed pet hair alone. With five cats, a dog, and two long-haired people around, that means that while jumping up like a demented jack in the box every thirty minutes to change out the wool in the oven, I have to vacuum every cranny of the entire house every single day… for the next three or four months. EVERYTHING made of wool or silk (and all the baskets they were stored in) will have to be washed, baked, or frozen, without exception. Then it will have to be covered in a dusting of diatomaceous earth, strewn with herbs, and sealed in plastic. Good great gravy.

There are, however, a few bright points. The house is still standing, and no one has died (telling myself… over and over). So far, I have not found any evidence that the moths are anywhere but the studio. There does not appear to be any damage to any of the clothes or furnishings. That is not keeping me from taking steps as though there were. I have learned my lesson. Also, I am taking the opportunity to do a major purge. Some of this is painful, mostly because I cannot even find it a good home. It’s just going in the trash. That kills me. I have to remind myself that this is making room in my life. I wanted this. Maybe not quite in this WAY, but then I suppose we don’t always get a choice.

I am finally upgrading and reorganizing the storage in the studio. All of the animal fibers will be stored in airtight plastic. As soon as my herbs get here on Friday, I will be making really wonderful smelling sachets to scatter in boxes, baskets, bags, and closets around the whole house. Already my house smells pretty good, as I took the opportunity to mix up a spray bottle of moth repelling essential oils and water to spray on some of the things I can’t get to yet. Like, you know, the rugs, the tapestry, and some wool-stuffed antique furniture (whimper). I used a blend of clove, rosemary, lavender, and cedar oils. I may make a habit of it, it smells so nice.

Last, but not least, I do believe that I am going to take this opportunity to paint my studio shelves and furniture. After all, I am going to have a lot less stuff when all of this is over, and I have to wash everything anyway. It’s where I want to be in the end, I just didn’t expect it to be this dramatic… or fast. But I will get it done. It is also probable that at the end of this horrible process that I will actually be better off. So, that is what I am telling myself, over and over. And over.

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