If you've ever sewn a rag quilt, you know what a mess they can be to wash and dry those first few times. Even after they come out of the dryer, the work isn't done, because they usually need a little haircut-- mostly for threads that are too much longer than the rest.
Then there's the fuzz. The pilling. Admittedly, I mostly use fairly cheap flannel-- bought for 99 cents a yard at one of Jo-Ann's Black Friday sales a few years back-- for the backings of my denim rag quilts, and possibly you'll get less pilling with pricier fabric. (I'm not sure, honestly.) But I can't imagine you'll ever be complete pill-free, with flannel. It's the nature of the beast. That pilling nature and the loose threads from the "ragging" combine to make a big old mess.
For my first few rag quilts and rag-quilted bags, I went through the painstaking process of picking off all those pills and threads-- the ones the clothes dryer left behind and that shaking outdoors could never budge-- by hand. I've used a lint brush, but that left behind some of the more stubborn pills (and cleaning the brush multiple times through the course of a quilt was annoying). I also tried catching them with a fine-toothed comb, which was sometimes helpful, but still time-consuming and tiresome (and if I wasn't careful, the sharp teeth would catch on the fabric). It was worth the effort, to see the improvement that pill-picking made in the appearance of the blanket, but it was definitely the worst part of making a rag quilt.
Recently, I decided to try a battery-operated fabric shaver (generally used on sweaters, I believe). When I bought mine, it was under $6, with free shipping from Amazon (well, free with a checkout total of $25+), so it seemed worth the risk.
I've used the fabric shaver a few times, now, and I'm a convert. I won't say I'll never go without one again, but as long as this one lasts a reasonable length of time and isn't too costly to replace, I certainly wouldn't want to go back to my pre-fabric shaver days. The process is so pain-free with one of these little gadgets!
This is the model I bought, the Remington Fuzzaway (or as it's currently listed on Amazon, the Remington Battery Operated Fabric Shaver).
Unfortunately, at the moment it appears that it's no longer shipped by
Amazon, which means another $10 for shipping. (I'd shop around or
try a different model that does have free or cheaper shipping...
but then, I'm a bit extreme in my hatred of shipping fees. (g)
It's particularly painful when the shipping is more than the price of
the item being shipped. Ouch.)
The Fuzzaway does make quite a bit of a buzzing noise, for such a little thing, and it takes a little time to go over the whole blanket with it. (The denim side shouldn't need it-- just the flannel. But if you make a flannel-only rag quilt, you'll need to do both sides, of course.) Also, you'll probably have to pause at least a few times to empty the little lint trap (or whatever you'd call the part where the lint collects). However, it's much faster and easier than picking off all those pills by hand. Hey, compared to picking off pills, one at a time, using the Fuzzaway is fun. ;o)
I also tested it out on a sweater (what it's designed for), and it worked well at removing pills from that, too. I believe some reviewers complained of fabric shavers cutting holes in fabric, so I might not use it on an expensive or special sweater... or at least do so only with great caution-- but so far, I haven't had any issues, and I've pressed it firmly against fabric, to get a few especially stubborn pills.
Of course, there are other options, if you prefer something that doesn't require batteries (or something that doesn't involve blades next to your precious fabric). There are sweater stones and specially designed combs (such as the D-Fuzz-It comb). Each has its pros and cons, so you'll want to read reviews to decide what's best for you. Personally, I'm happy with the speed and ease of the fabric shaver. It makes the prospect of rag quilting much more appealing.