Feb 022012

This is a very sad tale of a beautiful and savaged shawl, on which the wretched moths (now deceased) did their worst.  Doing justice to this piece in photographs has been very difficult.    The paisley pattern which appears to be printed or woven is actually hand embroidered in 5 colours, so each motif is unique.  There is a tiny blanket stitch to edge the long sides, and the swirling lines are in a loose feather stitch: all incredibly labour intensive work to create a stunning cloth which up until now has stood the test of time.

As the holes are across the entire shawl and several other areas have been weakened, it was decided to back the item onto a new piece of wool.  This would give strength, but also add bulk leaving the item suitable for use as a blanket or perhaps a wrap, but not really as a scarf.  The project took 10 hours.

NB  The method described to save it is suitable for textile conservation/ preservation in museums or archives.  It is a way of repairing something you cannot bear to be without.

1.  A length of lightweight wool was purchased, dampened and dyed to match the shawl

2. The shawl was pressed and backed with bondaweb, a double- sided, paper backed, fusible adhesive for fabrics.  Care was taken not to touch the glue side of the bondaweb with the iron, especially through the moth holes.

3. The bondaweb and its adhesive backing was carefully cut away around the edges of the cloth and holes.

4.  The paper backing was peeled away.

5.  The shawl was pinned to the backing cloth, and smoothed to banish wrinkles.  It was pinned in place and ironed,  using the disguarded paper backing to protect the iron plate from any stray strands of glue.  Fabric of any age moves, and this shawl was far from rectangular.  You have to prioritise smoothness over geometry.

6.  The correct shade of brown was selected in a cotton thread (NB not polyester), and the edges were stitched down to the backing cloth.

7.  The holes were stitched around with large over stitches to stop them fraying.  This job can easily take years – if time is on your side, a web of tiny running stitches covering all frayed edges is the ideal solution.

The stitching can be seen on the back.

9.  The backing cloth is trimmed and hemmed.  I left it larger than the original to protect the delicate edges.

10.  The finished project is pressed with steam and a pressing cloth, and left to dry.

Mending of moth holes from £15.
All items must be laundered and/ or frozen for 1 week prior to my receiving them.
Please get in touch for a quote.

Nov 092011

Tineola.bisselliella.7218I have a steady stream of people come to me with tales of woe following an infestation from these destructive little beasties.  Given the number of garments that pass both through my home and workroom, here are The Dress Doctor's moth prevention and eradication tips.


•  Only allow pristine clothes into the wardrobe, they thrive on seemingly invisible dribbles of gravy and custard.
•  Remove all clothes from wardrobe and drawers and shake occasionally.  If possible hang outdoors to air for a day.
•  Hoover regularly, and often if you have wool carpets and rugs.  Shake them outdoors where possible, hoovering on their return.  Move furniture as well; you can bet the motherload will be in the tasty antique carpet well protected by a seemingly immovable chest.  Move it.  Then hoover inside it, hinges, recesses and all.
•  Leave the odd fresh cedar block and moth ball in danger zones if you can bear the smell.
•  Hormone laced moth traps are the weapon of choice for museums.  Get in touch with Agriessence and order some of theirs today.

All out war

If you find a single hole, do not leave it – more will swiftly follow and you will regret not springing in to action sooner.  Moths eat protein so wool is their diet of choice, with cashmere on special occasions, but do not be complacent about your silk, leather and suede items.

•  Remove all items from storage, shaking outside. Treat non-wool/ silk items stored nearby as infected as eggs may well be hiding in folds and hems.
•  Wash everything possible.  I soak all woollens in a bath of luke warm water for hours with a bit of oxyclean and some handwash liquid.  Rinse gently, and if the garment is not too fragile, spin on a delicates setting in the machine.
•  Dry clean what cannot be washed.
• For everything else (yarn stash, coats you cannot afford to take to the cleaners all at once, fur)  put the item in the freezer for a couple of weeks.  Remove, shake out, air/ dry off and shake again.
•  I hear ironing and microwaving at full power for 30 seconds both kill and can make you feel better as they squirm before your eyes.

Once you have dealt with the garments, follow the instructions above for prevention, but with added gusto and dilligence.  You’ll soon realise how women in decades gone by burnt so many calories through housework!

See how I reworked a precious shawl and a vintage suit following moth-a-geddon.

Mending of moth holes from £15.
All items must be laundered and/ or frozen for 1 week prior to my receiving them.
Please get in touch for a quote.