Many moths and much mending

This week, there has been a rather sad revelation. Followed by a lot of mending.  In fairness to the grubs who ate my woolens–they only made small holes.  It’s just that they made a lot of them.  It began when I found another hole in this garment that I mended only a few weeks back.

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Soon mended.

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Then another wooly item with a few little holes in it.  No sooner did I mend the first hole than I see this one nearby.  That telltale ladder is the sign that ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ is going to be the story of this fabric from this point onward.

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Oh dear.

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Rather more sadly, this newer garment has come to grief too.

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I’m still deploying my mother’s favoured approach to darning: first secure the edges of the hole.  Then stitch across in one direction, creating lines of thread across the hole, leaving a little loop at each end of each line.  This accommodates the fact that this is a woven darn inserted into a far stretchier knit fabric.

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Then, stitch another row of lines in the other direction, weaving with your needle tip when you come to the gap to be filled.  This is an undergarment, so I sometimes just darn on the outside, loops and all, where I can see the finished effect.

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But there were more holes, so I kept going on the inside, first stitching one way across the holes and then changing direction and stitching across the first row and weaving threads across the hole itself and any ladders and weak parts.

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Mum taught me during Busy Bee Week, a fundraiser for the Brownies (so I was about ten).  We were living in a small mining town in the middle of Western Australia: Kambalda, then one of the hubs of the nickel boom.  One neighbour keen to use my talents gave me a white cotton tennis sock to darn and my mother set me to it with cotton machine thread and a needle!  She didn’t own a darning mushroom.  This is a tool I have discovered since, and it is a lot easier to use than Mum’s improvisation, a Vegemite glass (upturn a small drinking glass and insert into sock, proceed to darn).  The handle is the key feature for ease of use. A glass, or even making a circle of your own curled fingers, will do the job.

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Quite neat really.  But.  Nothing can make a darn right smack bang in the middle of the front of your top flattering.  Just as well this one won’t be on public display while on my body!

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A friend who has been similarly afflicted (and is in the Heroine category of Menders) told me about the CSIRO guidelines for managing this kind of problem.  I’ll be making use of her research as well as the sticky pheromone traps that let me know I had a problem last summer.  For now I am considering whether re-bundling these tops might make those silky darns blend in better… or whether I should wear them with pride, as recommended by Tom of Holland and his Visible Mending Programme.  I can recommend this post of his on one major commission, mended with love, thought and skill.

I admit, I’ve been wearing mends with pride for my whole adult life–but there are limits. I have to say that while my darns will do the job, they are not up there in the Tom of Holland category of mending as an artform!

12 Comments

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12 responses to “Many moths and much mending

  1. SubmarineBells

    Oh man, moth infestations suck. I sympathise hugely. I wound up having to remove a huge pile of (ancient horrible shagpile) wool carpet from my home to get my infestation under control. Here’s hoping you don’t have to do anything quite so drastic!

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  2. next when you bundle for colour throw in some thread amongst the leaves silk works best …. your beautiful mending would blend in even better.! see my technique here http://wendiofthetreasure.com/tag/camping/

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    • I’m about to head off for a read 🙂 I have been dyeing silk thread but admit I have been using it for embroidery and less for mending. After your message, I pulled out my silk embroidery thread and made a logwood mend on a purple top and an onion skin darn on one that had been nibbled through in the zone of a leaf printed top that had been in the dye bath near the string. I’d kinda given up on darns that would match given the wide variety of colours that eco prints create… but it’s just like socks–even something close -ish draws the eye a lot less.

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  3. oh dear oh dear, that’s terribly sad … I have had an infestation this year too – and since the cashmere jumpers and cardigans that are my livelihood are particularly vulnerable, I bought a chest freezer which now squats in my shed, rumbling faintly, full of knitwear. and those pheromone traps are brilliant, aren’t they! I’m hoping that by removing the food and killing off the males, I will eradicate them, the count has stopped at 8 caught. I’m now storing garments in ziplock bags too. the original food source was an old cashmere cardie which had fallen down behind something. there was not a lot left of it.
    we used not to have a problem, as this is an old outbuilding which had never had anything in it to attract moths … well now it does. 😦

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    • So sorry to hear that story! There is no question that out of sight is where moths prefer to feast. Like humans tucking into chocolate in private, really–especially when they have their little maws into cashmere!

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  4. We have had a plague of moths this year, we had some rugs which my husband had collected on his travels which had been stored in the attic due to lack of space in this house. In this situation we had to spray the attic. I have heard that it takes a year to completely eradicate moths, so be warned. It only takes two.

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  5. : (
    Sorry to hear of your losses…carpet beetles are the bane of my textiles. They don’t stop at woolies, they eat cotton, silk, everything….

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  6. in fact moths too will eat cotton, linen, leather, even the horsehair on violin bows, but given wool or cashmere I presume they will eat that first. I once lost a whole wardrobe of clothes to moth – the wardrobe was old and inherited, and was lined with green baize 😦 my mother’s 1958 wool skirt suit that I got married in, peplum jacket and all. a terrible loss! have never used wardrobes since then. with the alternative result – winter sun bleaching jacket sleeves.

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    • My goodness, that is a terrible tale! Some things are irreplaceable. I have had moths nibble other fabrics, but agree they have favourites and wool is one.

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