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Forum > Fabrics and more... > Fabrics that "pill" ( Moderated by CynthiaSue)

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Fabrics that "pill"
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Lizzy

Lizzy
Intermediate
Ontario CANADA
Member since 8/27/03
Posts: 30
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Date: 2/1/04 6:32 PM

Is there any way that I can predict before putting the time into sewing whether or not a fabric is likely to "pill" and look tacky. I've had this happen on both synthetics & natural fibres, both cheap & expensive fabric. I've also had fabrics that fell into all categories above that wear & wear without any pilling. I know about feeling fabric for "hand", holding it up to check drapability, and crushing it to check for creasing, but the "pilling" issue has me stumped and frustrated.

Nancy L

Nancy L
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Washington USA
Member since 8/24/02
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Date: 2/1/04 7:40 PM

The quickest way to test whether a fabric will pill is when at the store fold a bit onto itself and rub it back and forth with some pressure. You will see some roughness or pilling occuring happening on those you know you will want to pass up. Some fabrics you will have to run a sample thru the wash/dry process before you see any pilling.
Pilling in high wear areas such as the inner thigh or underarm may not be avoidable. Also, washing like fabrics with like fabrics and/or turning items inside out will reduce the abrasion on clothing.

Judy Williment
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Judy Williment
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NEW ZEALAND
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Date: 2/3/04 2:37 AM

Pilling is more likely to occur with strong fibres, such as polyester, than weaker ones, like cotton.  In a poly/cotton blend, the fibres which are shed as a natural part of wear, are anchored to the face of the fabric by the strong fibres still in it, forming the "pills".  100% cotton fabrics don't tend to pill because the fibres which are shed  aren't held on.  Also longer fibres can help anchor the shed fibres.  The only way to predict is the rub test, but checking fibre content may help.  If you have a blend, or strong fibres, you're more likely to get pilling.

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There are no sewing mistakes - only opportunites for design features.

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eleda
eleda  Friend of PR
Intermediate
Ohio USA
Member since 8/24/02
Posts: 40
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Date: 2/3/04 4:12 AM

What is meant by feeling for hand when checking a fabric?

Everyday Sewist
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Everyday Sewist
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USA
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Date: 2/3/04 9:14 AM

I have yet to buy anything containing acrylic fiber which did not pill. As a result, I avoid acrylic. I've also had more problems with blends than with 100% cotton or wool. I have some tops made out of cheap rayon jersey which pilled slightly, but not as badly as the polys or acrylics.

The "rub" test is the best way, but in general, I just avoid synthetics unless there is a statement in the catalog or bolt which says they will not pill.

Malden Mills fleece is advertised as non-pilling, and I think Wazoodle fabrics sells an interlock which does not pill.

I agree with what Judy said about weak fibers. I once bought some very cheap 100% cotton knit from a bargain bin at JoAnn, and it pilled.
Since it was cotton and didn't "curl" as much, I could actually see the little broken ends of the fibers coming out of the fabric.

Lizzy

Lizzy
Intermediate
Ontario CANADA
Member since 8/27/03
Posts: 30
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Date: 2/3/04 10:29 PM

Thanks for the tips & suggestions. I will definitely try the "rub" test on some of the fabrics in my stash - I can throw some of these in the laundry too to check before wasting time on them. Judy,I liked your explanation about the stronger fibres in blends. This would explain why this was such a problem with a favourite silk & lambswool sweater I finally had to throw out :cry: Problem with lots of stuff I have is that I can't remember what it actually is. Acrylic? I agree BUT I have a turtleneck made from an acrylic knit that I bought in FLA 25 yrs. ago - the coordinating skirt & jacket are long gone but that darn sweater just keeps on going & looking good. Go figure!
Rapunzel - hand is something that is hard to explain - it's just one of those instinctive things that gives you a sense of how a fabric will behave by feeling & handling it. Can someone give a more professional answer?

Judy Williment
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Judy Williment
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Date: 2/4/04 2:32 AM

Part of the problem with blends is that it's the weaker fibres which are shed, which may explain your all-acrylic sweater still looking good.  I'm glad my explanation was clear - I learnt all this stuff for my degree (clothing and textile science) which I completed about 5 years ago.  Sometimes it's hard to recall all the scientific reasons for these irritations!

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There are no sewing mistakes - only opportunites for design features.

My blog: http://everythingjustsew.blogspot.com/

TextileMike
TextileMike
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Member since 2/7/03
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Date: 2/4/04 8:51 AM

You might also try using dryer sheets instead of liquid fabric softeners.  The liquid softeners speed up pilling -- they coat the loose fibers which helps them matt together.   You will really notice this on fleeces, double-knits and flanellettes.

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Mike
www.wazoodle.com

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