Monthly Archives: September 2016

How to get the mothball smell out of clothing

Two years ago I resorted to storing my winter woolens in mothballs after a particularly nasty clothes moth infestation wreaked havoc on my yarn stash. That was a painful week, throwing out skein after skein of expensive yarn because–grr–the moths had a particular fondness for the skeins that cost a fortune!!! I didn’t want to lose any handknits to those damn pests so rather than relying on lavender, cinnamon, and bay leaves (which repel, not kill), I went the mothball route to ensure all buggers were dead.

Here’s the thing about mothballs: they smell terrible. And yes, I know, they’re terribly toxic too, but my infestation was so great, I figured one or two seasons of mothballs would be a risk worth taking as long as I was careful handling them and I minimized my and my family’s exposure to them. I would not use them if I had young children in the house, and we store off-season clothing in a room where our cat isn’t allowed.

So back to the smell–it seems like mothballs evoke all kinds of different images and memories for people. For my mom, the smell reminds her of walking to school in her winter coat and every time she moved, getting a whiff of mothballs she hoped no one else could smell. My friend says the smell makes her think of “old people.” For me, I think of a metal wardrobe my parents had in the 70s. It must have stunk of mothballs.

Mothballs are a sure bet at killing moths and larvae, but what you can’t count on is getting the stink out of your clothes afterwards. The first year I used mothballs, I did what I thought was the logical thing: I washed all my stored items to remove the residual smell. Unfortunately, not only did it not work, it actually made everything smell worse!!! Drycleaning? Useless, as well as expensive. So I tried some other tactics, such as soaking garments in white vinegar and water (helped a little) and storing them in a plastic container with some baking soda (which maybe masked the odor more than killed it). I also tried lavender sachets and even “Febrezed” some of my more “hearty” knits. Eventually I couldn’t smell the mothballs when I would take the item out of the container or my closet, but here’s the weird thing — if the garment got damp, such as from rain or being in the snow, it would start to reek of mothballs again. So frustrating that I couldn’t get rid of the chemical odor!

Near the end of last winter, I was doing some research to find out if mothballs can repel snakes (nope–snakes can’t smell). I hit on a description of naphthalene, the chemical in mothballs, which said naphthalene gas is broken down by bacteria, fungi, air, and sunlight. WELL! No wonder water didn’t work so well for me! I piled all my woolens in a laundry basket and headed out to our sunny backyard with a bag of clothespins. By the end of the day, all of the woolens I’d hung up on our clothesline were virtually free of mothball smell. For good measure, I aired them out the next day too, and for the rest of the winter, I could wear woolens that didn’t smell as though they’d come out a steamer trunk in my great-grandmother’s attic.

That’s what I’m doing today — airing and sun-cleaning all my woolies for the coming winter. What I do is every hour or two move things around and flip garments over so they don’t get sun bleached, especially if there’s a fold in the fabric. (I ruined a sweater when I was a teen by leaving it in the sun too long with the arms crossed across the body. Learned that lesson early!) Some of the heavier items, like my Aran cardigan, will get a second airing tomorrow. Then I’ll handwash everything to get rid of any dirt or insects that landed on the garments while airing and then store the clothing on shelves lined with lavender and cinnamon sachets.

 

Back to WordPress

A bit disappointed that Hugh Laurie didn’t win an Emmy for his role in The Night Manager. Boo!

My co-author and business partner said she didn’t mind if I used some space on our server to host my blog, so I spent an evening last week reinstalling a backup copy of my blog to the new host. A couple of times I was ready to pull my hair out, but I find walking away and taking a break usually resolves the (human) error. I liked Blogger’s platform, but it broke all my permalinks, which cost me some traffic. Not that I get tons of traffic here, but a couple of my posts get a lot of hits because (I hope) they’re helpful, so there was that.

Last Saturday I drove down to Connecticut with my son for a family meeting. My stepmom’s best friend from high school was there, and she let us pick one of these pot-holders made from felted sweaters. I thought they were so cute and clever. (I picked one of those teal birdies.)

K worked in theater costume design for years, so I’m excited that next month when I drive down to North Carolina for a business meeting I’ll be spending a night at K’s house in Baltimore, which is roughly half-way between Boston and Research Triangle. I’d been agonizing whether or not to make the 12-hour drive in one straight shot, but when K invited me to spend the night at her house–quilts, sewing, fiber arts–no way was I going to turn that down. It’s nice because the part of the trip I was dreading has turned out to be something I’m looking forward to. I don’t really have any friends who are as into sewing and knitting as I am. They appreciate it, but they don’t want to talk about it to the degree I do.

Warm and rainy here today. Beautiful sunset in the evening as we drove back from Lexington. O wouldn’t let me pull over to take a picture. It kind of looked like this:

48 hours

It has been a long two days. I’ve been a bit overdue for my annual cancer checkup, which involves some invasive and altogether unpleasant medical procedures, so today was the day. The actual day is not that bad; once I’m at the hospital and hooked up to an IV, the worst is pretty much over. When I awaken, I know I’ll be able to eat again, to breathe easier that another year has passed and with luck, put more distance between the time I wasn’t so lucky.

Except that today, the worst wasn’t over. When I awoke after the procedure, I was in terrible pain. Awful. And I’m not a wimp about pain so when I say it hurt, it hurt. It took hours for the pain to subside to a point where I wasn’t wincing every time I changed position, and even now, over twelve hours later, I get an occasional stab just under my breastbone. My doctor also found a new polyp, this one much higher in my colon, which was removed and will be biopsied. He didn’t seem too worried about it; he told me and my husband that it was “tiny,” unlike the huge mass he found five years ago. I’ll know the results in a couple weeks. I have a lot of work to keep me busy so I plan to distract myself. Another clue that he’s not too concerned it’ll come back positive is that he’s pushing my next checkup to three years instead of one. That’s great news!

The one thing that sucks about cancer is that even with a good outcome, it may be out of your body but it’s always there in the back of your mind. My risks for another diagnosis are higher than someone who hasn’t had that diagnosis. I do remind myself that my grandmother had colon cancer in her 70s and lived to be 100 and it wasn’t cancer that got her, but old age. Every time something goes wrong with my digestive system, I wonder if I’ve got another tumor growing in there. It’s hard to know when to relax or when I should be on it.

I was feeling too bad afterwards, so my husband brought me home to sleep it off best I could, then we went out later for food. I hadn’t eaten in two days, and all I wanted was miso soup and California rolls. We have a fantastic Japanese restaurant in town, so we enjoyed an early dinner then brought take-out home for our son. The food hit the spot, the perfect meeting between what my tastebuds craved and my stomach wanted.

On the ride home, we were talking about the weather and I mentioned to him how I was looking forward to fall because it was “knitting season.” He said, “Sweetie, with you every day is knitting season.” Hahahaha! Not quite true — I prefer sewing more in the summer, but I do always keep something going on my needles year ’round, mostly socks. But for the past week or two, I’ve found myself trolling Ravelry more. I think I need more shawls. I used to enjoy knitting shawls but felt they didn’t mesh well with my style so I stopped. When we were in Germany this summer, though, I got a lot of use out of my Pebble Beach shawl — I used it to block the sun on my shoulders during a day-long boat trip, as well as a garment to keep me warm at night. So I think I’ll focus on making a few new shawls this winter — they certainly are quite handy!

Cranking it out

Yesterday (Friday) was mostly spent working like a dog on Money Shots: doing some last-minute research at the grocery store (oops, forgot to talk about all those new refrigerated coffees and how you can save $ with them), editing recipes, adding to the text portion of the book, assigning ISBNs through Bowker. I love this stage of book-writing–the end is nigh and the incoherence has been beaten and massaged into paragraphs that make sense.

Updated author photo; forgive the war paint

Updated author photo; forgive the war paint

What is really enjoyable is having all my fingers in the pie, not just the writing one. I suspect I’m more of a manager than an artist at heart; maybe a manager with artistic sensibilities. Whenever I take those left brain/right brain quizzes, I fall in the middle somewhere, maybe a little bit more to the left on one day, more to the right on the next. I’m not one of those writers who throws up her hands at the prospect of doing some math, figuring out a bit of geometry, or working on some website coding that’s gone wonky.

Anyway, yesterday was a productive, satisfying day that left me feeling like, “Ok, I’ve accomplished something here.” Writing isn’t particularly hard for me as much as it’s tedious and slow business. So I’m going to enjoy the weekend and finish my new denim skirt, which only needs to be hemmed. “Only” is misleading here; it’s a button-up skirt with a facing and I can’t quite figure out from the directions what I’m supposed to do with that flap of fabric, but I’ll figure it out after a few more cups of coffee. Then, since it’s a bit overcast today, it feels like a good day for a leisurely bike ride, maybe as far as Cambridge with some knitting packed into my bike kit. (It’s surprisingly pleasurable to pull over in a scenic spot to work a few rows of garter stitch!) I don’t want to save it till tomorrow because we’re supposed to get some stormy weather. Maybe dinner out tonight with the husband … yes, sounds like a good day.

Speaking of which, here’s what a good man I have. Recently, packages have been arriving in the mail addressed to him, which I don’t open. That was a cardinal rule in our home growing up, you never open someone else’s mail, so I don’t do it even if I know what’s inside is for the house or something he’s ordered for me. So when he comes home, he opens these packages and leaves the contents on my work table. To wit:

img_20160910_111149

This was everything from the last week. He had overheard me mumble something about not having good marking tools for the dark fabric I was using as a mockup, so he took it and ran with it. {{{}}} Of course, we have an unwritten agreement that whenever he needs something sewn, whether it’s bathing trunks, a wallet prototype, or a pair of pants that need rehemming, that I’ll do the work. But really, I think it’s time for me to get going on the tailored dress shirt I promised him for a birthday present something like five years ago. :-/

Fall is (almost) here

For once, I’m happy that September has been ushered in the door. Summer here in eastern Massachusetts has been hot and dry; our county is under a severe drought, my vegetable garden didn’t survive past the end of the July (the deer also helped), and because I’m a woman of a certain age going through some hormonal changes, the heat makes it hard for me to get comfortable. So autumn, let’s get it on!


I can always tell fall is in the air because the knitting projects I mostly ignore during the summer start calling to me from their dusty project bags … like the wine-colored mohair cardigan I intended to wear for a Christmas 2015 party:

I’ve knitted the back, which you see above, as well as the two sleeves. When I knit sweaters, I always knit the sleeves first just to avoid the whole “Second Sleeve Syndrome” thing that often happens … you get done with one sleeve and think, “Oh God, another?” then never finish the darn thing. Here, what happened is that I didn’t take great notes when I was knitting the back, so when I started to knit the two fronts, instructions like, “decrease on the same row as you did on the back.” Had I kept notes, I’d know what that row is. But I didn’t, so in a fit of pique I threw the sweater aside and went on to knit something else, probably a hat … or ten. 😉 And I would rip the back out and start over again — I’m the kind of knitter who doesn’t mind taking something completely apart to get it right, even if it means I “wasted” days knitting it the first time ’round — but this is silk mohair, and you knitters know it’s sheer hell to tink back a row, never mind rip back a whole sweater knit in mohair! 

So … the plan now is to use a measuring tape and measure the best I can where I should start decreasing for the armholes and neck holes. And take good notes so I have them for the other front side of the cardigan. I was being a big baby about it, but it’s time to move forward and get this lovely sweater finished. BTW, it’s an Erika Knight design — I knit one in gray a few years ago and it’s one of my favorite pieces. I’m going to knit another in an icy blue, maybe with some silver thread shot through the ribbing.

I’ve always got a pair of socks going, of course, to get me through appointments, waiting rooms, and sitting in the car waiting for my son to appear. Speaking of my son … it was his first day of high school this week. Late Monday night when my husband and I were talking in bed, I started to cry because it hit me that in four years he’ll be off to college. “He’ll be an adult!” I sniffed, and my husband said, “No, he’ll be an adult in three years, two months.” Geez, honey, thanks! 😉 Anyway, Oliver wasn’t too excited starting school again, but he did say he liked his math, history, Latin, and digital art classes.

The publishing company we started at the beginning of the year (“we” being my long-time co-author and business partner Linda) is going well, and in October we’re releasing another title called Money Shots: How to Save Cash on Your Coffee Habit—While Still Feeling Full & Satisfied. Linda did the lion’s share of the writing, while I’ve been handling the recipe development. By tomorrow I should be finished with the last of the recipes. I’ve been on a perpetual caffeine high for the last six weeks. In some ways it has been good because it has me buzzing around here making lists and plans and actually executing some of those plans! On the other hand, my adrenal system feels shot so I’ve been taking long walks to calm the jitters.

Research for our next book!

Let’s see, what else? I’m planning a short trip to North Carolina next month to meet with Linda. I was hoping to make a stop in NYC to do a little shopping in the Garment District, but the truth is, my fabric stash is overtaking my studio and I have too many sewing projects already in the queue. When I’m faced with too many possibilities, I stall and get nothing done so the smart choice is save NYC for when I really need something. My brother is coming up this weekend to go hiking with my son; it’s always nice to spend time with my brothers. 🙂

Hope you’re enjoying the cooler weather wherever you are. 🙂