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The Definitive Thread on Wool Pilling

pebblegrain

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What causes wool pilling?

Quality? Weave? Color? Gauge?

Do cashmere sweaters at the $600 level never pill? I don't know as I have not owned any.

All I know is that...

Merino: usually doesn't pill no matter how cheap. I have several identical $20 V-necks from Target which never pill, except for one, in gray. How can only 1 color pill?

Lambswool: my gf has a 10-yr old PRL sweater which never pills, and she said it never has. I have a PRL from last year and it pills like crazy.

I have some old lambswool Burberry scarves and they have the best hand, weight, and non-pilling I have seen

Cashmere: like I said, I don't own any expensive cashmere. But I have cheap sweaters from Calvin Klein which are great and never pill. But I've heard plenty of RLPL horror stories here. Why?

Older weaves: do old heavy Cowichan, Aran, and Norwegian patterns pill?

How can I buy a sweater and know it won't pill up? Can you tell me something other than price?
 

number9dream

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Yep, these are today's wool fans. So much for a "definitive thread."



If you can't even tell, what does it matter?
 

lantern

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Well, I wear a fair bit of wool. I'm no expert, but from what I can tell, the piling is due to abrasion, and because of it, the denser the wool, the less likely to pile. Or at least that's what I think. Another important factor is washing - when the wool is wet it's even more susceptible to abrasion and hence piling. The best way to wash, IMHO, is to simply place the wool item flat on the (soapy) water in your tub, let it soak and sink, not doing anything to do. The less you disturb the wool, the less it will pile. In addition, even if the water is hot, without disturbing the garment, it won't shrink. Leave it there for, say, 15 minutes, repeat once or twice to rinse.

That's about it ...
 

pstoller

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Pilling is caused by abrasion; the more friction to which an area of the fabric is subject, the more likely it is to pill.

Contributing factors include the weave (looser weaves tend to pill more), the length of the fibers (shorter ones pill more: cheaper wool/cashmere is made from shorter staples), the strength of the fibers (softer wools are made from thinner fibers that are typically more prone to breakage, so finer wool may pill more than coarse wool), and the blend (blends generally pill more than non-blends, because of the differences in the fibers cause them to abrade and separate). Color shouldn't have anything to do with it, but it's possible that some dye treatments could weaken the fibers more than others.

Spending more often buys you better fabric that's less prone to pilling, but not always. High prices and premium labels are no guarantee against it.
 

JLibourel

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A pal of mine at prep school about 53 years ago had a Cowichan sweater that pilled like mad. I used to bug him by pulling the pilling off his sweater.

A wool-rayon jacket from Ralph Lauren was a fine looking jacket at first but as it grew older it got to pilling so horribly that I recently threw it in a Goodwill bin.

More recently, a Porter & Harding Harris tweed jacket I got from Chan in 2009 has already been relegated to "knockabout" status because of pilling.

Just my main experiences with pilling.
 

rdlrkl

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So, any suggestions on how to remove the pills effectively? I have tried those pill combs and shavers, and they haven't done very much. Low return on time investment.
 

wEstSidE

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i have never owned a knit item of any kind that has not pilled.

i would say pilling is caused by friction of your clothes rubbing on something. for example, i try not to wear a nice sweater or knit shirt if i'm going to be wearing my bag because the straps will cause pilling.
 

pebblegrain

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Originally Posted by wEstSidE
i have never owned a knit item of any kind that has not pilled.


I find this surprising. I've been at business functions with some older exec-types wearing expensive-looking cashmere sweaters, and they look pristine. I guess they just buy new sweaters every week? Confused
 

wEstSidE

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i dunno man. everything i own has some pilling. some are definitely more prone to it. for example, i bought a j crew sweater from an outlet in 2005 or so, nothing great. 100% lambs wool, made in hong kong. i hardly wore it so i gave it to my brother who treats his clothes like shit. somehow it does not have much pilling at all.

on the other hand i have a polo shetland sweater that is about the same age and pills a ton. for the record it's 90 wool, 10 angora rabbit.

probably the sweater i have with the best track record is a henrik vibskov afrika cardigan from 2007/8. 100% merino. it does have some pilling but only wear my bag straps were rubbing on it.

i feel like a trend i've noticed, anecdotally, is that the softer and less itchy it is, the more likely it is to pill. maybe that is just some stupid psychological bullshit, who knows really.
 

lantern

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to get rid of piling, you could use the sweater stone from sweaterstone.com, but I found it doesn't work too well on really soft items. A simple disposable bic razor works well.
 

Pantisocrat

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Originally Posted by wEstSidE
i dunno man. everything i own has some pilling.
+1 Other than cosmetic issues, why are people against woolen pills? I have several Pendleton hunting jackets (100% virgin wool, Portland made) that have pills all over the surface but there's no underlying structural damage. The worst pills tend be recycled woolen sweaters mixed with nylon...all the nylon blended wool sweaters I have pill like mad, but again no structural damage. Merino wool, lambswool, alpaca, and cashmere are really delicate knitwear since all damage is structural. There's no cautionary pilling it seems.
 

Todd6060

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Originally Posted by pstoller
Pilling is caused by abrasion; the more friction to which an area of the fabric is subject, the more likely it is to pill.

Should I avoid brushing my sweaters then or is a soft brush fine?
 

BlueHorseShoe

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Originally Posted by number9dream
Yep, these are today's wool fans. So much for a "definitive thread."



If you can't even tell, what does it matter?


WTF does this mean?
 

pwy95a

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Use an OLD (not new) razor. Works like a charm. An old tailor's trick. Beats the pants off of using the shaver, or even the pumice stone, which was so abrasive it put holes in my cashmere sweater.

Old Schick disposable three blade razor did the trick - an 80% solution.
 

pstoller

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Originally Posted by Todd6060
Should I avoid brushing my sweaters then or is a soft brush fine?

I've never heard of brushing a sweater, unless you mean a lint brush. (I prefer lint rollers, but the brush is more ecologically sound.) If it pills, use a sweater shaver or, as others have suggested, a used safety razor. Pills catch more readily than unpilled wool, so it's better for your garment to remove them than to leave them.
 

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