Heartbroken…

Yes… it has happened to me, the thing that all knitters fear.  I pulled out a sweater to wear today and found… a hole.  And not in a place you would expect one either.  I got immediately suspicious, and dug through my basket of socks (which I haven’t worn much this year due to working from home)  And?  Holes in 2 pairs.  The final count is: 2 pair of socks dead, the millefiori cardigan, and my central park hoodie (sob!)  And either moths or carpet beetles.  I’m not sure which… I found a single larvae in the basket, but is was brown with rings rather than white like the photos online (and I have neither found nor seen any actual moths.)  It did look rather like the photos of carpet beetles I saw online, but I can’t say for sure.

I am just so upset about this… I have always been so careful about bugs, but I made the mistake of allowing handknits to sit in a basket in the dark back corner of my closet… definitely a mistake, and one I knew better than to make.  I have seen no evidence thus far of infestation in the yarn closet – and I do store my yarn in ziplocks – but it’s all getting treated as though I had, since it is in the same room as the infested closet.  It makes me feel like a terrible housekeeper, and just overall icky – I hate bugs, and I’ve spent half the day crawling around on the floor looking for evidence of them.

Half my sweaters are in the freezer, and the others, along with my yarn and wool coats, are in bags on the back porch waiting a trip to my Dad’s deep freeze tomorrow.  I am obsessively vacuuming everything, and washing all my other clothes in hot water (I expect to spend tomorrow wasting my life away at the laundromat.)  Some of them are going to shrink, but better shrunken clothes than moths!  I’m even washing Marc’s, though his are in the guest room, because I cannot be sure how far they have gotten.

Currently, half my sweaters are in the freezer, and the others (along with all my wool coats, drycleanables,  and my yarn) are in bags on the back porch waiting a trip to my Dad’s deep freeze tomorrow.  I read to freeze for several days, take them out for a day or two, and then refreeze again to kill everything.  Our freezer is not large enough for the volume of stuff I need to freeze.

Has anyone had a similar experience?  I would love any advice, or some reassurance that I am not doomed to fight an eternal battle with hungry insects.  I read that these types of infestations are way up, due to the trend towards natural textiles.   Ugh… today was not a good day (and I’m up at 3:30 am because I’ve been disinfecting behind the baseboards (they were loose, and definitely needed to be cleaned behind.)

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48 thoughts on “Heartbroken…

  1. I’m so sorry! Bugs are really the last thing I was thinking of when I started knitting, but I’ve read experiences similar to yours on several blogs already… Makes my skin crawl! 😦
    It seems like you caught it on time, though, and at least it was good motivation for cleaning (I should get some of that myself!)… Try not to be too sad!

  2. Oh, this is awful! I’m so sorry, I went through a similar panic last summer. The upside for me was that none of my hand-mades or stash were affected; the other upside was the my house has never been cleaner — but the downside were definitely the loss of some of my favourite clothes and that sinking horrible feeling that somewhere, somehow it had all gone terribly wrong.

    You’re doing everything right, though, so far. If you have any to hand, mix in some lavender oil with your cleaner solvents, with some fresh lemon juice. If you haven’t any to hand, get some lavender oil! Pennyroyal, marjorem and cedar wood, too. The only other thing I can suggest is to keep vacuuming fiendishly. It’ll take a few weeks before you’re completely safe, but it’s well worth it.

  3. Oh, you poor thing! Moths are a problem that seem so … Victorian. You don’t expect to have to deal with this in the 21st century, do you? (Though I don’t know why I should think this is true.) I’ve never had a Moth Attack and have things in drawers that are probably worth checking, seeing as I live in an ancient Victorian (!) terrace… I hope you get over this soon.

  4. I had the same happen to me last summer. I felt like you, horrified and embarrassed about finding bugs in my house. Fact is, carpet beetles can be transferred through cut flowers or even visitors, so don’t feel bad.

    I thought I was doomed because from the sound of it, carpet beetles are harder to get rid of as moths. I did pretty much the same as you are doing, but I never trusted my home again.

    All of my stash is in plastic bags and I only put freshly washed items into my wardrobes. I still don’t feel safe.

    I also got this spray: http://www.pestcontroldirect.co.uk/acatalog/Rentokil_Insectrol_Crawling_Insect_Killer_Aerosol_.html

    Good luck!

  5. lisa says:

    Oh, I had this same experience a couple of years ago. I had the moths and could never figure where the came from. I did lose a pair of wool slacks and the first pair of socks I knitted (I did mend those, however), but none of my sweaters. I figured out the culprit of the moths was in my bird seed!! Good luck managing all this, I remember vividly the icky, nasty feeling it creates.

  6. Sorry to hear about this! But, it sounds like you are doing a great job on containing it early. Now I’m a bit concerned since it has been awhile since I checked on my woolens.

  7. I’m so sorry! I find a few carpet beetles near my windows in the early spring, but they haven’t made it to my knits so far. Needless to say, I’m going to be doing a thorough inspection this morning.

  8. Ugh! That’s terrible, I’m so sorry to hear about your hole-y knits. I would cry if my Central Park Hoodie got chewed on. I haven’t had anything eating my wool but I saw a moth in my stash basket once, last year, and flipped out and ziplocked and froze my yarn, and promptly bought a cedar chest off Craigslist. I also bought these cedar blocks that hang in the closet and hopefully ward off buggies. Good luck!

  9. battlemaiden says:

    This happened to me, too, and like you, I went on a rampage. This article in the NY Times in January was somewhat helpful: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/28/garden/28fix.html

    I washed everything, vacuumed everything. I scrubbed out my cedar chest, sanded it, and applied A LOT of cedar oil inside. This seems to be working for now, but like you probably are, I’m still really paranoid about it.

    Good luck to you!

  10. oh no, that’s awful!!! I’ve heard that sachets of lavender keep bugs at bay, but I suppose it’s a bit late for that. Hopefully nothing else has been munched by the little critters!:(

  11. A friend had problems with carpet beetles, she froze everything too. Some years back I had some kind of infestation of little jumpy things (I think it was the cat wot brought them in!). Because I am dubious about how pesticide spray affects your health, I used some tea tree oil in water instead and sprayed the entire flat with it (might not react well with every surface tho’). From other comments it sounds like Lavender oil might be good too.
    If you keep doing that (or grapefruit seed extract oil works as well) every few days then you should catch the insects at different stages in their life cycle, and their offspring. I had to go back and re-spray a couple of times after a while, but then I had got rid. Thankfully! Such a shame about your things but at least you can protect your remaining stuff.

  12. Lain says:

    Oh I’m sorry for this. I have these wooden hearts, that are immersed in some kind of potion agains bugs. You just put them in the closed and etc. So far it kept the bugs away. It even helps with my dry plants(I study biology,so I have them alot). You should try those.
    With love, Lain.

  13. Not the Central Park Hoodie! I’m grabbing my lavender oil and putting it on some paper towels to throw into my stash until I can get some cedar or lavender sachets.

  14. Oh! I’m so sorry! I had this happen to me a few years back; the culprit was a very old bag of quinoa grain hidden in the back of my cupboard! I hunted moths day and night; cleaned EVERYTHING (cupboards, closets, every corner) with lemon, cedar and all sorts of concoctions. Took all of my sweaters to the “natural” cleaners and bought an endless supply of lavender and cedar for the closet. To this day, I keep all of my woolens separate in their own drawers lined with cedar; wash them often; keep silk clothing in protective bags also lined with cedar and clean out my closet regularly. It’s a true pain; but a small price to pay for the peace of mind ( : I now also keep ALL of my grains in plastic or glass containers. I know the embarassed and icky feeling–just remember that it happens to all of us! Good luck–it will end soon! Sorry about the casualties–I loved your millefiori and hoodie (sigh).

  15. I feel for you! About 18 years ago, I made a very detailed black cabled sweater–it was my favorite and I was so proud of it! I kept it, and all of my sweaters, in those cardboard cubbies you buy for shoes, in a NYC apartment. I pulled out the sweater one day and it had a big hole right in the front center!

    It was the only sweater affected–the moths had good taste–and I was so upset, I think it scared my (then newlywed) husband a bit!

    I re-knit the sweater and have never had a problem since–I do use lavender sachets, but I think for me, it was just one case of bad luck.

    I’m really sorry for your loss–I know how much this hurts.

  16. Just wanted to suggest that after a freeze, if the holes are not too terrible, you might be able to do repairs with duplicate stitch, and use matching thread on the back side to tack down any loose ends. Of course this requires that you still have some of the yarn, but if you can save something, at least that’s something.

  17. We have tiny moths from the garden that fly into our pantry all the time, so it might be worth checking your cupboards too. They love grains, and one day I got a nasty surprise when the lid on the rolled oats container had not been closed properly!
    Luckily I haven’t had a problem with my knits so far. I wash them in a product called Wool Mix, which is eucalytus or lavender scented, so maybe that helps?
    Thanks so much for posting this – it is a reminder to all of us, me included, to put some lavender or cedar in place!

  18. Luba says:

    Oh no!! I know exactly what you mean about how such a thing will just make you feel icky and like a failure of a housekeeper! I had little bugs in my pantry area a few months back (the little guys that eat pasta and rice and flour…) and it just made me miserable while we cleaned, and tossed out pasta…Try not to beat yourself up though- if ever there was an amazing housekeeper-it is you! Sounds like you are taking all necessary measures- just remember to take a moment to pause, and have a cup of tea 🙂

  19. Jessica says:

    Can the holes be darned? Do you have any of the original yarn from the projects? If you’re too heartbroken to do it and if you promise to freeze them first I would love to mend them. I actually rather enjoy it.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Moths are a real pain. I solved the problem by putting a little bag with lavender flowers on the bottom of the basket, and it worked. The basket sat there for a whole year and there was no moths whatsoever. I hope it works for you, if you don’t mind lavender.

  21. I knit a tunic (it took 3 years) and wore it twice before a moth ate a huge hole in the center. I threw it in trash with a piece of my heart.

    I recommend you disinfect the drawers and surface area anywhere near where you have kept your knits. I now sprinkle lavender (loose) amongst my knits and haven’t had trouble since – but I washed every single knit item I owned – which was a monumental task.

    It is NOT your fault – these things just happen sometimes.

  22. I had a similar problem about a year ago. Started seeing moths from time to time, couldn’t figure out where they were coming from. Eventually found some chewed-on yarn in the bottom of my knitting basket, went absolutely crazy, froze everything, sealed in plastic packed with lavender. We eventually figured out that they were coming in in the cat litter (we used a grain-based litter at the time), and had only stopped in to try the wool. We switched litter and never had problems again. I’d say to check your kitchen (beans, flour, any kind of grain, even some spices). It’s easy for things to come in from the grocery store or other sources, no matter how clean you keep your house. And, since you buy from thrift stores, your closet has a slightly higher risk of having imported visitors. As long as you catch them early and stay vigilant, you should be able to rout them. And maybe this is a good opportunity to play with darning? Good luck!

  23. Kim says:

    most holes can be fixed easily and if you have any of the yarn left over, they are often not noticeable. I do this for customers of my yarn shop _all_ the time. if you need any advice, or you want someone to do it for you, please let me know.

    the freezing really works. also, laundering and putting garments away clean with cedar and tissue paper works well, but they really must be laundered first. cedar is a repellant, but not a poison like mothballs, so if they are hungry enough they will still go for your sweaters. I recently repaired 6 sweaters from one person who obviously kept them in cedar because they were very fragrant, and yet they _all_ had moth holes. the moths tend to lay their eggs in the folds, so minimizing folding is also a good plan.

    I’m so sorry! I have a wool eating cat, who ate holes the size of grapefruit in my first ever cabled sweater. it was totally beyond repair and i cried for a long time. she’s since grown out of the behavior, but it was traumatic and how i learned how to repair sweaters in the first place!

  24. bernie says:

    i have had that problem once. i had to throw out several balls of yarn and a couple sweaters too. after that i bought Raid brand lavender closet mothproofer (Target) and a pound of lavender on-line and made gobs of sachets, stuck them everywhere and that was 3 years ago. never had a problem since. believe me, it is not a sign of lack of cleanliness!!

  25. Deborah says:

    Hi. Don’t worry. When I was young, every apartment I moved into that was carpeted had those horrible little bugs all around the edges of the carpets. I would get on my hands and knees and search, kill, vacuum, etc. When we lived in Mainland China for 3 years, we saw plenty of bugs. yuk. I had fly larvae in my dirty laundry; a new bag of rice would have moths flying out of it and of course we had to pick out larvae. To this day when I’m eating rice I wonder if I’m eating extra protein! If you nip it in the bud you’ll be fine.

  26. Sarah says:

    I feel your pain!! I moved into a new house a year ago and apparently it belonged to a family of moths in my front closet. They ate my kimono jacket-the very first thing I ever knit that I was so proud of!!! I screamed and cried. BUT…they were little holes so I crocheted some little flowers in a color that matched the jacket and now it is so cute with a bunch of little flowers sewn all over it. Not the same, I know. I liked the post about the lavender. That is what I did and I have not had a problem since. Good luck!

  27. Tracey says:

    I recently had an infestation in my pantry and discovered that it started in some walnuts. Last year it was peanuts. I did read on line that some recommend freezing staples for four days, as you bring them into the house so you take care of any potential problems before you store food in your pantry. I hadn’t realized that I could potentially have a problem in my bedroom closet. I hope your efforts take care of the issue. It sure is a lot of work to go through everything, clean and then put it all away.

  28. I am willing to wager that it was carpet beetles. They are sometimes in the floorboards of houses. That is where I think they came from in my house. A textile conservator friend of mine told me to vacuum well and keep all in plastic or sealed in bins. I, too, had a few items lying forever in a basket that stood on the floor in my living room. One hint is that if you find a casing, and it is the color of the yarn eaten, it is probably a moth, but if the casing is natural looking, it was probably a carpet beetle.

  29. Rebecca says:

    Yeah you’re doing all of the right things. I had an exterminator tell me basically that extreme temperatures are great for killing bugs. So either freeze or hot hot heat! You’re supposed to keep the items for a couple of weeks either in the freezer or a cold car outside (unfortunately I too had a similar experience).

    I too didn’t have enough room but rotated my stash in 2 week increments in and out of the freezer. Good luck!

  30. Ceylan says:

    I had moths (oh the horror!) – They ate a hole in my Salina sweater and tore through the carpet in my closet – ick! My infestation was pretty bad, and all my efforts (freezing, baking, vacuuming, dry ice in the closet, etc) only deterred them for a few days, then I’d see another. As a last resort I had a pest control company come out and kill them, and now I have them as a quarterly service to save my investment in my yarn and treasured handknit items.

    Personally, I think if your infestation is minimal then lavendar and cedar will work. In my case, the infestation was horrible by the time I noticed, and I had to go to the extreme. Luckily they never got to the yarn! Good luck!

  31. Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear about this. Unfortunately, I haven’t got any advice…but are the holes small enough that you might be able to repair them?

  32. That definately sounds like carpet bettle larve. Older house are prone to them. We have an older home and every once in a while I find one or two in the corner of a room. There are treatments you can have done to your home by professionals. We chose not to because vacuuming takes care of them and we didn’t want the chemicals in our home. I hope your able to fix the damage they’ve done.

  33. Anonymous says:

    I feel so bad for you, all that beautiful work! Your sweaters are the best. When you said you got rid of them the felter in me cringed with desire to have those sweaters! I am surprised you are not a felter, you would make such beautiful things with felt. Anyway just wanted to let you know I follow all of your lovely creations and I feel your pain!!!!

  34. Pam Darling says:

    I had a similar experience with hand knits and some wool in my stash. After cleaning it up the best that I can, I am not storing all my wool in large plastic ziplocks. I had already stored some in plastic and nothing was touched by the moths. I store my handknits and store-bought sweaters and tops in an antique wardrobe and I will be storing the woolens in ziplock bags as well. We have moths for sure and I don’t think there is anyway to keep them out of the house or the wardrobe.

  35. Jo says:

    I had a similar thing happen last year – carpet beetles in one of the closets. I vacuumed, put down some cedar blocks on the floor of the closet (Something Cedar blocks on Amazon were low-priced and effective, no affiliation), put the rest in the yarn bins, and laundered all the knits. I imagine the problem was storing handknits away without washing all of them, and letting some well-handled WIPs (socks) languish nearby. Fiber pests *really* love Colinette Jitterbug.

  36. Gem Shanahan says:

    Noooooo,don’t microwave, if there’s bug present, within 39 secs they spontaneously combust

    Chuck 4 green tea bags in the wash. Use soggy green tea bags on any seems which are black when the pattern doesn’t suggest black or so full, they look like they may explored (and often do)

    My first night using green Tea. Only figured out 4 days ago it was carpet beetle deter afterdestroying over £3,000 in my new London (UK) crib. It’s done all the leather steats and carpet in ,my Kompressor (p*ssed!)

    Will defo try cedar too, but unless I amazon it eBay it, it’s not as easily obtained.

    Hydrodrgen peroxider is BLAM. The thousands departing my head hair bleaching was unbelievable.

    If you’ve started unfortunatel to becomes hoset (check water for black Fluff balls and unidentifiable squiggle worm object take a Green tea bath (wilth tea bags no fancy swizzle),complete with mint toothpaste and listerine (for teeth)

    Going to try that DM as house in s BADLY infested.

    Do check photos,,canvasses, crap wood (like my kitchen Worktop). They are clever c**nts and form a perfectly straight l

    Mental is best choose of nasal

    Sending Crisp Winter Sunny UK Love

    London. Gal , her two crazy bengals and English Spot / Rex bum.

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