How should we be storing wool blankets at the cottage? When we close up, we always drape ours over a pole that’s suspended horizontally from the ceiling in the main room of our cabin. It’s what the previous owners did. Do you know why? Would we be better off storing the blankets another way?—Theresa James, via email
There’s no way to know for sure why the previous owners did this. Maybe they thought it looked nice. Maybe they hated having to fold things. Maybe their only free wardrobe was a portal to a secret land—with an evil witch and a talking lion—so it wasn’t suitable for storing anything long term.
More likely, they thought this would protect the blankets from mould and mustiness; blankets can grow mildew if they’re left in a damp place. It’s also possible they wanted to avoid creases, says Sally Bowen of Topsy Farms, a sheep farm on Amherst Island, Ont. that sells wool products. Some blankets, such as quilts with sensitive stitching, become worn if they’re folded for a long time. (Textiles are sometimes stored rolled and suspended, instead of left on a flat surface, to avoid compressing any part of the blanket.)
But there’s definitely a better way to store your wool. Hanging blankets leaves them vulnerable to moths, mice, and other critters—not to mention a cottage-load of dust. Plus, “all of the pressure exerted on the blanket is concentrated in one area in the middle, which will weaken that area and ultimately lead to rips and tears,” says Hillary Anderson, the conservator at the Textile Museum of Canada. She seals the museum’s wool blankets in polyethylene plastic bags. “I like to order 4 mil or 6 mil plastic because it’s thicker, so the bag will last longer. You want to avoid plastic bags with PVC in them, as they’ll degrade and become sticky over time.” Squeeze as much air out of the bag as you can before you seal the blanket inside.
Bowen, on the other hand, recommends storing wool blankets in a cedar chest. (Cedar is considered by some to be a natural moth and insect repellent.) Keep in mind: whichever storage bin, cabinet, trunk, or closet you use, the more mouse-proof, the better.
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This article was originally published in the Fall 2014 issue of Cottage Life magazine.