While you’re reading this, my friends and I are traveling through coastal Oaxaca, Mexico. We’ve come to see the purple dyeing obtained from the glands of the shellfish Murex, to meet with a group of women who are cultivating brown cotton and hand spinning it, and to witness the weaving of the finest handspun cotton, backstrap woven, brocade cloth from an Amuzgo village. I’ll share many of our discoveries with you in future blogs, as well as offerings in the ClothRoads shop. But for now, I’ll give you some advice from our trip to Oaxaca a few years back—be careful about what you bring back home.
A Visit with Spinners from Chichicapan
We visited with sisters Narcissa Venigas Perez and Paula Venigas Cruz. They raise sheep, spin, and weave near the little village of Chichicapa in the mountains above Oaxaca City. It’s always interesting to see how other spinners card wool and remove rolags from the carder, the type of wooden handspindle used, and how they reel the yarn from the spindle before using it. China teacups hold the tip of the spindle while spinning. Toes are used to brace the spindle for reeling. And the result is a medium-weight, variegated natural handspun wool ready to be sold. We were there with our money.
Once back home, these lovely, tightly-wound balls sat in a wooden bowl waiting to be woven into a rug–the yarn was coarse so it wasn’t worth doing much else with it. About a month later, I received a call from my friend who had also bought some. She was getting ready to use it and noticed something emerging from inside the balls—pesky moths. I quickly grabbed mine, tossed them into a plastic bag, and into the deep freezer they went. And that’s where they stayed. I thought I’d wait a few months, skein the wool, wash it, and weave it. But instead of a few months, it was a few years. Those moths would certainly be dead by now. I started to wind the yarn into skeins but the yarn was pulling apart every foot or so–moth larvae had worked its way through the ball of yarn. It just wasn’t worth keeping.
So I’ve learned my lesson. If I buy any handspun wool or product from a village, where I can smell the sheep, and it clearly hasn’t been washed, I put it right into the freezer. But now, thanks to Allison Judge, I know freezing is only the first precaution, followed by direct sunlight, more freezing, and washing. She wrote an excellent article (Spin-Off Winter 2014) about moths and treatment options should you have an infestation.