Pills. Hard to swallow, and, when on yarn projects, so ugly and so annoying. That sweater that took you months to make and used well over $100 of gorgeous yarn now has pills. Oy vey! What’s a crocheter to do? Here’s my list of tips for dealing with those pesky pills and how to avoid them before you get them.
Wait a sec—What’s a pill?
A clump of fibres that have gathered into a little raised ball on the surface of a fabric. It happens in commercially manufactured fabrics and in handwoven/needlework fabrics. (See image above)
Why are pills gross?
They make projects/garments look old before their time, sloppy, and thus cheap. Plus, if you’re a “Princess and the Pea” type, they feel horrible when you are, say, using a crocheted blanket with pills.
What causes yarn to pill?
If you treat your finished project poorly—think friction over time (like bag straps rubbing on a sweater) or heat damage from a clothes dryer—pilling can be epic and swift. But sadly, even with regular everyday use of a needlework item, especially sweaters, it’s pretty much unavoidable.
What kinds of yarn are susceptible to pilling?
Yarns that have “halos” or a fuzzy surface will tend to pill and sometimes in a lot less time than you’d think. Natural wools, mohairs, cottons, can all pill; but so can acrylic as well. So to put it bluntly, all yarns can pill.
How to avoid pills before you get them
Look for yarns that have a tighter twist and longer fiber strands. This will make it harder for individual yarn fibers to escape “the lock of the strand twist” to form a pill.
Avoid friction—Wash projects inside out, alone, and by hand.
Some needleworkers report that yarns with a bit of elastic them can help. This makes sense to me… think sock yarn—all the handmade socks I’ve received over the years didn’t pill much, so perhaps a bit of elastic helps.
Every yarn is different and it’s often hard to know its “pill factor” so always try to take a look at worked up swatch in store before you buy. Typically these swatches have been handled a lot by shoppers so you can see early signs of pilling, if not actual pills, in them.
How to remove pills from your needlework
Use an electric sweater shaver. Here's a great article from Good Housekeeping with some recommendations.
Use an analog sweater shaver. A great one is this one from Lilly Brush.
Hold scissors parallel to the surface of the fabric and snip carefully to remove any pills.
Tape—It’s sticky, it’ll pull loosely attached pills off.
The hook-side of velcro—the larger the hooks, the bigger the pills it can pull off.
Some people recommend the lightly rub a razor blade along the fabric. I’m, well, not convinced this is a good idea.
I hope this helps you rid the pills forever!
Note: I am not affiliated in any way with the brands mentioned.