Defuzzing Knits – Sweater Comb vs. Sweater Stone

sweater-stone-vs-sweater-comb

A few years ago, I picked up a few honeycomb sweaters from J.Crew. Then I proceeded to shrink them. All was fine and dandy until a few more washings later when these crazy things began to shed…bad. I blame that stupid angora. Pulling these things over my head begins a day long battle of wiping little fuzzies off my face, out of my eyes, and out of my mouth; not to mention what they do to anything worn layered over or underneath.

I tried a sweater shaver, which did nothing. I tried freezing them, which did nothing. So they’ve sat in my closet in the hopes that one day I’d be able to get that fuzz under control enough to wear them again. Pulling them out of a box while unpacking got me thinking again about how to tackle the problem. Enter my latest Amazon purchase…a sweater comb and a sweater stone.

I set up a little experiment. I started with a clean, freshly lint-rolled black shirt. Pulled on one very fuzzy white sweater, as you would in a normal outfit pairing, and then removed. The resulting fuzzy mess is my control: the amount of fuzz deposited by the sweater before a de-fuzzing method.

defuzzing-sweaters-690

I then turned the sweater inside out, and de-fuzzed it with either the sweater comb or sweater stone. The idea is I’d put it back on the freshly lint-rolled black shirt when I was done, and see if it made any difference, while playing with both methods to see which one I thought worked better. Ready? Here we go…

Sweater Stone
Amazon, ~$8

A sweater stone is basically a chunk of porous pumice stone (volcanic rock) that catches and pulls loose fibers from your knits. It’s chunky and a bit unwieldy, so I wouldn’t recommend it for very delicate or very loose knits. However, it’s these very properties that made it good for this heavy duty job I had in mind.

sweater-stone-1

sweater-stone-after-1

How to use

I found the sweater stone effective with quick, short, downward strokes, while holding the sweater taught with my other hand. Little balls of fuzz will quickly gather on the stone, which are easy to remove.

Findings

Pros:

  • The large size makes a quicker job of de-fuzzing a knit.
  • The porous nature of the stone does a good job catching loose hairs and fuzz.

Cons:

  • Messy! Dust from the stone sheds as it’s stroked across a knit, leaving a bunch of tiny black sand-like particles behind.
  • Feels a little heavy duty. I’d be super careful using this on loose or delicate knits.

 

Sweater Comb
Amazon, ~$7

A sweater comb is a comb of wire mesh that is roughly textured in order to catch loose fibers from knits. The scratchy surface area is smaller than that of the sweater stone, so will take a bit longer to de-fuzz an entire knit. Handling the sweater comb felt more precise, so I’d prefer this when dealing with more delicate knits.

sweater-comb

sweater-comb-after

How to Use

Just like with the sweater stone, I found the sweater comb effective with quick, short, downward strokes, while holding the sweater taught with my other hand. Little balls of fuzz will clog up the wire mesh, and needs to be cleaned often.

Findings

Pros:

  • The small size makes a more careful and precise job of de-fuzzing a knit.
  • The wire mesh does a good job catching loose hairs and fuzz.

Cons:

  • The small de-fuzzing surface area gets clogged quickly, so it takes longer to cover an entire knit due to having to clean it so often.

Final Results

I found myself preferring the sweater stone for this particular job just due to it’s sheer size. The larger surface area made a quicker job of getting through the entire sweater. What I finally ended up doing was going over an area with the sweater stone first, and then going over the same area quickly again with the sweater comb. As for which I prefer…I’d say it depends on the job. Heavy duty de-fuzzing jobs on tight, heavy knits may be better with the sweater stone (as long you don’t mind the messy sandy bits it leaves behind). Lighter jobs and delicate knits are probably best off with the sweater comb.

As for the sweater…no amount of de-fuzzing with either tool ever felt like the job was done. Each stroke came up with more and more fuzz, and I felt I could hack away at this thing all day and still come up with fuzz until the thing went bald. I was also left with a fuzz-ball large enough to knit a sweater for Clinton. As you can see below, the after is a little better, but still pretty damn fuzzy. Maybe a few more rounds with the sweater stone will do the trick? That’ll have to wait for another day.

before-after-defuzzing-1

Do any of you have knit de-fuzzing tips? Do you prefer the sweater comb or sweater stone? How about a sweater shaver (not my personal favorite)?

13 Comments

  • I just avoid angora all together. It’s just bad. I stick to wools–my favorite is merino. It just holds up the best over time, with minimal pilling (depending on the quality, of course) and no fuzzy aftermath. Sorry about the sweaters. =(

    • Thanks Cher! I’ve been avoiding angora lately as well for this very reason. Once bitten, twice shy. =P

      Merino is awesome! I’ve also found that if you home wash merino (vs. dry clean), it takes up just the right amount. My Everlane merino seed stitch is PERFECT now that it’s been gently washed.

  • This is a great article. Thank you! I especially like the before and after photos. I didn’t know the problem was angora. Recently tried on an angora blend that had this same problem, so now I know to avoid it.

  • Mohair is another one to avoid. It gets everywhere.

    Most angora yarns, especially “affordable” commercial ones, don’t stand up to wear or friction very well. I’d save it for low wear and tear accessories like a neck cowl, pom poms, or exterior glove cuff. Also, using angora in a cabled sweater softens the look of the cables. They won’t pop as much after a few washes and the yarn blooms after a few washes. Most industrial yarns have a small coating on the yarn, too, to make it easier to machine knit. It probably retains just a tiny amount of oil even after they have knit and cleaned the sweater to prep it for display.
    http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/archives/2007/10/16/good_things_come_to_those_who_wait.html

    If you want a softer merino sweater, you can add a tiny bit of conditioner to the water during the last rinse of a hand wash and rinse well.

    Last resort for treasured knits – look into the industrial quality sweater shavers or ask the dry cleaner what they use. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000E1FGHW/

    -a knitter

  • Thanks for this helpful post! I will definitely stay away from angora sweaters. I’ve had bad experiences with jcrew sweaters. It is disappointing given how much they charge for them.

  • As a knitter I can finally contribute something, Kelly!! :) Lilly Brush is the way to go if you’re prepared to pay $13. Hey, that’s less than the stone and that wire thingum combined, and it works better than both of them. (I hate the wire thingum in particular, ugh.) http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0095ZOIWC/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_dp_ss_3?pf_rd_p=1944687522&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B00JG5TOG6&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0A4V4TCVZN4V1YSND6E5
    I know angora isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I find rabbit fur to be absolutely unparalleled in softness and fluffiness. I have an angora hood/scarf I made and, oh, so cuddly. I did have to carry a lint brush round with me the entire time I was knitting though. :) Mohair has a lovely glowing halo, wool is sturdy and wears like iron, but angora is just the absolute softest. Softer than cheap cashmere, for my money. Good angora is hard to find in stores these days, though, that is for sure. You usually have to know someone who owns rabbits.
    Anyway! Try the Lilly brush if you want to depill your sweaters! I hope that helps :)

    • Thank you for the recommendation Michelle! I’m definitely going to pick up a Lilly Brush! I can’t wait to try it! =D

  • I second the Lilly Brush! It is phenomenal. The small one works great and is perfect for stashing in a bag for travel and in office drawers for work lint emergencies. But the large one? Ohhhhh, the large one is heaven. It makes quick work of pill and lint removal and the larger size is better for ergonomics. I still have my comb and stone around somewhere because I’m a pack-rat, but I’ve never reached for them since getting a Lilly Brush.

  • Please post a review of the LB when you get it, Kelly. I’ve got a stash of pilled sweaters that I love but don’t want to spend my life de-fuzzing. And like you, the shaver just doesn’t do the job. Thanks for this great post.

    • A quick tip for both you and Kelly — the brush makers caveat that it works best on natural fibers. If your yarn is e.g. an angora/nylon or wool/acrylic blend, as many major chain store sweaters are, I’m not sure whether the nylon/acrylic components will hold on too much to the other fibers and impede the defuzzing exercise. So yes please do let us know how it works on blended yarns!

  • Because of stupid angora in China they torture rabbits like crazy..You can see it on youtube.. So don’t by it, however, you hate it..

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