I received a phone call from a set designer doing a little bit of detective work on rugs for TV a show. We have supplied rugs for many shows in the past including 60 minute makeover, DIY SOS, Cowboy Builders and Big Brother. But this request was more to do with counteracting the problems of rugs on a set. The program was ITV 1’s Midsomer Murders and the director was having problems with rugs shedding pile on set when actors walked over them. I suppose it wouldn’t make things easy forensic guys unless of course the victim had actually choked on carpet fluff. Don’t panic, there is no need to call in forensics for this one, the problem is actually a very simple one to overcome, particularly on a film or TV set. In true detective fashion let us look at the crime and examine the evidence.
Why is the rug losing or shedding its pile? The answer to this is basically because the yarn has been spun. Natural fibres such as wool are cut from a sheep’s back then they are washed combed and processed ready for spinning. The spinning process requires the short staple length of fleece to be spun into one long string of yarn. Although the yarn is one long length it is still made up of hundreds of thousands of short lengths of fleece.
So why does the rug shed fluff when my pure wool suit doesn’t? Your suit will be woven with a fine wool using a very tight weave where the even the very short lengths of yarn are locked in place preventing them from shedding or pilling. It is also fair to say that more open weaves like Harris Tweed which have a more open and courser finish can often pill and shed. When it comes to knitted wool garments pilling and shedding is more a dominant issue. A rug or carpet by nature is possibly the most open of all manufacturing methods and the exposed surface yarns are usually far longer than any of the aforementioned. This means it is even easier for the very short staple length of yarn to brake from the main body of the spun yarn, thus causing fluff. When the yarn stays attached it will turn into a small ball this is what we call pilling.
How can we stop wool and other natural fibres from shedding or pilling? The simple answer is we can’t, wherever there is a shorter staple length of yarn than the actual length of the tuft there is a very high probability that the yarn will break from the main tuft body. For example you will get more shedding form a long pile shaggy wool rug that you will from a short pile rug. The good news is the shedding won’t last forever and a vacuum cleaner bag full of wool from a rug is certainly not a manufacturing fault.
What are my options I do if I don’t want a rug or carpet to shed fluff? You can buy many rugs and carpets that won’t shed; this is because they use manmade BCF yarns. BCF is an abbreviation for Bulk Continuous Filament which means rather than being spun in thousands of short lengths the yarn is extruded and spun in one continuous process. This not only gives the yarn extreme strength you’d expect from a manmade fibre the added bonus is there is nothing to break off the yarn so it won’t shed either.
I have been informed that the two rugs we provided produced using a manmade fibre for a walk on part in the new series made an impressive debut performance. I don’t think they will be getting Oscars but they have stopped the director screaming blue murder about the balls of fluff on his set.