Now that it's warmed up here in Melbourne, it's time for people like me who live in very small houses to put our winter clothes into storage and bring in my summer garments. I used to just shove all my woollies into a box and jam it into the shed, but now that I've made so many of my own clothes from scratch, I feel more inclined to look after them properly. I think when store-bought clothing is so cheap it's easy to chuck out once a button goes missing or a moth nibbles a hole in it.
But the leggings I knitted myself, which took me months.. well I want them to last as long as possible. My down jacket made from my own home-reared chickens, my felted ugg boots from the fleece of my pet rabbit, and the garments I've spun myself then knitted... they were so very labour intensive, they have to last for as close to forever as possible.
So I've learnt how to store woollens and natural fibres properly. This is my third year of doing it, and so far so good. My clothes have had a a few nibbles, but they've all occurred while sitting in my loft, not in storage. Here's what to do:
- First step is to wash all the clothes, thoroughly and properly. This is the single most important thing you can do, and if you only do one thing before shoving your woollies out of sight, this is it. The moth larvae that nibble your clothes do so because they are feeding on the bits of sweat, grime and body oil that lives on them. No dirt, no oil = no food for larvae, and they die, having done minimal damage to your clothes.
- Put your dry, clean clothes inside a tightly woven cotton pillowcase or bag. Apparently the moths and larvae can't nibble through cotton, but they can eat their way through plastic.
- Now, if possible, store the cotton bag inside something the insects can't easily get into, such as a plastic tub with a lid, or a zipper bag.
- Optional: in with your clothes, you can add some sachets of herbs that will repel the moths. I've read mixed reports about this - alone it doesn't seem to work. Whether it really helps much is questionable. But I have lots or herbs in my garden and quite enjoyed making my sachets. Simply gather a handful of herbs, hang them up to dry for a couple of weeks, then crumple them into a handkerchief or small square of cotton fabric. Gather up the edges and hold with a rubber band or piece of string. Or you can sew yourself some very pretty sachets. If nothing else, they help the clothes smell nice next autumn when you take them out again.
If, like me, you are turning into the sort of person who actually does this, and looks after your clothes properly, there's a companion job that goes with this: mending. I did a huge pile of mending last week, when I spent the day at a friend's house. I brought my sewing box and damaged clothes, and in a few hours had made amazing progress. I promised myself, when I knitted those leggings, that if I saw the teensiest hole, I'd sew it up straight away, rather than letting the leggings get ruined. I've a gorgeous pair of slipper socks I knitted for myself a few years ago, wore about ten times, then discovered them later hideously moth eaten to the point of unwearability. What a waste of all that knitting. Never again. I'm now a sworn mender.
I keep a running list in my diary of things that need mending/minor alterations. There's no point making a pile of them because these clothes are too much in circulation to dump in a mending basket. And if I don't keep a list, then when I finally get around to my mending session, I forget half the stuff! While it only takes a minute or two to sew on a button or repair a small hole, I find it hard to do this whenever the hole first appears. It's easier for me to set aside time and do a whole pile at once. My last session was probably about 6 months ago, so it doesn't need doing all that often.
Do you have any tips for keeping your clothes in good condition, and looking after them properly? Leave me a comment with your suggestions.