How To: Keep Merino Fabrics Looking New

How To: Keep Merino Fabrics Looking New

Have you ever noticed small balls or pills on the surface of your clothing?

Before and After Merino Wool Sock with Pills Has Been Fabric Shaved Blog Post By Wilderling New Zealand
The above image shows the before and after of using a fabric shaver
Left: before being shaved. Centre: Fabric Shaver Right: has been 'de-pilled' or 'shaved'

Pilling or a build up of fibres on the surface of clothing is particularly noticeable in areas such as collars, under the arms and soles of feet in the case of socks and booties. It is most common where friction or rubbing has occurred through normal wear. As merino is a natural fibre, the yarn is made up of many filaments spun together tightly. Through wear some of these fibres come loose and move to the top of the fabric where they are either shed or bunch up into balls of fibres. This is a very natural process and is meant to happen. Knowing this, there is a tool that will forever be a well-used piece of machinery in any home.

The ‘de-pilling’ machine or as it is formally known as a ‘fabric shaver’. The name says it all really, what is happening is tiny blades spin around and as the machine head is passed over the surface of pilled knit fabric it shaves off the pills. Once you get started you will soon be addicted to the satisfaction that comes with removing pills and witnessing the ‘new’ clean looking fabric underneath. It is a truly remarkable, easy to use, tool that will transform those well loved knits back to their shining glory. 


A Few Things To Note Before Starting:

  • It is VERY easy to cut a hole in your knit fabric – therefore we recommend taking your time and making sure all fabrics are flat on a hard surface. Never apply uneven pressure, make sure the shaver head is completely level with the flat fabric. Socks and garments with sleeves and joins etc can be problematic. Rib knits and those with raised detailing are very hard to shave and extra care must be taken to ensure there is no risk of damaging the fabric.  It is suggested you start with a blanket or top where the majority of the fabric can be placed flat.
Holes in Merino Wool Socks From Fabric Shaving Blog Post From Wilderling
  • Do not let children play with this tool unsupervised. It is a wonderful learning experience to be able to teach children how to care for their clothing, however it is not recommended to leave children with a fabric shaver. The shaver is a blade and needs to be treated with caution and safety.
  • Make sure your garment is lying on a flat, hard surface – like a kitchen bench or table. If there are bumps in your fabric i.e. where a seam or join occurs, you must take it very slow and be aware that any bump caught up in the blades will be cut. Cutting into knit fabrics is incredibly problematic and requires hand sewing to ensure the whole does not get bigger.
  • Clean out your fabric shaver regularly, just like a vacuum cleaner the lint builds up and can make the shaver function less efficiently.
  • Pressure: make sure you are not putting too much pressure on the fabric. The more pressure the higher the likelihood of fabric getting caught up in the blades and causing damage.

Disclaimer: using a fabric shaver is at the users own risk. Any damage to the garment or accessory as a result of using a fabric shaver is user error. Please be mindful of the risks and use the tool with care. This blog post is in no way sponsored by any of the brands featured. 

What can I use the fabric shaver for?

Pretty much any fabric that shows signs or pilling. While natural fabrics such as sheep wool, alpaca, cashmere and mohair tend to be more prone to pilling, some synthetic garments such as sports leggings can see pilling down seams and in between thighs where rubbing has occurred.

Some items of clothing prone to pilling due to the nature of the garment include:


            Soles of booties

            The knee area or between thighs on pants/leggings

            Under the arm and around collars and cuffs on tops

            Chunky knits

How to use a fabric shaver:

Fabric Shaver to Shave off Pills from Merino Wool Socks Blog Post By Wilderling
  1. Make sure your fabric shaver’s lint collection bucket is empty and remove any lint build up from inside the machine.

  2. Remove the safety cap on the shaver head and place your garment flat on a hard surface (like a table).

  3. Turn on your machine and lay it flat on the surface of the fabric.

  4. Using light pressure in a circular motion, round and round the area you wish to shave. PLEAE NOTE: too much pressure could cause the fabric to get caught up in the blades, damaging it and causing holes. Always make sure the devices head is level with the fabric. You will hear a cutting sound when a pill has been taken up by the blades and cut off.

  5. Once finished – clean out the machines lint bucket and put the safety cap back on. Store in a safe area out of reach of children.

For those really tricky areas like seams and joins in clothing take your time. I have found from personal experience that in the case of socks, putting your hand up them and creating a small flat surface to run the shaver gently over works. However, be very careful – this is the most high risk way of using the shaver and can easily end in holes.

The outcome is incredible to breathe new life into your garments, using a fabric shaver is a wonderful tool to keep your clothing looking tidy and to increase the longevity of your wardrobe. 

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