Our first apartment was nothing like the ideal lovers’ nest. It wasn’t well heated in the winter, had very few windows, and had a big cement block for a floor. The cement was great in the summer, because it held the cold for a long time. At least, it was great until it got humid.

Boston summers are known for their humidity, and the last summer that we lived there was a particularly bad one. Almost every closed up room went moldy that summer, because everything was warm and wet. There were huge repair expenses in libraries, office buildings, dorm rooms, anywhere that didn’t get enough air circulation went moldy. Our apartment, with its big concrete block to condense water underneath the rug, was no exception.

It’s amazing how fast mold spreads. One day things smell a little musty. The next day you’re sure there’s mold in here somewhere. Within a week, it’s climbing the walls.

That was the week that I developed asthma, which I’ve had ever since. Something about that mold got my immune system in a tizzy, and it hasn’t come back out of it yet. We’ve thrown away almost everything that we owned in that apartment, because I’m allergic to it, whether or not it was ever touched by the mold. One piece of clothing (that’s been washed several times) can be left in an open room for just a few days, and it starts to get to me. We’ve washed. We’ve dry cleaned. We’ve aired, and sunned. We’ve thrown away. The smell got into our last apartment anyway, and was part of the reason that we moved.

We’ve gotten rid of pretty much everything that we can bear to part with. But I’m still allergic to the basement where the rest of it is lurking. We’ve been talking about dealing with it forever, but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

When we got home from Christmas, I was allergic to my house. I don’t know for sure that it was from the basement, but it was time for it all to go. So, last weekend, we cleared out 7 bags of favorite clothes that we were hoping to fit again someday, and my entire quilting stash.

I’ve been quilting since before high school, and I tend to be a scrap quilter. I have little bits and pieces of fabrics that I have been lovingly carrying along with me for well over 10 years. There are pieces of material left over from my first quilt, from blankets that we’ve given as wedding gifts, from the one I made for my best friend. There were scraps from a quilt that I made when I was 14 or so with a group at church to send to Chile, pieces that I’d been given by friends and neighbors that I’ve fallen out of touch with that are literally all I have left of them. Every piece had it’s story, and was patiently waiting to be woven into a new one. Honestly, I’m more attached to my quilting stash than my knitting stash. With yarn, you use it for one project, and it’s mostly done, except for a few odds and ends. It has the memory, but not the promise of turning into something completely new, of bringing two parts of your life in ways that you didn’t expect. With quilts, those little odds and ends are what make the piece. Fabrics have history.

But the fabric stash was with me in the moldy apartment, which meant that it had to go. I matched it all according to color, sorted the pieces, took photos for posting to Craigslist, and put them all neatly in grocery bags. We posted. And waited.

I guess asking $20 a bag for literally hundred of dollars worth of fabric is too much on Craigslist. We got 4 calls, and 4 no-shows. One little old lady suggested a senior center that was looking for donations, and I really just needed it out of the house. So, Branden brought the fabric to a seniors’ quilting club yesterday.

I think I’m a little numb. I’m glad it’s gone somewhere that it will be used. The little old lady made Branden come in and have a cup of tea and told him all about their club; they are very productive seniors, and it was clear that it will be well loved. And I’ll be really glad not to bring the allergies with us again next time we move. It was important for my health, if for no other reason. It’s just that it’s sort of like throwing out an old picture album; it takes a little while to let go.

But here, in the new year of 2009, I have a clean slate on my fabric stash. I’m not much of a hoarder, and I prefer to have less stuff, especially stuff that I can’t use. The hard thing about this was that the fabric was still useful, just not to me. If moths got into my knitting stash, I’d throw it out and not feel badly beyond aching at the waste.* Things can be replaced, if they need to be. It was hard to have the fabric be in perfect condition, completely normal and innocuous to anyone that isn’t me, and yet still be something that makes me stop breathing within minutes of entering a room with it. I wanted to use it, and it made me crazy that I couldn’t. But now it will be used, by people that understand the magic of fabric. It’s off to build its own history, and I can continue with mine.

I think it will feel good to start over.

*Please note that this is not intended as a taunt toward the knitting fates. I would be horrified if moths infested my wool. Getting rid of my knitting stash just wouldn’t have the same sense of giving up 10 years worth of memories, and a lifetime worth of possibilities. I am not asking for a smiting on the knitting front, too.