NKW#12 - Caring for your Supplies and Knitted Items

We're very nearly at the end of November Knit Week, so today I wanted to talk about how to look after your knitting supplies and your finished garments. I will be talking about small beasts, which is not very nice. But I encourage you to read, for the good of your wool....

Yarn

Most of us knitters have stashes of yarn. When storing yarn, you want to ensure that it is going to be kept clean, dry and free from any pests, ready to use whenever you want to start a project. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you might know that I had an issue with finding a pesky carpet beetle in some knitting I had abandoned in our sideboard. Carpet Beetles love to eat natural fibres, including wool and silk. Another common and similarly destructive pest is the moth. Like carpet beetles they have a taste for the finer things in life, making a bee moth line for your beloved natural fibres.

Wool damaged by a carpet beetle (look here if you want to see the bugger what did it)

How do you prevent pests in your wool stash?

Beetles and moths want somewhere dark, warm and undisturbed, with plenty of delicious natural fibres to munch. A good way to store wool is in plastic containers with lids. However you should still inspect your stash regularly to make sure that something you haven't seen before has developed. If you are going to be very thorough you could put every new fabric and fibre that enters your home in your freezer before storing it normally. However this is a little extreme. Freezing is a good way to get rid of any eggs. This is one way that museums treat affected objects in their collections and the same can be done in your home freezer. Just place the item in a plastic bag and put in the freezer for a couple of weeks, if possible.

How do you identify pests in your wool stash?

You might see the beasts themselves - perhaps a moth larvae or a carpet beetle. Carpet beetles also leave 'casts' of their skin, so look out for those too. One telltale sign when looking at wool is if there are any broken fibres on the surface of the ball of wool. Look at this ball of wool, purchased from a charity shop:

Munched wool

Can you see how there are broken fibres, where the wool has been chewed? This is a warning sign that there could be nasties inside. If you find wool like this in your stash, throw it in the bin and then freeze any wool which has been sitting near it. It's also something to look out for if buying wool from charity shops. Both moths and carpet beetles will be attracted to fibres that are soiled, which may be the case with charity shop wool. In my experience it's usually chucked in a box on the floor, and you don't know where it's been before it reached the shop. I'm not say never buy charity shop wool, but do be aware! You can read more about moths and getting rid of them here and here and about carpet beetles here.

Paranoid now? I hope not! I know talking about pests isn't very nice but I haven't seen in tackled on any other blogs I read. Don't let your lovely stashes fall prey to beasties!

Needles

I have a lot of knitting needles - nearly 50 pairs/sets. The best way I've found to keep track of my needles is by using the needles and hooks inventory on Ravelry.  Here you can enter all straight, double pointed and circular needles and easily check that you have the right size needles for a project. You can also print out the chart - this would be really handy to keep in your purse if you were looking to build up a collection of knitting needles, and looking in charity shops to do so.

A few months ago I sorted out my needles, organising them into sizes and types and labelling any on which the sizes have worn off.

  
All organised!

This bring me on to needle types. I prefer to knit with wooden needles rather than metal. Wooden needles feel nice in the hand and aren't too slippy so that your stitches slip off - I find this happens especially with metal double pointed needles. My favourite needles are a pair of 4mm straight needles in rosewood. They cost £10 which I know is a lot for 1 pair of needles, but are so nice to knit with.

That being said - for me a major risk of wooden needles is this:

Acts of cat

I try my best to tidy my needles away, but few pairs remain unmolested by small kitty teeth marks. *Sigh*. Wooden needles are generally more vulnerable to damage.

Metal needles are cheaper, fairly robust and plentiful. If shopping for charity shop needles, mostly metal with some plastic will tend to be what you find. This can be a great way to build up your needle collection when starting out - they tend to be cheap and you might even get some nice knitting chat from an old lady as you rummage through the pot of needles to look for a matching pair!


Two major things to check for with metal needles is that your needles are straight and that the painted covering at the pointed end is intact. I know from experience that you will wince every time you use the needles otherwise.

As you gather up a collection of needles you may have an assortment labelled with different sizes - British, American, Metric or even unlabelled. One really handy tool to help you sort out your needles is a needle gauge:

Mine was invaluable in my recent reorganisation.

Finished Items

Just like your wool stash, your finished hand knits are vulnerable to pest damage. If items are shoved to the back of drawers, stored under beds, at the back of cupboards, these dark, quiet places are perfect for bugs to get stuck in. Similar storage principles apply - try and check items regularly (every month or so), use moth-repellent products. Make sure garments are clean before you put them away - clothes which are soiled or sweat stained are particularly attractive to pests.

 Image from here - showing moth damage along with 2 case bearing moths. They make cases around themselves using the material they are eating - it would be quite cute if they weren't so evil and destructive!

More generally, you should try and launder and mend hand knits before storing them away - you'll be grateful for it when you bring out your hand knits in the cold weather!

How do you organise and store your knitting supplies? I hope some of today's post has been helpful - do come back tomorrow for the giveaway!

K x

    7 comments:

    1. Thank you for creating these useful knitting posts - I've really enjoyed reading them this week!
      I too love to knit with wooden needles - I find knitting with metal needles makes my wrists sore, so wood is definitely worth the extra cost.

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    Thanks for reading and commenting - I love to hear what you have to say