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Is this Yarn Going to Pill?

Apr 2, 2010

Bowl of yarn, anyone? Delicious!

One of my knitting buddies has a major-league aversion to any amount of pilling. She knits gorgeous sweaters and if they pill even a tiny bit, she won't wear them. She gives away lots of sweaters, though—lucky us!

Because of my friend, we've been talking a lot about non-piling yarns at knitting group lately. A lot of us are switching over to warm-weather yarns now, many of which are much less prone to pilling that cool-weather favorites such as wool and alpaca. Most of us are knitting with cotton, linen, and silk, or blends of these three fibers. (Many acrylics can pill, too.) My no-pill buddy is really happy with the linen-blend tank top she's knitting. After carrying it around in her knitting bag and working on it for about three weeks, there's no sign of pilling. Blends are a good choice because they usually bring together the best parts of their components.

The photo at left is a potpourri of yarns—clockwise from the small grayish ball at the top: Louisa Harding Jasmine (48% cotton, 39% bamboo, 10% silk, 3% polyester, in gray/silver), Tahki Dongal Tweed (100% wool, in pink); Cascade Pima Silk (85% pima cotton, 15% silk, in brown); Rowan Felted Tweed (50% merino wool, 25% alpaca, 25% viscose, in caramel); Cascade Fixation (98.3% cotton, 1.7% elastic, in lavender); Tahki Cotton Classic (100% mercerized cotton, in turquoise); S. Charles Collezione Sahara (44% viscose, 20% linen, 36% bamboo, in tan); Queensland Sugar Rush (100% sugar cane, in white); Filatura de Crosa Brilla (42% cotton, 58% viscose, in green); and Classic Elite Premier (50% pima cotton % 50% tencel, in mushroom).

All of these are in my stash, most in sweater quantity—I may have a problem.

Anyway, pilling doesn't really bother me, I just keep a couple of tools handy to manage pills, and refresh my sweaters in the process. I have a sweater stone I've used for years and recently I discovered a comb-like tool that you slide up or down (one way only!) on a knitted piece of fabric and, like magic, no more pills! I've also used this tool on my couch and it's amazing. New couch for $1.99!

The "Pill Test"

Check out this great idea from Shirley Paden, author of Knitwear Design Workshop: "Pilling (or abrasion) is a problem most commonly associated with softly spun yarns, particularly those spun from short fibers. It occurs when friction causes fibers to break away from the yarn structure and clump into little balls. To test for pilling or abrasion, hold your hand as if to snap your fingers. Place two strands of yarn between the snapping fingers and quickly roll them back and forth several times. If the yarn begins to separate or peel apart, it will likely pill under normal body abrasion in a garment, such as where the arms rub against the body."

Isn't that a cool trick?

Yarn Characteristics

Recently we had a segment on Knitting Daily TV where host and Interweave Knits editor Eunny Jang talked about different yarn types and how the many plying options can affect how yarn behaves, including its tendency to pill.

In the following clip, Eunny shows you how some organic yarns are constructed and how they knit up. Enjoy!

If you want to learn more about yarn construction (and MANY other tips and techniques!), check out the latest season of Knitting Daily TV: Series 400! I sure learned a lot, and I think you will too.


P.S. The National Needlearts Association wants your opinion! Take this survey  and you might win a $100 gift certificate for yarny goodness!

Featured Product

Knitting Daily TV Series 400 DVD

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Join host Eunny Jang and experts Shay Pendray and Kristin Omdahl on Series 400 of Knitting Daily TV, where fiber takes center stage!


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sewapril wrote
on Mar 6, 2012 2:20 PM

After googling the sweater stone and sweater comb, I found these easily.

karenb92 wrote
on Apr 11, 2010 8:19 AM

Wonderful really helped me out with ply

on Apr 6, 2010 11:13 AM

The tool is called the D*Fuzz It, and it's available at drug stores, fabric stores, and probably at your LYS!

It's currently my favorite de-pilling tool.

on Apr 4, 2010 10:28 AM

Where do I get the comb-like instrument you describe that renews your couch and your knitted items that pill?

KateP@4 wrote
on Apr 3, 2010 6:19 AM

I loved the sweater she featured as the "color work" sample.  Does anyone know where I could find that pattern?

PaulaF@2 wrote
on Apr 2, 2010 10:49 AM

In the future, it would be so helpful if you were to provide video of American style knitting when demonstrating techniques.  I realize that "pick" knitting has its followers but the majority of us knit "American" or "throw" and the demonstrations are useless for us.

Many thank.

JainsM wrote
on Apr 2, 2010 10:48 AM

I have an electric "piller". It's a small appliance with fan shaped cutter, covered by a cap with holes in it that catches the pills and cuts them off!  Worth the $10 or so that it cost me. There is also a battery operated one for travel. Buy one! You'll be happy (but your friend may not give anything away again!)

AnnR wrote
on Apr 2, 2010 10:38 AM

Very interesting video, Thanks.

I have a shaver for pilling, but it needs new blades, anyone know where to get them? Also, I am interested in Kathleen's comb like tool. Where did you find it?

keep up the good work.

Bev.P wrote
on Apr 2, 2010 9:51 AM

On Pilling: ... I found a battery operated "sweater shaver" with the name  "Evercare" on it.  I believe it was around $5.00, and was certainly under $10.00.  I have used it endlessly on wool, cashmere, cotton, etc... and it restores the beauty of the sweater without the pulling of fibers that I found the various stones and combs to do, -  (which I think leads to more pilling).  I think Target or some such has it.  It is safe on the fibers as well, and seems impossable to harm the actual yarn because of a shield on the head.   Anyway, I LOVE it!  

Bev. from Montana

AmyS@124 wrote
on Apr 2, 2010 9:47 AM

Interesting article.  I recently bought a sweater set at a rather expensive store, and the cardi is pilling after only 2 or 3 wearings!

You mention a comb-like tool for getting rid of pills.  Can you  let us know what it is?  Also, do you prefer one tool over the other?