Illustration by Antonia Parker.
While we’re dreaming of floating across daisy strewn meadows in muslin, there are others who are concentrating their tiny minds on our winter clothing. As the weather warms up, we see more and more little silvery bronze moths flying about. These pretties have hatched after pupation – and a hedonistic youth as grubs, gorging with an often devastating effect on our woollen and silk treasures. Traditionally moth balls (camphor) have been used to keep moths away, but the strong odor and concerns about toxicity have led to us looking for more natural alternatives – or just crossing our fingers and hoping it won’t happen to us.
Illustration by Kimberley Dodsworth.
Although most of us have clean houses we no longer clean in the way our families used to. Spring cleaning used to mean taking everything out of our houses, and scrubbing them from top to bottom before we put all our washed belongings back. One of the most effective ways to prevent moth attack is to clean your wardrobe – and your house thoroughly at least twice a year. Shaking rugs and large woollens out of the window will evict most moth eggs too. Cedarwood, lavender, cloves and other strong herbs do deter moths, but only within a small area – and they must be replaced often to ensure they keep working. Heirloom woollens and silks are best kept wrapped in acid free tissue and stored in a air tight wooden or card box. Storing very precious woollens in the freezer works too– but this is not always the best use of space.
Illustration by Minkee.
Once these champing creatures have taken hold it is important to deal with the infestation promptly. Boil, microwave or dry clean any affected items, and clean the area around them with weak washing up liquid solution with a few drops of lavender added, or old fashioned beeswax furniture polish. The most important thing is to remove any remaining grubs or their tiny off white eggs. Pheromone traps will prevent the moths from breeding further, and laying eggs by leaving the unfortunate man moths without mates –and are highly effective all year round. As vintage clothing collectors, we wish we’d known about them years ago.
Illustration by Kevin Bradshaw.
Once the damaged garments have been cleaned and checked, you can then see what might be rescued. Small holes can be darned and covered by beads, sequins or appliqué. Flower corsages and pockets work well too. Larger damaged areas may mean that you’ll have to be more creative, and salvage parts from several garments to make something new.
Illustration by Natasha Thompson.
If you’re not too confident with sewing yourself, there are great books, and online guides – and chances are you know someone who’d love to help you!
Illustration by Lucy Wills.
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