Sewing with Fleece Fabric
For your sewing delight, no other fabric can compare with fleece. Warm and cozy, fleece fabric is easy to sew and to work with. Most patterns calling for fleece fabric are very simple, making fleece sewing projects fast and rewarding. Here is some basic information and several handy tips for sewing with fleece fabric.
Sewing with fleece fabric is different but not difficult. Once you get used to the thickness of the fleece fabric, you will find it's actually easier to sew with than many other fabrics. Fleece fabric is very forgiving: you don't have to interface it, you don't have to line it, and you don't have to finish the edges.
To determine which side of the fleece fabric is the right side, gently pull along the selvage: the selvage will naturally roll to the right side of the fabric. To easily identify this side when sewing, it"s a good idea to mark the wrong side of the fabric with chalk or marking pencils.
If you are using high quality fleece fabric made by Malden Mills, there is no need to pre-wash the fleece before sewing because the fabric won't shrink and the colors won't bleed. (Exception: Polartec ® Power Stretch fabrics will shrink up to 5% in length and 7% in width. Pre-washing is recommended).
When selecting a sewing pattern for a fleece garment, choose loose fitting styles with simple lines and few details. If you can"t find sewing patterns for outdoor clothing and equipment in local fabric stores, mail orders are a very good option. For example, "Kwik-Sew" and "Stretch-and-Sew" are nationally available lines that have good patterns for fleece and outerwear. Other pattern lines to look for include: Controlled Exposure, Green Pepper, DK Sports, Jalie, Green Pepper, and Storm Mountain.
Since fleece is a pile fabric, you should use nap layouts when cutting out your pattern. By cutting out your fleece fabric in the same direction as the nap you avoid getting different shading when sewing fleece garments. When choosing a pattern you should also keep in mind that extra layers, such as facings, will add bulk. You can reduce bulk by slashing darts and pressing the darts open, or by trimming seam allowances to 6mm. While seam finishes are not necessary when sewing with fleece fabric, you can also zigzag seam allowances together or topstitch to reduce bulk.
TIP: Short pins easily get lost in fleece fabric, so use long ones - the type with bead heads are the easiest to see.
When sewing with fleece fabric, the fabric can be cut using regular scissors or a rotary cutter. If you are using a rotary cutter on your fleece fabric, use a 45mm or a 60mm blade so that the depth of the blade will not shift the lower layer of fabric when you are cutting. If the fabric is bulky, you may want to cut out pieces on a single layer at a time.
Select a needle size that is appropriate for the weight of your fleece fabric. A Universal 11(80) needle is generally appropriate for sewing most types of fleece. The Malden Mills company offers the following needle size recommendations for sewing with their name brand fleeces: Use Universal Point Size 12/80 for Polartec ® 100 Series; Universal Point Size 14/90 for Polartec ® 200 Series and Prints; Stretch Needles Size 14/90 for Polartec ® Power Stretch ® Series.
TIP: If you are having problems with your thread "shredding", check your needle size. If you are having problems with skipping stitches, check needle size and/or get a new one.
Using old needles is a sure source of problems and sewing frustration. Needles can develop burrs that will damage the fabric by cutting the threads as you sew. A good rule of thumb is to use a new needle for every sewing project. Synthetic fabrics such as fleece dull needles very quickly, so you may even want to change halfway though a fleece fabric sewing project.
THREAD AND STITCHES
The use of poor thread can ruin a sewing project. When sewing with fleece fabric, use a top quality, 100% polyester thread. Avoid the typical "cotton covered polyester core" thread that is found in all fabric stores. It is weak and it will shred and rot.
A medium to long stitch or a zigzag stitch (length 2.5 - 4mm) and a loose balance tension work best when sewing with fleece fabric. Because stitches are hard to remove, stitch slowly and carefully. If your hems or seams are wavy, your stitch length may be too short. Lessening the presser foot pressure or holding your fleece fabric tight (without over stretching) in both front and back will prevent underlaying creep while you are sewing.
TIP: Experiment first on scraps of fleece, adjusting the stitch width and length until you like the way the seam looks.
For most fleece sewing projects, any sewing machine will do. Be sure the machine has been cleaned and oiled recently, and that the needle is new, sharp and properly positioned. When sewing on a serger (a specialized sewing machine that trims and finishes a seam simultaneously), build in stretch by using four thread overlock. When sewing around curved areas (such as necklines or armholes), stitch slowly and be careful not to stretch the fleece as you guide it through the machine.
When hemming a fleece fabric garment, fold the hem to the wrong side and sew ¼" (6mm) from the cut edge using a straight stitch, or topstitch using a double needle or a decorative stitch.
TIP: If the decorative stitches are very close together, place a piece of tissue paper under the fabric on the wrong side to prevent the fabric from stretching. Remove the paper when you are finished.
To avoid bumpy zippers when sewing fleece garments, stabilize zipper openings as follows: With the wrong side up, apply a 2.5cm (1 inch) strip of fusible interfacing to the edges of the opening before the zipper is stitched. Remember to use low temperature interfacing, as fleece is heat sensitive
Avoid pressing fleece fabric with an iron; finger pressing is usually sufficient. If the seam allowance still curls, try some topstitching. If pressing is absolutely necessary, use a press cloth between the fabric and your iron.
One of the beauties of fleece is that the fabric does not ravel and the edges do not need to be finished. However, if you desire a more professional look, here are some ideas on how to finish the raw edges.
*Cut the edges using pinking shears or a rotary cutter
*Sew the edges using a four-thread serger with matching, contrasting or variegated thread.
*Hand stitch the edges using a blanket stitch & thread or yarn of your choice
*Cut in a fringe
TIP: To ensure that your stitches are the same distance from the edge, sew basting stitches with the sewing machine at the desired width. When you have finished your hand stitches, remove the basting stitches.
POCKETS, CUFFS & COLLARS
To make a pocket, sew on the seam line using a straight stitch. Then, fold the edge under along this line and topstitch the pocket to the garment. For cuffs & collars, use fusible interfacing and then sew around the edges.
BUTTONS & SNAPS
To add buttons or snaps to your fleece garment, you should reinforce the fabric when sewing with a single layer. Cut small pieces of your fleece fabric and interface them on the wrong side. Place the pieces on the garment, wrong sides together. Make the buttonholes or apply the snaps through all layers. Then, trim the reinforcing pieces on the wrong side, close to the buttonholes or snaps.