This looked more like a Thea question than a Barry question. Got any ideas?
--- On Mon, 2/9/09, Kent Schneider
From: Kent Schneider
Subject: Rug Pilling
Date: Monday, February 9, 2009, 10:46 AM
My name is Kent Schneider and I own a small furniture and rug shop in Atlanta called Verde Home. I do a monthly newsletter in which I like to research and write an article about topics which my clients ask me about. One topic which has been coming up a great deal lately seems to be rug pilling. I have been in the handmade rug business for about 10 years and am aware that pretty much all rugs will pill. I have also noticed that cheaper rugs (generally tufted or machine made) will tend to pill more heavily and for longer periods of time. I am doing some research on this and would like to write a brief essay on the topic for my next newsletter but am having trouble finding credible sources for information as to why this happens. My hypothesis (from what research I have been able to uncover) is that the cheaper rugs are probably made from cheaper wool. This wool is dryer and of shorter staple length resulting in a more brittle fiber which
will be more prone to breaking and pilling. I also suspect that this effect may be have something to do with the wools treatment and spin but I have not yet been able to connect all the dots.
I was wondering if you had ever written or researched the topic and could point me in the right direction?
Thank you for any help you may be able to provide.
*voted best of Atlanta
Hello Kent, Barry has forwarded your question to me and I hope that I can somewhat answer your question.
In a nutshell, pilling is caused by the incomplete slippage of fiber from a tuft. Instead of being completely shed, the fibers collect at the surface of the textile and can cause pills as well as a condition termed "bearding": an entanglement of slipped fibers on a textile surface without the unsightly little balls of material.
Pilling and bearding are not confined to wool fibers but may be found in any staple yarn product.
Lets start with the yarn:
Wool is naturally a staple fiber. When it is sheared from the sheep, it is graded by the length of the fibers as usually determined on where it is taken from the sheep AND by whether the fleece is a fall or spring shear.
Spring shear has had all winter to grow and is a denser, stronger and longer staple. Sheep that have had two shearings have a shorter, lighter staple in the fall and is typically more suitable for sweaters, suits and blankets etc. The quality of wool also depends on the breed of sheep, what they have been grazing on, minerals in the water and the weather. As you can see there are many variables.
Most TUFTED rugs come from India and China. The sheep used in these areas typically
have been inbred with Merinos. These have more lanolin in the wool, needs a more agressive cleaning to get rid of the grease and is a shorter, more brittle staple.
Most KNOTTED rugs from Turkey, Iran, Nepal, etc still use the wool from the indiginous fat tailed sheep. For too many reasons to continue here, the wool has completely different qualities but these have a long dense staple better suited to rug making.
Now on to rug construction:
Are you aware that making a tufted rug is essentially the same process whether or not one is making broadloom in Dalton or a rug in Dehli.
In Dalton, the primary backing is run through a tufting machine that punches the yarns through at a (literally) miles per hour rate, there is a layer of latex applied to the back and it is laminated to the secondary backing with heat and pressure. It is then sheared and inspected, rolled up and sent off.
In Dehli, the primary backing (usually with the pattern drawn on) is stretched into a frame to keep it tight. The yarn is inserted to the rug from the face with a tufting machine. This is an electric device for inserting yarn BUT becuase it IS held by hand, these are sold as "hand tufted" as opposed to "hand knotted". After the face is completed, a layer of latex is applied to the back and a secondary canvas is applied to the back. Other problems inherant with rugs made this way can be latex odor, bleeding color from the canvas backing, leakthrough of colors used to mark the pattern on the canvas and delaminating, brittle latex. This last one has a LOT to do with your pilling question.
Just a bit more: After the rug is tufted it is aggressively washed with(usually) a lye solution to remove the cuticle from the wool and give it luster, but this weakens both the pile and foundatation further.
So the question you're really asking me is how does the yarn slip out of the back and cause pills.
In tufted rugs, the little ball of latex that holds the individual tuft into the backing is called the tuft bundle. It must enclose 100% of all the fibers of the tuft although 80% and up would reasonably be considered within industry standards. The fibers that are not enclosed by the latex slip out to the surface from the abrasion of traffic or vacuuming and they become entangled eventually becoming pills.
Why are the fibers not completely enclosed by glue? Maybe they didn't use enough to start with, or maybe they were running out of glue and added more filler so the glue dried out and it didn't hold the tufts. And who knows what all they put in the glue there anyway???
Pilling and dry powdering latex CAN be remedied by removing the secondary backing, recoating the insides of the carpet with a good quality latex and
reapplying the secondary backing. At this time repairs can be made to any missing pile as needed.
We do these routinely and are not expensive repairs.
I hope this helps.
Thea Sand,CRS IICRC023262
Emmanuel's Rug and Upholstery Cleaners