Pilling is the shorter fibers falling out of the yarn and getting balled up. This can happen in commercial and in handspun yarns. This is also common in manmade materials. I have a pair of nylon yoga pants that are pretty pilly. We seem to live in a world of pilling fibers. Not everything pills and there are ways in your handspun that you can make your garments pill less.
The first way to combat pilling is to use longer stapled quality fibers. Using a Combed top instead of a Roving will help too. Combed top has removed all the shorter cuts and you’re left with all one length of fiber. Roving will mostly have all the same length but they still have short cuts and the jumbled up way it’s prepped also makes it a little more prone to pilling.
Second way to combat it is to have a good amount of twist (not over necessarily but not under). Think of how I’ve told you all how to make sock yarns. Lighter twist in the singles but heavier twist in the plying. It makes the plying seem almost overtwisted but it makes a softer yet stronger yarn.
Third is to make thinner plies and more of them. Think of at least making a 3 ply.
You can change your pill-ability with your final project as well. Knit at a tighter gauge so the yarn has less movement to allow short fibers to work their way out. Felting is also a good way to challenge pilling but it will change the overall look of your garment. Since it was knit with different size needles it will likely felt differently in the different sections. Felting also will shorten it more than it will bring it in side to side. You will also lose your drape.
Pilling is a fact of life with knitwear. The good thing about it though is that it will not pill forever. A yarn only has so much pilling in it. That means there are only so many short fibers that will work their way out. Unless your garment was from poor material and the pills are all it’s made of. My daughter has a pair of commercially made socks that this is the case, once the pills were gone, there was nylon left and nothing more.
Another thing…. have you thought that you may be the only one that notices the pilling? I rarely notice pilling on other people’s garments but always on mine. Over the years, I’ve become less sensitive to it and some of my favorite sweaters are rather pilly. It’s ok. I love them anyway. If you want, you can get a sweater stone or shaver and use it in between wearings.
Eventually your sweater will stop pilling.
This particular one hasn’t started but you can see it has potential. All the sweaters I’ve shown here are pilly or just about to get pilly. I haven’t shaved any of them and I just let it go. I hope you enjoyed the stroll through my pills. Now go make some excellent yarn.