Why does knitwear pill – the four most common reasons



Have you ever wondered why even some expensive knits begin to pill and look worn out sooner or later? Even the most expensive brands can cut costs in materials, because it is not so easy to see the difference in quality before actually wearing the clothes for some time.

Pilling happens when loose or broken fibres on the surface of knitwear clump together and form those lint balls.

Pilling is caused by four main reasons: coarseness, shortness and curliness of the fibre – and loose knitting!

Why does knitwear pill? Reason number one: Coarse fibre 

All the wool fibres have scales on their surface. The bigger the scales, the more easily the fibres lock onto each other and start to pill. The fibres with bigger scales also feel less comfortable on the skin. 

Many of our garments at Alpa Knitwear are 100% alpaca wool. The fibre of alpaca wool has the smoothest surface compared to all woollen fibres. Thanks to this special feature, our knitwear feels soft on the skin and is resistant to pilling.

Why does knitwear pill? Reason number two: Short fibre 

When knitwear is made out of a cheap material containing short fibres, there is a lot of loose fibre ends on the surface of the garment. More loose ends mean more pilling. When looking at a knit in a shop, try pulling a fibre out of it and see how long it is. Cheap knits may feel very nice in the shop but will look horrible after a couple of day’s wear.

Alpaca wool is valuable and has very long fibres – a single fibre can be even 5-10 cm long.

Why does knitwear pill? Reason number three: Curly fibre

Pilling also occur because of the curliness of some fibres. It is easy to create voluminous chunky sweaters from curly fibres (for example lambswool), but the downside is excessive pilling.

The fibre in alpaca wool is rather straight and smooth – another reason why it is very pill resistant. However, spinning and knitting from this type of wool requires specific knowledge and skill.

Why does knitwear pill? Reason number four: Loose knitting

The more dense the knitwear is, the shorter the fluffy fibre ends on the surface. Short fibre ends cannot entangle with each other. Densely knitted poor quality fibre is resistant to pilling but it can feel rough against the skin. More commonly, poor quality garments are often knitted loosely and pilling occurs shortly after the purchase.

Examples of how Alpa® knits will age:

Alpa® Twilight cardigan, worn for over a 100 days. Dense 100% alpaca knit looks as good as new. No pills – just some minor surface fluff.
Alpa® Crew Neck, 150 days of use. Crew Neck is knitted a bit more loosely so it has softened significantly. Thanks to the 100 % alpaca wool, it is still looking very neat. Better than new, if you ask us.

We personally test use each of our knitwear samples. This is why we can guarantee that every Alpa garment will age beautifully.

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