It's frustrating when you buy a beautiful yarn for a project only to find that it sheds either while you're knitting or when you wear or use the item. There's not a lot to do about yarn that leaves some fibers behind when you're knitting, but you can protect yourself from the mess and keep it contained. There are also some things you can try to reduce or eliminate yarn shedding and pilling in finished knit projects.
Why Yarn Sheds
Yarn sheds because there's not enough twist to hold all of the threads together. It's a common problem with chenille and similarly produced yarns, which have a pile (raised, hair-like fibers) worked around a core yarn. Still, shedding can happen with other types as well, particularly with fuzzy yarns like angora, mohair, and alpaca.
How to Handle Shedding While Knitting
Yarn that sheds while you're knitting can be a nuisance, and it's challenging to deal with the problem in the middle of a project. Being prepared for the mess can help—one thing you can do is to cover your lap with a cloth as you knit, so at least the threads contained. You can also keep your vacuum nearby, so a quick sweep is convenient during or after you've finished your knitting session. A lint roller, brush, or packing tape can also be used to remove fibers from your clothing or couch.
How to Address Shedding on a Finished Project
Once you complete your knitting, the best way to combat shedding yarn is to wash the project (if it's a washable yarn). Usually, hand washing in a gentle detergent, and drying the piece with the air-dry setting of your dryer for around 10 or 15 minutes will work. You might want to put the project in a zip-top pillowcase while it's in the dryer to contain the shed fibers. Usually, this initial washing will help reduce the amount of shedding, if not eliminating the issue.
How to Remove Pilling from Knits
Knits that shed are also likely to pill. Pilling happens when loose fibers begin to twist, tangle, mat, or form little balls on top of the sweater. Most knit items will start to pill at some point if they are worn and used. If you'd like to remove the stray threads, do not pull them with your hands as this can cause the knit to stretch and become uneven. It can also loosen the weave and create a hole or more significant issue.
Instead, try using scissors to trim the rogue strings. Pull the fabric taut, and then nip the fibers as close to the knit as possible. Tiny thread scissors work well to get an accurate cut without snipping into the actual stitches and creating a hole.
A sweater comb is a specialized metal comb that has a sharp edge that removes wispy threads with careful swiping. Place the comb at a light angle and gently pull it across the knit to slice off the strays.
Another option is a knit shaver, which is a battery-powered handheld machine that uses suction and a tiny rotating blade that cuts off loose fibers. Gently glide the shaver over the knit, using a circular motion. The device collects the thin strands of yarn in a clear container (just like a vacuum collects dirt), so you can see what you have extracted. In a pinch, you can try running a disposable razor up and down the knit to remove flyaways.