Shoddy, part 2
Published On: January 4, 2023

I’m fixing the Madewell sweater that was absolutely covered in pills the very first time I wore it (see yesterday’s post), & responding to some things that came up in comments on the instagram post.

After a solid hour going over the sweater with my Gleener I got a pile of fluff the size of my fist (you can watch me do some of that here should you be so inclined).

And it looks less bad. Not great! Not new! But about how I expect a sweater to look after a few seasons of regular wear. If I didn’t know a fair amount about textiles, I’d have thrown the sweater away after wearing it once, because it’s made from material the company promotes as being “better for the planet, better for its people” but which really fell apart on first wear.

Now we wait and see what happens the next time I wear it.

Which brings us to the commentary part. A LOT of folks said things like ‘that’s just what cashmere does’ on yesterday’s instagram post, and I want to push back on that.

Pills happen when tiny fibers work free of fabric and tangle up on the surface with their fellows. They can happen on any material. If the thread/yarn is made from material with short or delicate fibers, or if the thread/yarn itself is loosely spun, or if the fabric is loosely woven/knit, pills are more likely.

So, cashmere CAN be pilly, because it’s a fairly delicate fiber. But there are things you can do to make it less of a problem (like spinning the yarn tightly and knitting the fabric tightly). I have cashmere sweaters I’ve worn for seven years that look better than this.

I’d argue that a company has a responsibility to make sure that they’re using materials that create a product that’s usable. Fabric that pills like this after one wear doesn’t make for a very usable sweater.

Now it’s possible that spending an hour depilling this once with a specialized tool may give me a sweater I can continue to wear. But I suspect that the yarn is so loosely spun and so loosely knit that the pills will be back. And repeated depilling is time consuming and will quickly wear thin spots in the fabric. So I suspect this will end up in the trash after one season because it was so poorly made that it will fall apart by then.

I’ve got more to say about this but this is absurdly long, so we’ll do that tomorrow!

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