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Handmade: Pesky moths take a bite out of knitted scarf

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News
balls of yarn for a purple knitted scarf.

Wool — whether it's cashmere, mohair, merino, angora, alpaca or the less expensive, version known simply as "wool," — knitters and crocheters love it — and we're not alone! Moths love it so much that they feed on it! I guess you could say they have expensive taste!

The much-dreaded insect, a close relative to the butterfly, has a way of redesigning, if you will, wool garments, and other items, by eating holes with uneven frayed edges into them.

Just ask my co-worker, page designer Diana McNary, whose proficient skills you've seen right here, week after week, in our Homestyle section, where she's worked her creative expertise for the past 11 years, producing eye-appealing page layouts. 

Around 2009, The Detroit News hosted a Christmas Craft Show for employees to sell and/or shop for handmade goods. I was one of the vendors, and McNary purchased a  purple wool and silk blend scarf I'd knitted with a simple moss-stitch, using a fine yarn I found at the Knotted Needle in Grosse Pointe Woods.

A purple knitted scarf.

Using size 6 needles, I knitted the scarf by holding two strands of the yarn together. I randomly added blocks of standout rows by holding the purple yarn with a strand of either scrap yarn or a variegated ribbon from my stash for pops of color and added texture.

Like so many creative individuals (including yours truly), purple is McNary's favorite color. "I was drawn to (the) purple, and you do such beautiful work," said the Detroit resident, who's been stylin' purple tresses for the past two years. "Working downtown, we walk a lot, and when it's 20 degrees and snowing sideways, it helps to wrap up like a mummy." She always liked wearing the scarf wrapped around her neck twice for extra-warmth. And, the fact that it was extra-long, suited her 5 foot-11 inch frame quite well. 

But then one day, she brought the scarf in to the office to show me where moths had eaten away at my stitches. I was shocked! The troublesome insects, who clearly have no regard for fashion, had spent their summer vacation feasting inside her closet, destroying hours of my knitting. There were quite a few holes in the scarf in varying sizes, including one nearly the size of an orange. 

"I didn't realize it was made of wool, and left it in my closet over the summer, instead of a cedar chest," said McNary. "Some moths thought it was delicious!" She asked if I could make repairs, but I informed her I no longer had any of the purple yarn.

A couple months later, at our 2016 Christmas brunch, McNary and I, along with family, friends and several colleagues, shared a table, where she expressed interest in having me knit her another purple scarf. I was flattered but failed to jump on the project because I'd turned my attention to crocheting.

Earlier this year, around the time I started my "yarn diet" (what a joke that was!) — I came across 10 purple balls of  Reynolds "Blossom" yarn (50 percent acrylic, 40 percent viscose, 10 percent cotton) tucked away in my stash. I forgot I had them. I'd found them several years ago in the clearance room at the Wool & the Floss in Grosse Pointe, and, of course I had to buy all 10. I didn't have a project in mind at the time, but it was one of those deals where I would have been a complete nitwit not to purchase them.

Diana McNary models a purple knitted scarf.

The yarn had a rick-rack-like texture, and although the color was very close to what was left of McNary's moth-eaten scarf, the feel was different, and the weight a bit heavier. But, by randomly adding a choice selection of novelty yarns from my stash, I knew I could reproduce a scarf that would look similar to the first. 

After months of working on it between other projects, I was finally able to present the 10-by-84-inch scarf to McNary last month, just in time for another Michigan winter. She was totally thrilled when she saw it and has since informed me, "It does the job" of keeping her warm like the original one!

As I'm writing this on a day with below freezing temperatures, I can see the scarf on top of her desk, and, I must say, as a crafter, it's certainly nice to know my work is so well-appreciated.

Detroit News columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or