Stitch n Save: Fleece Guide

Choosing Fleece Fabric

Fleece is a wonderful, simple fabric to work with and has many uses. One of the keys to a successful fleece project is choosing the right fleece fabric for it.

Since fleece is incredibly popular now for outwear, performance wear and comfort wear, it can be found in all kinds of stores, from discount department stores and chain fabric stores to outdoor specialty retailers and specialty fabric retailers. There are so many different fleeces on the market that choosing a good one can be the most challenging aspect of your project. You might ask: Why the price variations? Aren"t all fleece fabrics the same? The answer is "No"!

Indeed, the price variations between inexpensive and more expensive fleece fabrics reflect a genuine difference in the quality of the fleece. If you are not sure what high quality fleece feels like, take a trip to an outdoors shop. Use your hands to "feel" the fleece garments on the rack. They are usually of high quality: soft, silky, and plush, and light does not pass through the fabric. Compare this feel to what you find at your local fabric store. Generally, chain fabric stores carry lower quality "fashion" fleeces that do not perform and last the way a high quality fleece will. A cheap fleece fabric has a felt-like feel, is thinner and not as plush as a performance fleece. (You can expect to pay from about $12 to $20 per yard for high-quality fleece).

A non-pill finish is very important when choosing fleece fabric. It prevents the surface of your fabric from balling up or pilling after several washings. Although they're attractively priced, cheaper fleeces without this finish are not worth sewing, since they are quickly destroyed and some even "grow". Your fabric store should be able to tell you whether a piece of fleece fabric has a non-pill finish.

To foresee potential pilling, try this helpful tip: Look at the surface of the fabric: if you can see that the fibers lie against the surface instead of standing up and away from the core (like a felted surface), chance are that as the fabric is worn, the fibers will continue to be rolled up with the other fibers, creating little balls or pilling.

Note that the non-pill finish is applied only to the right side of the fabric. That's why it's so important to differentiate the right from the wrong side when you are sewing with fleece fabric.

Fleece fabric DOES have a right and wrong side. On prints, the right side is usually clearer or more vivid than the wrong side. On solids, the wrong side usually looks more like felt than the right side does. Your fabric store should be able to tell you which is the right side. If you are stuck and cannot differentiate between them, try washing the fleece fabric piece two or three times, then use the side that looks best as the right side.
TIP: When working with fleece fabrics, mark the wrong side of each piece with chalk before you begin to sew, so you don't get mixed up.

Malden Mills, in conjunction with Patagonia, were the first developers of modern day polyester fleece. You may also want to note that the terms "polartec" and "polarfleece" are trademarked terms referring only to fleece fabrics made by Malden Mills. While these terms are used profusely all over the fabric world today, be sure that you are getting the real thing!

You can also choose fleece fabrics by searching the Internet. Many fleece manufacturers have both online and print catalogs available, and some have swatch packets available for purchase. Mail orders are another excellent option. There are many mail order sources that have everything you need for sewing projects: patterns, notions and hardware. They not only carry quality products with good prices, they offer knowledgeable service from mail order specialists. Finally, you may find quality fleece fabric in your local fabric stores. Use your fleece-know-how to feel your way, and choose top quality fleece fabric today!

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RSS | August 23, 2019

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