I’ve been eyeballing Sweater Stones for the past month or so. They claim to be the perfect tool for removing pills from handknits. I do have lots of handknits and I’m often picking off pills. A Sweater Stone is a yarn related tool that I didn’t already have. That needed to be corrected didn’t it? What decided me was the certainty that “the blog will want to know about this”.
So here is my obligatory, purchase-justifying post on how effective the Sweater Stone is at pill removal. For the record, no one paid me for this review. Also, I had to buy the stone myself. Perhaps someday I’ll be famous enough that companies will try to bribe me for good product reviews. Sadly that day has not yet come.
What’s a Sweater Stone? Its a rock. Its a volcanic rock called pumice that was formed when super hot volcanic ash erupted from a volcano, fell down to the ground, and then cooled. Because of the way pumice forms its full of air pockets, making it light as a feather. But don’t let that lightness fool you. Volcanic ash is really just glass dust. So pumice is like nature’s sandpaper and its pretty good at grinding things down. Because of that, don’t rub your eyes or nose when handling pumice. Glass dust in delicate places can hurt. And when you’re done, wash your hands. And yes I am, in fact, your mother.
What’s a (yarn) pill?
All yarn has some fuzziness to it. Some yarns are certainly more fuzzy than others. That fuzz, sometimes called a halo, will clump and ball over time. The more loosely spun yarns, the more loosely made fabrics, and the more rubbing on the surface of that fabric, the more pills you get.
Sweater Stones get the pills off, or so they say. There are tons of videos up on youtube which claim to show how effective these pill-removing stones are. I’ve watched bunches of them. But the camera is always across the room and we, the viewers, can’t see what’s really happening. Well. I know how to take super close up pictures of yarn. I’m almost-but-not-quite-professional at that. So here is a real review of my pill-removing stone showing how it worked on different fabrics, made from different yarns, in different stages of wear.
Yes, this is the Sweater Stone review for the super yarn nerd that lives in all of us.
On a Plain Stockinette Pullover
First up is my side-to-side white pullover. I made it in Cascade Cherub Aran. Its 55% nylon, 45% acrylic, worsted weight plied yarn. This yarn is very soft to the touch but it holds up to regular washing, which I needed since its white. My white pullover gets washed more than my other handknits. One time after I, ahh, bled all over it (don’t ask) I soaked it in bleach. So, yeah, this is a yarn that can stand up to some abuse. But it has started to fuzz and pill as you can see in the upper right picture.
The sweater stone did a great job of removing the pills without damaging the sweater.
On a Cabled Sweater
Next up is my Central Park Hoodie. Its looking a little pilly these days and that’s a shame because I really like this cardigan. I made it from Cascade 220. That’s a 100% wool, worsted weight, plied yarn and my personal favorite wool-workhorse yarn. But after three years I have these little white pills forming.
I was pretty gentle with this cardigan. I went lightly around those cables and just flicked at the individual pills. After I got the hang of it, the stone did a pretty good job of picking off pills in just one try. I didn’t scrape the whole sweater, only around the edges and under the arms. Overall I’m very happy with the results.
On a Cotton/Acrylic Blend
I made this summer tee in Cascade Sunseeker (and this post is turning into an unpaid advertisement for Cascade I guess). It hasn’t pilled much at all. Its a sport weight blend of 48% acrylic, 47% cotton and 5% metallic thread. I wanted to see if the stone pulled at that metal thread. So I searched all over for a pill and found one in an underarm area. See that little pill in the upper right picture?
I went at it with the stone. It got the pill no problem. It didn’t pull up the sparkly metal thread. But it did fuzz the surface of the knitting, which I think you can see in the lower right picture. I bet you that’s the soft, short length cotton fibers coming up. So with a cotton or cotton blend yarn, I’d go very lightly and very strategically with the stone.
Now let’s try some socks.
I wear my socks. I wear them inside cowgirl boots. I wear them until they wear out. I also tend to use soft spun yarns because those are comfy on my feet. It also makes them pill like crazy. So lets see if the Sweater Stone can be a Sock Stone.
Here is a pair in Lamb’s Pride Bulky. That is a bulky weight, single ply yarn made with 85% wool and 15% mohair. These babies are warm. They are my current around-the-house favorites.
The sock on the left has been scraped. It certainly looks cleaner. All the pills are off. But the scraping made the surface fuzzy so I know new pills will be forming. I don’t much care because these are house socks so I’m pleased with the results. If it was an outer wear garment that might not be okay. Of course if it was an outer wear, it wouldn’t get pilly as fast as a pair of socks.
Here is a pair made in… I forget. Sorry. Its a worsted weight plied alpaca-blend yarn but I can’t remember the brand. I made them 5+ years ago to use up bits and bobs and half balls out of the stash.
The results are pretty much the same as above. The stone got the pills and left the knitting fuzzy, maybe even fuzzier than before.
Sensing a trend I grabbed an old pair made from Mini-Mochi. Mini-Mochi is a nice yarn, fingering weight, single ply made from 80% wool, 20% nylon. It does not hold up to hard wear, which these socks taught me. They were the third pair of socks I ever made. Today they look like they need a shave.
I worked on the left sock. You can see some improvement. Maybe. But after pulling all that fiber off the sock still wasn’t looking very fresh or pretty so I stopped. On this yarn I have to say the Sweater Stone failed.
But that was the only fail. I got good to great results on all of my other knitted fabrics. I’m pretty darn happy with the Sweater Stone so I’m recommending it. You can probably find them at your local yarn store. I got mine at The Sated Sheep. Also Joann’s carries them for $9.99 (at the time of this writing they have it marked down to $5.99 for “on-line only” but that won’t be forever) and its worth it.
There are other pill-removing stones on the market and they may perform better/worse. Unless the yarn world starts sending me free pumice stones to try out and compare I’ll never know. I think this Sweater Stone is going to last me the rest of my life.