How to stop sweaters pilling
14 March 2012
Good knitwear needs to be looked after, tempting though it is to think that it rarely needs cleaning or anything else. A regular clean does more than just stop the piece smelling: it also brings up the fibres, brings back colour and, perhaps unexpectedly, helps with pilling.
A new sweater should be worn two or three times, and then washed. This will help settle the fibres and decrease the amount it will pill. Doing so regularly in the future will also reduce pilling over time. The finer a cashmere is, the longer the fibres, so it can be more susceptible to pilling. And pieces that are hand knitted can suffer particularly.
Hand washing is safest, followed by rolling the sweater up in a towel to remove excess moisture and drying flat. I put mine on a rack to increase the air flow; try not to let the arms dangle over the edge in case that stretches them slightly. Remember you’re drying the sweater flat to protect it in its moist, weakened state.
You can wash most cashmere sweaters in the washing machine though – just make sure it’s on the lowest temperature setting and the gentlest cycle. And put the piece either in a washing bag or a pillow case to prevent it stretching – that’s the major thing you’re trying to avoid in hand washing it, after all.
I only started doing this recently, beginning with a relatively cheap sweater as an experiment and moving up to my most valuable stuff. So far I’ve encountered no negative effects at all.
Lastly, when sweaters do pill simply run an emery board or nail file over them. It picks up the little nubbins beautifully.
I have Audie Charles, of Hayward and now Anderson & Sheppard, to thank for most of these practical tips. She promises more pointers in a blog once the A&S haberdashery gets up and running. We can’t wait, Audie.
Photo: Andy Barnham