DEAR KNIT NERD
I made a beautiful throw awhile ago using bulky yarn, 80% wool/20% acrylic, and the throw pills terribly and looks bad. I like the weight of throw however the pilling is unattractive and messy looking. Is there any yarn that I could use that won’t pill but also gives me the weight? ( w/o using 100% acrylic)?
The way a yarn is spun is actually more of a factor when it comes to pilling than the fibre content. A singles yarn will always pill the most, as will loosely spun yarns. Tightly spun yarns (think sock yarn) will pill much less. This is because the more room there is for the fibres to move around, the more likely they are to rub against each other and felt themselves into those little annoying balls. Bulky yarns are commonly loosely spun so that they offer warmth by trapping air between those loosely spun fibres instead of making the yarn dense and heavy by spinning them tightly.
When it comes to fibre content, synthetics are much more prone to pilling than natural fibres since stray fibres in synthetics don't tend to break away, they stay attached and turn into tough little balls. Natural fibres are more likely to break away entirely or turn into easily removed pills.
Cotton, linen and bamboo blends can help a lot in the battle against pills. Those fibres are smoother and less likely to have fly-aways that can wrap around each other. Superwash yarns also pill less because of this same reason. The barbs on the yarn have been removed in the process of making it superwash and as a result pilling is less likely.
You could also consider holding multiple strands together of a lighter weight yarn that is less likely to pill. I recently made a throw by holding 2 strands of fingering weight sock yarn (80% superwash Merino, 20% Nylon) together, which is roughly equivalent to worsted weight, and I have used it every day for 6 months and it has very little pilling. In contrast I wove a throw a couple years ago from bulky yarn (80% acrylic, 20% wool) that sits on the back of the upstairs couch (that never gets used) and it is the most pilly thing I've ever made.
Your friendly neighbourhood Knit Nerd