SEWING WITH FLEECE

BETH BRADLEY

FLEECE IS A FAVORITE SEW SIMPLE FABRIC, not only because it’s easy to sew and super comfy, but it’s also eco-friendly by nature. It’s manufactured from recycled bottles—who knew plastic could be so cozy? Fleece comes in a huge array of bright colors and wacky prints, and works great for clothing, home-dec and accessories projects alike. It’s a knit fabric, so it’s stretchy and generally the edges don’t ravel. It’s warm without being too bulky, and stands up to lots of washing and drying. Find out how to sew with fleece by following these useful pointers.

 

pick your fleece

Fleece comes in numerous weights and types. Some fleece fabrics even have special waterresistant or odor-repellent finishes. Usually, the heavier the fleece, the less flowy or drapey it is. Heavier fleece is best for outdoor apparel and accessories, whereas lightweight fleece works well for baby clothes or pajamas. Check the recommended fabrics listed on the pattern envelope to make sure that the pattern is appropriate for the fleece you want to use.

Like velvet or chenille, fleece has a pile. The pile can be treated in various ways to produce a diverse variety of fleece types. The most common type of fleece resembles felt with its fuzzy, brushed pile. Check out the fleece section of the fabric store to find different types and textures, including fleece that resembles faux fur or shearling.

Unless fleece fabric has an all-over print, it can be tricky to tell the difference between the right and wrong sides. It doesn’t matter too terribly which side you choose, but one way to check which is which is to stretch the fabric crosswise. The fabric will curl to the wrong side.

 

cut it out

Fleece has a fluffy pile, which also means that it has a nap. The nap refers to the direction that the pile goes when you run your hand up or down the fabric. When you cut out your pattern pieces in fleece, refer to the “with nap” instructions to ensure that the pile runs the same way for every pattern piece.

Because of its bulk, it’s best to cut fleece just one layer at a time. For straight, even edges, use a rotary cutter with a new sharp blade in combination with a mat and clear ruler.

 

pins, needles and thread

Use long sharp pins on fleece, as short pins tend to get lost in the pile. Another option for holding seams together is basting tape, a double-sided tape that dissolves in water.

For the smoothest possible sewing, use a 12/80 or 14/90 universal, stretch or ballpoint sewing machine needle with a rounded tip. You might find that the needle gets dull more quickly on fleece than with other fabrics, so you’ll need to change it out more often to avoid skipped stitches.

Use polyester thread with fleece rather than cotton. The polyester fiber is stronger and more compatible with the synthetic fabric.

Some fleece projects require no sewing at all! See “No-Sew Muffler” on page 77.

sew ahead

Before you begin your fleece project, test-sew on some fleece scraps to determine the most effective tension, stitch length, speed, etc. Set your machine to a longer stitch length between 3 and 4mm. This prevents seam waviness and keeps the stitches from sinking too tightly into the fabric.

Use slightly less pressure than usual on the machine presser foot as you sew. A sewing machine roller foot or even-feed foot are also helpful for guiding the fabric through the machine.

Fleece tends to shed quite a bit during sewing. Clean the fuzzies out of your machine often, using canned air or a brush.

*Fleece will melt if too much heat is applied. Use an iron on very low heat, or simply finger press. Use steam to press seam allowances open.

 

the finishing touch

Since fleece fabric doesn’t ravel, you can leave the cut edges completely raw. Other fun options include trimming the edges with pinking shears for a zigzag effect, or cutting with a wavy or scalloped rotary cutter blade. If you prefer to hem the edges anyway, fold the fabric once about 1⁄2” to the wrong side. Stitch close to the raw edge using a straight or wide zigzag stitch. For a hand-finished look, blanket stitch (see page 46) or whipstitch around the edges.

 

FLEECE AND LOVE

Here are a few fleecy project ideas to get you started.

• Softies (see “Otis the Owl” on page 44.)

• Blanket

• Zip-up hoodie or vest

• Scarf, hat and mittens

• Bath robe

• Christmas stocking

• Pillow

• Dog coat

• Pajama pants

Appeared in:

Sew Simple Vol 11

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