Walk into just about any fabric store this time of year and you will see row upon row of fleece material in a wide array of solid colors and prints. If you have never sewn with fleece before, you are missing out on a lot of sewing fun!
Photo via Craftsy instructor Pattie Otto
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Sewing with fleece is surprisingly easy and quite enjoyable once you learn the proper techniques for working with this amazingly versatile fabric.
Unlike fabrics such as silk or velvet, which have been around for literally centuries, fleece is a relative newcomer to the fabric scene. Debuting as Polar fleece in 1979, it is among one of the most popular fabrics for crafts, outerwear, and general sewing. Fleece is a purely synthetic fabric made of 100% polyester fibers. Its huge popularity can be attributed to its affordability but also to is many appealing properties. Fleece is warm, soft to the touch and has great insulative properties. Add on top of that the fact that it is easy to care for. It can be machine washed and dried and is wrinkle resistant.
If you are thinking about jumping on the bandwagon, there are a few tips and tricks you should know before you begin sewing with fleece:
1. Use “with nap” yardage requirements.
Fleece is a non-woven fabric which means it has no real grain, however, its surface has a brushed appearance that moves in one direction. As such, use the “with nap” yardage requirements and be sure to layout patterns in one direction.
2. Fleece has a right side and wrong side.
When pulled gently along a cross-grain edge, the fleece will curl towards the wrong side.
3. A chief benefit is its raw edges do not fray, therefore seam finishes are not really necessary.
They become more a matter of appearance and preference than need.
4. Fleece fabric has a considerable amount of stretch, especially along the cross-grain.
That’s both good news and bad news for sewers. The good: easing in seams is a breeze. The bad: edges at the cross-grain (like necklines) are prone to stretching, so be sure to stay stitch.
5. Find ways to eliminate bulk.
Fleece is bulky and therefore when sewing with it, finding ways to either reduce or eliminate bulk is paramount. One way is to use lining material to face collars or cuffs.
6. Fleece is hard on scissors and machine needles, so always use a new machine needle.
Microtex or ballpoint sewing machine needles are best. Clean scissor blades of fiber buildup with a bit of alcohol.
7. Use a good polyester thread and a slightly larger stitch length (3mm-5mm).
Stitching with a straight stitch is fine for most seams, but a small zigzag stitch is recommended at points where the seam will endure more movement, like armholes.
8. Because of its bulk and stretchy nature, stitching seams can sometimes be a challenge.
Either reduce machine tension or presser foot pressure to reduce shifting.
9. Keep your machine clean.
Working with fleece can be quite messy, so clean your machine of the fiber particles after every project.
10. Best seam finishes include serged edges, which help to compact the fleece, thus reducing bulk.
Overcast, pinking or zigzag stitched edges are also great options.
11. Contain seam allowances and secure hems.
Fleece, when pressed with a warm only iron, will not hold a crease, therefore implement ways to contain seam allowances and secure hems.
12. Best seams include faux flat fell, lapped or double topstitched seams.
All three help to contain or manage bulk, not to mention give the inside of a garment a finished look.