What is pilling and what causes pilling?


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We love knitwear, but we hate pilling! Seeing knitwear turn in to bobbles overtime is something we try our hardest at Maxted to avoid. We want to explain exactly what pilling is and how to look after our knitwear in the best way possible.

Here are the answers to some of our most asked questions.

What is pilling?

Little bobbles sat on the surface of our often favourite knits. As you can see from the image below. This is also known as 'bobbling'.

Knitwear with pilling

(This is not a Maxted knit!)

Why does pilling happen?

So, what causes pilling?

Pilling happens when short length fibres rub against each other and pop out to the surface; this is when we see those little balls. Pilling on an item of clothing doesn’t necessarily mean the yarn is cheap, it's down to the (short) length of the fibres, longer-length fibres, like cotton, don’t pill.

How does pilling happen?

If you wear your favourite knitwear often it's going to end up rubbing against something. That could be a bag, a desk, or your arm rubbing against your side. This friction causes the fibres to loses and 'bobble' up. This is knitwear pilling.

How does Maxted prevent pilling?

Or, 'how to stop clothes from bobbling'.

At Maxted, we know how annoying it is that your favourite jumper might pill, so we keep this in mind when designing our collections and ensure every measure is taken to prevent pilling.

Pilling is rated 1- 5, with 1 being the worst and at Maxted, we would never sell a piece of knitwear with a rating of 1.

Before confirming our yarns, they’re tested at a lab to ensure they're of a high quality. This means we are continuously checking and supplying our customers with the highest quality knitwear.

A jumper with pilling

How can I stop pilling?

Unfortunately, you can never really stop pilling, but you can slow down the rate that your garment pills by caring for it properly. Friction in a washing machine will accelerate the pilling, so we suggest washing your knits in lukewarm water in a sink or bucket inside out - I use washing up liquid!

Knitwear is best washed with liquid soap as it’s more gentle than detergent. Once washed, wring it out and lay it flat to dry.

Never store your knits on a hanger, they are too heavy and they will lose their shape.

It’s not ideal, but if your knits are very wet after washing you can pop them on a spin cycle in your machine, although it’s best to avoid using your washing machine when it comes to your favourite knits.

Many washing machines have hand wash settings, and yes you can use this, but just remember the friction of the knit rubbing against itself or another knit will cause the pilling.

Maxted only sells the highest quality knitwear with a pill rating of at least 4 to ensure the durability of your favourite pieces. Browse our knitwear.

Clothing care