Pills are formed of
a small accumulation of fibres on the surface of a fabric . . . and are usually composed of the same fibres from which the fabric is made. Dictionary of Fibre and Textile Technology, Hoechst Celanese Corporation (1990).
Pills are the product of the fineness of the fibre used to spin the yarn and the method of spinning the fibre – ie woollen spinning. Pilling indicates that you have spun your woollen yarn correctly from rolags and that you have used fine quality fibre with a small diameter. The outcome of woollen spinning is a soft, resilient singles (or yarn) which is not as strong as worsted spun yarn, and which has fewer twists per cm, contains more air and bulk and more fibre ends protruding on the surface than a worsted yarn. Because of these fibre ends protruding on the surface of knitted or woven articles (particularly under the arms or where the body causes the yarn/garment to be rubbed frequently) the fibre ends twist together to form little
balls of fibres or
Pills are a sign of good spinning! However if you don’t like them on your favourite jumper they can be pulled off with your fingers or with a little
pill remover comb.
Pills on your garments are a sign of successful spinning, and a much loved, much used favourite garment. Some suggest that a
good collection of pills on the surface of your garments create a surface or greater three dimensional appearance (like velvet) from a distance thereby enhancing your garments. You can achieve this without even trying!
Soft fibres tend to pill or produce nebs. In order to avoid pills care must be taken to take out as much of the short fibres as possible and incorporate lots of twist.
Tender or tippy fleece will break during processing, creating uneven fibre lengths which won’t spin properly. To check for tippiness or tenderness, take a thin lock of fibre and holding each end tightly, tug pretty hard. If the tip of the lock pulls off, your fibre is tippy. If some of the fibres break in the middle, so that the lock pulls apart, your fibre is tender.
Second cuts are short (up to 2cm) lengths of fibre that are created if/when the shearer does his/her first cut too high in one place, and then goes back over the same spot to clip off the short bits remaining. Second cuts will turn into little
pills during processing into rovings prior to spinning, and then cannot be removed. The pills will create slubs in spun yarn. To check for second cuts, open up the fleece and look at the shorn side. Run your thumbs over the cut ends as if you were fanning a deck of cards.
Staple fibres cut from polyester filament are often blended with natural fibres, including cotton fibres, to form blended yarns and fabrics that exhibit desirable properties of both the natural fibre and the synthetic polyester fibre. Blends of polyester and cotton are particularly suitable for such purposes and have found wide acceptance in consumer textile products, particularly clothing.
In blended polyester and cotton fabrics, pills tend to be almost exclusively formed from the polyester fibres in the blended polyester/cotton yarns. The pills appear to be the result of the higher tensile strength of a typical polyester fibre compared to the cotton. The greater strength of the polyester fibres encourages them to work their way out of the yarn structure and then curl up upon themselves to form the pills.