We’re talking sewing with fleece 101 today!
Where I live, we’re staring down a weather forecast of a week and a half of solid snow. With that in mind, I thought, why not talk about one of those fabrics that’s guaranteed to keep you warm.
Fleece is an incredibly versatile fabric, but it comes with some properties that you have to learn to deal with. I’m going to break down some good practices for cutting, pressing, and sewing with fleece that’ll help your fleece projects look their best.
Hit me with the fleece sewing tips.
Always buy quality fleece
If you get nothing out of this sewing with fleece 101 article, get this. Buy the good fleece!
When I first started seriously sewing, I remember being totally overwhelmed in fabric stores seeing these jumbo blocks of fleece on the shelf. What was this fleece stuff and why are people literally filling up their carts with it?
I bought some of it and I was…not impressed. It seemed like it wasn’t that great of quality and after a couple washes it looked long in the tooth.
Over the years, as I’ve sewed more and more of it, I’ve learned that fleece varies widely in quality.
Good fleeces are easier to sew, last longer and ultimately are more comfortable to wear.
Name brands are safe bets when it comes to fleece. Outdoor companies rely on fleece products from Polartec and it’s for good reason. All of those fleece fabrics are manufactured with specific properties that outdoor companies build their brands on. My husband has a lightweight fleece jacket from REI that’s 10 years old and just starting to show wear.
Besides Polartec, check around with fabric shops with an activewear focus for other high quality fleece fabrics for fleece garments. Shoutout to Rocky Woods which is local to me for their awesome Hermosa sweatshirt fleece. I also really like the Luxe fleeces from JoAnn, though I think they’re rather heavy for a lot of garments.
And Polartec Power Stretch forever has my heart for DIY fleece leggings!
Besides Rocky Woods, you’ll find more places to buy quality fleece in the Ultimate Jumbo Mega Guide to Online Fabric Stores.
Fleece is a lower stretch knit, and it doesn’t always have the best recovery.
Because of this, if you’ve ever tried to sew in a zipper on fleece, you might have seen it get all wavy swavy on you. Yeah, not a cute look.
A sewing with fleece 101 special consideration for you: add interfacing to buttonholes, pockets, zippers, grommets or any other hardware you add when you’re sewing fleece.
A good quality knit interfacing will do all the job of supporting those elements and keep them looking sharp.
How to press fleece
Sewing with fleece 101 true fact: fleece is almost always synthetic. There’s a few fleeces out there that have at least a portion of natural fibers like bamboo or sweatshirt fleece (usually cotton/poly blend), but synthetics are the norm.
Because of this, and the higher loft fleece has, it does NOT press well.
To press fleece, set your iron to a low heat to avoid melting or scorching it. Use a press cloth to help prevent melting too. You won’t be able to get a beautifully crisp hem, but you’ll be able to press open seams well enough this way.
Use hem bands when you sew with fleece
Quick think, when’s the last time you saw a sweatshirt without hem bands.
I’m guessing probably never.
Hem bands are a great solution for hemming fleece. Since it doesn’t press well, crisp beautiful hems aren’t going to happen. And if you try to hem fleece without interfacing the pewaddlededoo out of it, it’ll get all sad and wavy on you.
But if you add a little rib knit hem band though, you get a clean, professional looking hem that’s crazy easy.
Needles for sewing with fleece
Start out with universal needles for fleece. If you find you’re getting skipped stitches, switch to a ballpoint needle.
For soft shell fleeces, you might need a microtex needle to punch through the tightly woven outer face that covers the fleece layer.
Fleece cutting tips
You can cut fleece with shears or a rotary cutter. Layout your pattern pieces all the same direction so that the nap of the fleece runs the same way.
Cut any notches outwards. If you usually snip into seam allowances to mark notches, you’ll have a hard time finding them in the fleece’s loft.
Fleece can be a little messy.
When you’re done cutting, wipe off your cutting tools with a fabric scrap or cloth. Cotton flannel does a good job getting the lint off the blades. It’s really important to wipe off rotary blades. Fleece lint can clog up the wheel and shed fleecy bits over your projects to come.
Wipe off your cutting table too when you’re done cutting fleece too. If a cloth isn’t picking up the lint well, use a lint roller. If you’re still having problems, wrap your hand with painter’s tape and dab away.
Experiment with marking tools
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For marking fleece, most marker inks will sit on the surface and not be super helpful.
Instead, try chalk or methods like thread tracing. Here I’m using this Fons and Porter chalk pencil.
The thread tracing works well for this welt pocket since I need to see the markings on both sides of the fabric.
Check out other marking tools you should try and see which one you like the best for fleece.
Read on for tips on handling fleece while you sew…
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.