Discover 5 most effective tips to prevent the excessive pilling of crocheted and knitted gifts, so they don't end up hidden away.

Discover 5 most effective tips to prevent the excessive pilling of crocheted and knitted gifts, so they don't end up hidden away.

Have you ever felt embarrassed when you saw the state of the knitted or crocheted gift you made someone, after they used it for a while?

I certainly did! One of my friends insisted on buying one of my Book/tablet holders for her daughter (I don't usually make things to sell). I only charged her for materials and postage but still, I turned completely red on my face from embarrassment when I went to her house a year later and I saw the Owl tablet holder on her daughter's bed.

Why do you ask? It was completely covered in long, ugly fibres with bobbles on top, also called pills, fuzzballs or lint balls. It just didn't look good at all.

'Pilling' is caused by fibres that stick out from the surface of the yarn binding together due to use or washing, resulting in small balls sitting on top of the surface as you can see in the photo below.

Some people might not find the pills problematic. Still, most will not like the look of something covered in bobbles because it just looks used and old. What will happen with your gift if it will look so worn out? They'll either hide the item deep down in the bottom of their cupboard and keep it as a keepsake or choose to donate it.

Of course, you can shave the pills using a 'bobble off' device or a shaver, but it's incredibly time-consuming, and if the end-user is a young family with small kids, they certainly won't have the time to do it. If they're like me, it will be at least a few months or even years by the time they'll get round to doing it. 

Pills are a nightmare for many makers and users of handmade items made from yarn and although there is no way to eliminate them completely, there are ways to minimise pills showing up.

Discover 5 most effective ways to prevent the excessive pilling that you can pass to the user of the crocheted/knitted gift you make, so they can enjoy it for longer and have fewer problems with maintaining it.

1) HAND WASH IF POSSIBLE - Some yarn types can't be washed in a washing machine, but some can (like our Cuddle Soft Chunky yarn). Even though the item can be washed in a washing machine according to the label, we suggest to still gently hand washing them if possible to reduce the pilling caused by washing to a minimum. 

2) DO NOT RUB THE STAINS WHEN HAND WASHING. Rubbing in those stubborn stains will not only cause extreme pilling in that area but could cause your beautifully crafted pieces to unravel; instead, apply a stain remover, leave it on for some time, and gently rinse. Also do not wring the item but gently squeeze out the water by pressing on it.

3) USE REUSABLE LAUNDRY BAG - If the gift you made will go to a busy family with small kids, they definitely won't have the time to hand wash your gift. In that case, you can advise them to use a mesh laundry bag when popping your makes in a washing machine. Using a mesh bag prevents the gift you handmade from rubbing against other clothes and itself, which will reduce the number of those nasty bobbles showing up significantly.

I washed this cow blanket I made with acrylic/nylon blend yarn years ago (before I created a Dreamy Wool yarn) and this is how awful it looked after I took it out! I had to spend ages shaving it all off so it look presentable again.

4) USE YARN THAT IS SMOOTH ON THE SURFACE - Pilling happens because long fibres around the main strand of yarn that look like a halo get twisted together. The longer the fibres, the more prominent and more visible pills you'll end up with. Some people love the fluffiness of some of the yarns on the market, but the items only stay fluffy until they start getting used. After a short while, the fluffy fibres will twist and turn into ugly pills. In our opinion, those types of yarns are very impractical to use for items that get used heavily like toys or blankets. That's why when creating our Dreamy Wool Cuddle Soft Chunky Yarn, we went for practicality and made our yarn with short fibres and tight twists, so not many fibres stick out from its surface, making it smooth yet soft to touch. Of course, you might still get some pills on items made with our yarn after a while, but those will be so tiny and close to the surface that they will be hardly noticeable from far away as you can see in the bottom-left corner of the photo below.

We did a rubbing test on the ball crocheted from an Acrylic/Nylon blend (the top) and on a ball made with our yarn (the bottom), and look at the difference in pilling!

5) REMOVE EXCESS/LOOSE FIBERS BEFORE USE BY WASHING - Even with tightly spun yarns, there will be a certain number of fibres that will become loose once you start making your item. Making the stitches will trap most fibres inside them, but I'd recommend removing any excess fibres from the surface, so they don't turn into pills. You can do this by washing the gift before giving it to the recipient.

You might be asking why haven't I mentioned 'ANTI PILLING' acrylic yarn? The name 'Anti-pilling' is slightly misleading because the 'Anti-pilling' yarn doesn't actually prevent the item from pilling, which we think is slightly confusing. So how does this type of yarn work? Items made with this yarn will still be covered in pills like any other yarn after use. The only difference is that the yarn is made up of a particular type of acrylic, thanks to which the pills are meant to fall off the surface of your handmade item when washed in the washing machine. After washing and using the item, the pills may re-appear, and you may have to rewash the item to remove them again, so it is not a long-term solution. Also, it is not guaranteed that the pills will fall off in the wash, as we have read from some of the reviews of this type of yarn. We've also done our own test and washed a small crochet sample of Anti-pilling yarn and unfortunately, washing it for the first time created the bobbles instead of removing them as you can see in the photos below.

I hope you've found the above advice useful and you'll never feel embarrassed after seeing the hand-crocheted and knitted gifts you made after your family and friends have used them.

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Thank you!