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June 10, 2013

There is a saying, “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Unfortunately I believe I had one of these such learning experiences this past weekend. I attended the Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival on Saturday and while my experience overall was lovely, (and I plan on posting about it in detail at a later date,) I did end up with one not so great experience. Long story short I purchased a pound of English Shetland Roving for cheap and ended up with a bag that contains not only the lovely fiber but also a bunch of dead bugs (they are those bugs that look like lady bugs, but are more orange) there is also some moderate vegetable matter among the fiber and all I can do is hang my head in shame.

I made more than a few rookie mistakes at the fiber festival, but this one is by far the biggest. I am lucky because I didn’t pay an insane amount of money for the fiber, but at the same time the money isn’t the issue. I realize that it is my mistake for not looking at the fiber more closely when it was in the bag, but I naively thought that since it was roving and not raw wool and the shop owner looked through it a bit that I would be okay.

What happened was I wandered into a booth area and was browsing the lovely fibers, I asked the shop owner a few questions and built a friendly rapport. I originally asked for only four ounces of this fiber, because I have not spun Shetland before. I watched as the owner got the big bag of it down and looked it over. They then began to pull out their scale to weigh my section and I quickly realized I wanted a little more. So, I politely asked if I could get 8 ounces instead of 4 as they hadn’t even begun to weigh it yet. The shop owner agreed (of course they would it’s more money) and continued to fiddle with their materials. After getting the scale set up, they decided to weigh the whole amount just to see how much was in the bag. Lo and behold it was a pound of fiber. Knowing it was a good price and doing some quick math I realized I could get the fiber for pretty cheap. They ended up asking me again how much I wanted and said that they could divide the fiber in half (to get me my original 8 ounces) and I watched as she reached in the bag a little bit and made a motion to remove some. I made a snap decision and ended up purchasing the whole pound.

It went in stash quarantine with the rest of my purchases and it wasn’t until we back at my in-laws for the night that I went through and started putting the fibers I bought into sealed bags that I noticed a little bug in the biggest bag. I was a little taken aback but figured the little guy had stowed away during my time wandering around the festival. As I turned the bag over I noticed a few more and thought it was odd, and then I noticed a few more and began to feel that overwhelming sense of dread. The fiber had bugs. My heart sank, and my anger kicked in. I want to believe this was an unintentional mistake, I really do. I want to believe that there is a way to save the fiber ( I have no idea what actual damage is down (if any) to the fiber at this point) I really am hoping that some of you kind folks can share with me your tips and ideas on what to do. Ever make a foolish rookie mistake? Care to share and make me feel a little less like a fool?

I realize that the mistakes are mine, I was foolish enough not to check it thoroughly before purchasing and I also realize it is a learning mistake, but at the end of the day I am still left with a mini-grave site for all these bugs and a pound of fiber that I am not sure what to do. Email the shop owner? Attempt to salvage what is left of the fiber? Weep quietly in the corner and swear off fiber festivals in general?

Note: All the fiber purchased has been checked (minus the pound) and it is all currently sitting in sealed bags in another bin and will remain so for the next week or so.


From → Fiber Arts

  1. doctordana permalink

    That’s terrible that you got buggy fiber! But we’ve all made too-good-to-be-true purchases at a wool festival one time or another! It must be all the wool fumes.

    I’m afraid that this article makes it sound like these might be carpet beetles, which are super-annoying: “Black carpet beetles are oval in shape. Other common carpet beetles are more round. They are sometimes mistaken for garden ladybugs because they are similar in size and shape.”

    My go-to advice for bugs is to alternate between hours in the freezer and hours in a black trashbag in direct sunlight, but there might be more specific advice out there for this particular pest. Good luck! I bet you can save it!

  2. I don’t have any rookie roving purchase mistakes (yet) but I’m sorry you had to go through this. I’m hoping that you can at least salvage the wool, if you can’t then I’m rooting for you to get a refund.

  3. you got all the good advice on how to deal with the wool, but not much about the shop keeper. It sounds to me like she knew she was dealing with bugs, and worked to hide it from you, the way you describe the transaction. I would definitely let her know, and let her know you are very unhappy about it. If she has a webpage, a blog or face book, don’t be afraid to gently go public with your unhappiness. It might encourage her to “make good” on the deal. Just because you are not in Iowa does not mean that it can’t be made right. And whatever state you are in probably has a co-operative extension that can help you identify the bugs. Check your phone book for it under your state university. What a miserable shame – you will have a hard time enjoying spinning this wool, won’t you?

  4. shellssells permalink

    Raw fleece is a huge commitment in time, energy, and money for tools. Or, can be. You can do it on the cheap too, but best to have someone around who knows what to do with knowledge you can draw from. I’ve yet to find a fleece with any evidence of bugs. Maybe they wash out before I see them? Doubtful though, as I pick through it awfully thoroughly before it gets washed. However, I’ve purchased mill processed wool from vendors that upon further inspection have beetle carcasses. That sounds very similar to your experience.

    I know you’ve heard my irritation with the combed top/roving terms being used interchangeably. This probably has something to do with your confusion, one or the other was probably incorrect. From what you describe, it sounds like this vendor had a lot of mill processed fleece, which is a common sight there. So it really could be actual roving. If the fibers are all lined up going the same direction, it is combed. Roving will have fibers all jumbly in different directions. I’ve seen both from mills.

  5. Q – We got some Lincoln in class that was in the raw with little bugs, it was a donated fleece. I washed it well and spun it, it turned out to be beautiful! I’d take it outside, shake it out and gently re-wash. Pull out a staple, is it “crispy” or does it break easily? If not, you can salvage the wool. If it’s lice, the eggs will stick to the wool and you can’t get it out – dump that wool.

    All spinners have made a mistake, if someone says they haven’t, I’d give them the “squinty eye”. LOL!

    • Thanks for the advice, I will have to shake it out. For the most part it seems like it isn’t breaking, but to be honest I haven’t investigated much. It isn’t a raw wool which is why I was surprised at finding so many little dead bugs.

      • Q- gosh, I should have mentioned to make sure they are not carpet beetles. Check the id, good pics online. If that’s what they are, I’d be afraid to bring it in at all. Bad storage on the part of the seller. You’d expect there might be bugs in raw fleece, but processed? No way.

  6. Also, Shetland is about my favorite thing to spin! Has a great “grab” but can easily be spun anywhere from laceweight to chunky!

    • Good to know, I am really hoping it works out, the fiber is just a brilliantly gorgeous soft brown, I was so excited at the prospect of getting to play with it. Here is hoping the bug thing isn’t too serious.

  7. I’m by no means an expert, but I’m thinking with fleece, you might still be OK since it hasn’t been spun yet. Pull out some locks and give them a bit of a snap, if the fibers break easily problem, but if not, spin ’em and see what happens. I can’t find anything that says Ladybugs/Asian Beetles feed on wool so it may well be they just found a warm place to winter and left your fiber alone.

  8. I would contact the shop owner and politely ask for a refund. I would assume that she has not idea it was in there and will be as shocked as you were. If she doesn’t know that the bugs are in her fiber, she may inadvertently be selling to other people or having the bugs spread through her supply.

    As for the bugs, I’m not an expert there, having not experienced this. I think what I would personally do were I still in Iowa is take it into the local county extension office and see if they can help you identify it.

    Assuming you are an Iowa resident, you can also contact Iowa State’s Department of Entomology. I used to work with them on garden problems and they are awesome. They can tell you what type of bug you have and whether it’s worth trying to get rid of them.

    • I will definitely be contacting them. Refunds might be tricky since I am not in Iowa, but I will definitely let them know about the bug issue. I don’t actually live in Iowa anymore, but I think they are just the little Asian beetles, and as Suzy posted, hopefully they were just looking for a warm place to sleep.Thanks for the tips and website though!

  9. shellssells permalink

    Oh you just know I am going to comment right? You know me well enough to know that I cannot resist.

    So here’s what I’d suggest. Take the whole bag outside. Take the wool out of the bag and shake it. Anything that can fall out, will. Make sure the bug carcasses you were seeing in the bag are taken out too.

    Then you need to quarantine and just make sure there’s nothing alive in there.

    Once you are certain that there’s nothing alive lurking in there that could hurt your stash, you can still spin this. As long as it doesn’t have fiber eating live bugs in there, it will be ok. Maybe not the most pleasant thing in the world, but you can do this. (And I have done it, and you really wouldn’t know that the fiber had bugs, though not moths, as once it was spun and washed and dyed, it was all good.)

    But you’ll have to realize that you’ll end up with a mess. Best suggestion? Old clothes and outdoor spinning. However, I don’t know if that is an option for you. So, without the outdoor option, lay old towels on the floor, covering the space that your wheel and your chair sit on. The VM and the “stuff” is going to fall right out of there as you spin. If it doesn’t, you’ll be picking at it as you spin. And again as you ply. With the towels and the old clothes you can just pick all that mess up, shake it out outdoors, and wash it.

    Please don’t despair. If you don’t have moths, you probably have some perfectly spinable wool. It may not be what you love the most, but you can spin it and get a good result. And you weren’t foolish. Really you weren’t. If you ever were to see what I spin on the porch and the mess I make, you’d feel totally justified. I love the raw wools and the mess, and all that is involved in that. Look at this one as an adventure. If you can stand it, you may love fleece processing too. 🙂

    • I will have to take it out and give it a good shake, bugs in general freak me out so maybe I can bribe my husband to do it. I don’t think there are moths, I tossed some cedar planks in with the purchased fiber bins and my own fiber stash has a healthy dose of it as well. So far I have been fortunate with no moths, so here is hoping my track record stays golden. Spinning outside isn’t feasible, but the old towels and clothes definitely are. I am glad to hear that I am not a complete fool with this purchase. I was so tempted with the raw fleeces, but I purposely stayed away because I lack the tools to really do anything with it. I thought I would be safe with the roving (although I feel as though the shop vendor called it combed, the receipt says roving so of course I am all sorts of confused.) Thanks for replying, and I was thinking you might chime in with some great advice (as always.)

Care to share? Let me know what you think in the comments section.

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