Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sweaters - Part 2: Minimizing Pilling

Bella says, "I hate when my sweaters pill!"

Reader question:  
Dear Emily,
I love to wear sweaters this time of year, however I often find they pill way too quickly and end up looking sloppy.  Do you have any suggestions of what kinds of sweaters to buy in the first place and how do I keep them looking great for more than a few days of wear?

There are various products on the market that claim to treat sweater pills- electric shavers, combs, and pumice stone-like versions also.  In my experience, these just don't do the trick, and who really wants to shave their sweater before every wear?  There are two tricks I use to address this issue that I have found to work avoiding pilling and extending the life of the sweater:

1.  Check the fabric: Examine the fabric very carefully before purchasing a knit sweater.  In the store, look closely at the sweater to see if you can already see pills beginning to form.  Check out the sale section of the store- many times you will see knits there that are already pilling, just from being out on the floor for a couple months and rubbing against the other clothes!  If the sweater you're about to purchase is made of the same material, you can be sure that this will be its fate too.  I have a trick where I look down the front of the sweater from above in bright lighting to see if it looks like pills are already forming.  It takes a little practice, but works better than trying to guess whether the sweater's particular ratio of rayon/cotton/spandex/acrylic will pill.

2.  Hand washing: To keep sweaters looking like new, hand wash them and lay flat to dry (don't hang-dry because the weight of the water in the sweater can stretch it out.)  The washing machine creates a lot of friction against the fabric that causes pills, and the dryer can also shrink sweaters.  Hand washing is a pain, but it's what you have to do to extend the life of your sweaters.

In the end, almost all sweaters pill to a certain degree.  Though the tips above help, I have generally resigned myself to the fact that most knit sweaters are a one-season only item.   Because they don't hold up well, it's usually better to buy inexpensive sweaters and refresh them every year.