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Pilling of upholstery fabrics

When textile surfaces are used fibres may be removed under certain circumstances. These fibres then entangle on the surface of the textile to form nodules (so-called “pills”). This surface change is called pilling. How strongly the pilling effect occurs depends on the fibre properties, the yarn and the fabric structure. The more tensile (i.e. tear-resistant) the fibres are, the stronger a permanent pilling can develop. If the fibre material is less tensile the pills can be removed by mechanical abrasion during use. Pilling occurs exclusively in flat woven fabrics whereas full-surface chenille articles and velvets are resistant to pilling. In order to minimise the pilling behaviour long fibrous material, high twisted yarns and well set fabric structures should be used during production. Pilling can be removed using a commercially available lint shaver (see illustration). This does not damage the cover.


A distinction is made between external and internal pilling. With internal pilling the pills form from the fibres of the upholstery fabric itself but with external pilling fibres from other textiles, e.g. blankets, pillows, clothing textiles, etc. adhere to the fibres of the upholstery fabric. These foreign fibres knot together with so-called anchor fibres (individually protruding fibres of the upholstery fabric) to form noticeable pills. The colour of the pills is used to differentiate optically between external and internal pilling. In the case of external pilling the pills usually have a different colour than the cover fabric. External pilling is not a reason for complaint and cannot be regarded as a defect in the upholstery fabric.

The Martindale device checks the pilling formation (only internal pilling). This device simulates the wear of a fabric due to loading and movement of the fabric sample on a wool abrasive fabric. The pilling value is assessed according to DIN EN ISO 12945-2. The following applies: grade 1 = very strong pilling formation (the pills cover the entire surface of the sample), grade 5 = best value (no change compared to the original fabric). Our quality-assured Q2 fabrics are given a grade of 4.