Saturday, November 23, 2013

Moths 4, Humans -4

Last month, I spent several hours switching our seasonal clothing. This is more work than I'd like because we have too many clothes. But we also have moths, and they help with that.

Switching the clothes was more complicated last month because we were hit with a plumbing leak in our bedroom, right smack in the middle of the process. Our "big" closet was sealed shut for days during the repairs and the bedroom was a crowded mess for weeks. We store most of our stuff in two closets, two chests, an antique trunk, and one of the eight big Sterilite tubs that live under the bed.

My technique, twice a year, is to gather the out-of-season clothing, throw it on the bed, and then fill the vacant spaces with the current clothing I'd packed away the year before. Then the out-of-season clothing fills the newly emptied spots. Last May, I'd squirreled away our warm sweaters, coats, scarves, corduroys, and other winter things. A lot of sorting, organizing, stock-taking, trying on, refolding, de-pilling, and de-wrinkling goes on, of course. Cats turn up, here and there, under piles and in drawers. A bag of donations goes to Boomerang's.

Because we have moths, we store all of our wool sweaters, suits, and so on in good, canvas-and-plastic zippered bags, year-round. Getting dressed usually means rooting around among bags and squinting at the big, handwritten labels I stick inside, which are never clear enough. Our drawers and closets are full of bags — yet full of moths. Our moths are unbelievably stupid. They settle in cooking pots, tissue paper, clean towels, books. They are so stupid that they haven't realized that we have wool Persian rugs (but then I was stupid enough to buy rugs, knowing we had moths, so the score is even). It's not like we have a big infestation, but we do see one or two every week or so, which is enough.

So we have loads of zippered storage bags, and they usually do the job. But last month, when I pulled all the sweater bags out of our trunk, I saw a moth INSIDE one. A very fat, happy moth. And, of course, it was the bag with my all-time favorite, ratty, gray turtleneck, plus a black cashmere turtleneck. Sure enough, both sweaters were covered with cocoons, moth dirt, and holes. Disgusting. I would love to know how a moth got into a bag that is constantly zippered except for a few moments every few days. But I also don't want to think about it.

The dear departed, when it was new.

It's true that both of these sweaters had seen better days. By the end of its first winter, 2010–11, that gray sweater was a specimen that even Goodwill would have rejected, had I been willing to part with it. I'd worn it almost every single day for months. It had enjoyed a lot of long walks, condo-hunting, cat activity, napping, and soup-making that year. And we — the sweater and I — had reached an understanding where I'd put it in the washer, even though it was a merino-alpaca blend, and it would not shrink. The winters of 2011–12 and 2012–13 had also found me wearing that sweater far more than anyone who knows me would have liked. That sweater and I were one. Every so often, I'd pull off the most egregious pills, which looked like little caterpillars, and the sweater would begin generating replacements.

If Carson Kressley (or one of the makeover experts more recently on TV, whose names I don't know), had to choose two sweaters to eliminate from my wardrobe, he would have chosen the ones the moths picked. This tells us that moths are as intelligent as TV makeover experts, right? The black cashmere sweater was torn along its edges and a pilly mess, too. (J. Crew cashmere is not what it once was.)

I threw out the sweaters and the bag. Moving along, I found that my husband was also a victim. His two black merino turtlenecks had been invaded. So strange; have moths evolved to open zippers or crawl through tight canvas? More items for the trash. In the middle of the night. I got up, went out to the hallway, opened the trash bag and rescued my ratty gray sweater. Yes, it was gross and I didn't want to touch it. But we'd had a long relationship and I wasn't ready to part with it. I wrapped it in a plastic bag let it live in the recycling bin out there for a decent interval before we parted forever.

No one in America makes a long, soft, slim, fuzzy-warm charcoal gray turtleneck sweater that's affordable. Trust me, I've looked. I am a shopping maven; it it's out there, I find it. I confess that there is a J Crew "Shadow" Turtleneck just like mine on eBay right now, for $36 — which is about what I paid for mine. But it's used, and knowing how hard I used mine, I hesitate. Plus, who in their right mind would sell that sweater if it wasn't a mess? Any sensible person wouldn't part with that sweater unless it had been cursed or something. I didn't like the vibes from the eBay listing.

In a shop in Woodstock, Vermont last weekend (postcards coming), I found this:

It's Irish, made of merino with a touch of cashmere, thick, soft, warm, and fitted. A fabulous upgrade. But it cost more than five times the price of my charcoal sweater, and it was not charcoal. It's a versatile color, oatmeal, but it left me covered head to toe in oatmeal fluff when I tried it on. I went through three lint-roller sheets, courtesy of the shop, before I could leave. The solution would be to air-fluff the hell out of the sweater in the dryer, I'm sure. But it was still the wrong color, and expensive, given its likelihood of becoming moth food. The shop said it was a bestseller but they never get other colors.

Smart and devious shopper that I am, I noted the label for web-sleuthing when we got home. I found the maker online, and discovered that the sweater also comes in ecru and three shades of gray, Including charcoal. But the company doesn't have an online retail operation, they just export, mostly in Europe, to shops that also don't offer international, online sales. So I sent them an email asking how to get a sweater. 

VoilĂ !

They wrote back, telling me I should just tell them what I want, and they'll accept a credit card or PayPal. The cost, including international shipping is roughly 3.5 times what I paid for my ratty sweater. I can handle that. And yet I hesitate. It seems that my husband is still burned-out from seeing me in a charcoal turtleneck. (I really wore it a lot.) He much prefers the oatmeal. So I am carefully giving him his due consideration before I pick the color. But you know, and I know, how this is going to end.  


  1. Sorry to the Mr., but go with the gray - a far better color than oatmeal when you have cats, and that Aerolatte thing. No one seems to make good cashmere any more - I have 20 yr old, basic cashmere sweaters from Lord and Taylor that never pill and still look great. The newer ones I have all pill mercilessly. And, I have an old black one FULL of moth holes, but can't bear to part with it. For decency's sake, I wear a black cami under it, and only wear it at home. Enjoy that new sweater!

  2. Thank you, 4cats — mentioning the Aerolatte settled the issue instantly! I still have my two oldest cashmere sweaters, as old as yours, and they never pill and look almost new. I have lots of experience mending small moth holes with those little lengths of yarn that come with new sweaters. In any color but black, my repairs tend to show, but black looks fine. (My recently departed black sweater had big holes.) Before we had so many zipper bags, I used to fold my husband's sweaters backwards, so the moths would go for the back of the sweater, and he could still wear them under a sport coat.


Spam goes right into the trash but I appreciate relevant comments from non-spammers (and I can always tell the difference). I do my best to follow up if you have a question. ALL spam, attempts to market other websites, and anything nasty or unintelligible gets deleted instantly. The cats and I thank you for reading — and please feel free to comment on what you read.