Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Love your woollies

Autumn is a lot more bearable if you have a nice selection of woolly things to wear. I can't sew, so for me knitting has been the easiest way to create my own repro clothes. Nowadays you can get all sorts of fibres to knit with, but I do find myself coming back to natural fibres. Up until the late 1950s/early 1960s, sheep's wool was the main option for knitting with (although other yarns were available; whole farms of angora rabbits were clipped regularly to make Patons Fuzzy Wuzzy yarn). I'm not keen on the feel of some synthetics, especially the cheap ones attempting to feel like wool, as they set my teeth on edge, but I do understand why women embraced synthetics when they came out. They were easier to wash (no risk of felting in the machine), dried more quickly, and introduced variations in shades. You're never going to get pure white wool, the closest you'll get is very pale cream. You can, however, get nylon and polyester in brightest white. This also affects the coloured fibres, so you'll get brighter, clearer shades in synthetics. Personally, I prefer my colours a tad more muted and find a lot of synthetic colours a little too harsh, but they're ideal for knitting up a 1960s colour palette.

Wool's really big advantage (in fact, all animal fibres' big advantage) is warmth. Synthetics just aren't as warm. Nowadays most people have central heating and work in heated offices, so that's less important, but I feel as energy prices rise we're all going to be looking for ways to stay warm without turning up the thermostat, and a repro knit will do the job nicely and keep you stylish as well as snug.

One word of warning about animal fibres: MOTHS. Clothes moths themselves aren't the problem, but they lay eggs in your clothes and the larvae eat the fibres. I had a massive panic earlier this year after finding insect eggs in a ball of yarn, however on closer inspection all the other balls of yarn it had been stored with were fine, and there was no damage to the ball either. It seemed that within a day of me getting the yarn out, a moth had got into it! I went through all my clothes (including the wool-rich tweedy skirts I've been getting from charity shops as well as my jumpers) and all my yarn. No moths. My house doesn't have carpets, so they couldn't get in there. In the end I used insecticide on a sheepskin rug and invested in loads of hanging anti-moth devices. They kill eggs and larvae as well as the insects, so are a good idea in wardrobes and cupboards where the little beasties can get into cracks and crevices. Zensect moth balls are also good; they're bright orange and turn white when they've run out of power, and they're wrapped in perforated plastic so you can put them in pockets or among stacked jumpers without risk of staining. I don't know if this year's awful weather has anything to do with it, but friends have commented on clothes moths too, and I think there may be more about. If you love your vintage woollies, check them for moths!

8 comments :

  1. I know what you mean about synthetic yarn setting your teeth on edge, they do the same with me in fact I'm getting all goosebumpy thinking about it! *shudder*

    I think there has been a bit of a clothes moth boom this year, as I've heard quite a few stories of moth damage. I did panic a bit and checked all my vintage clothes for any damage and then stocked up on cedar balls and natural moth repllent sachets. So far, so good!

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  2. We always seem to have clothes moths in the house, but as yet I've never found them in yarn or in my clothes. Do have cedar blocks sprinkled liberally though.

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  3. One thing to watch out for is what looks like dust in the same colour as your yarn/garments, as the larvae will cause that in the process of eating things, so if you see that, they're doing damage.

    Storing in plastic is handy, as long as you're not sealing the little blighters in.

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  4. Do you know if moths are only into 100% wool or are they happily munching away on blends as well?

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  5. Superheidi, they'll eat blends and also some other natural fibres - I've had silk munched in the past, and the yarn they got into was a silk/camel blend.

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  6. Thanks, Ohmy, they're evil beasts!

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