It’s no secret that some fabrics are far more difficult to work with than others. Fleece, cuddle fleece in particular, is one of them for a number of reasons…
What is Fleece?
Fleece is a synthetic, man-made polyester fibre derived from plastic. Super warm, cosy and breathable, fleece is perfect for anything from sweaters and jumpers to coats and jackets, and even sports clothing.
How to Prepare Fleece
Although it is recommended to pre-wash all fabric before working with it, fleece doesn’t necessarily need pre-washing as it is a polyester fibre that shouldn’t shrink in the wash.
Should you choose to, wash on a cold (up to 30 degrees), delicate cycle on its own. Do not tumble dry and never iron fleece. It may ruin the fabric (plastic!) and it won’t hold a crease, so isn’t necessary during construction anyway.
Things to Consider When Cutting Out Fleece Projects
Fleece (particularly those with a print) will often have an obvious right and wrong side, but it’s easily to tell anyway. Try stretching the fabric, it should curl towards the wrong side.
Consider the nap (the way that the fleece lays/brushes naturally) when cutting as this will be noticeable on the finished garment. Pay attention to directional prints when cutting for the same reason.
Fleece may have some stretch on the cross-grain (selvedge to selvedge) and diagonally. Use more pins or clips than you ordinarily would.
Fleece is a knit fabric, so doesn’t fray as woven fabrics would, but a word of warning; fleece sheds lots of fluff. You’ll find fluff everywhere for six months! Keep a vacuum and/or dustpan and brush on hand and clean up as you go. Future you will thank you. Once washed, it won’t shed any further.
A walking foot is a must. Fleece is very thick, and once you start sewing a couple of layers together it gets difficult for the feed dogs to handle. A walking foot will help to feed the thick layers through evenly.
Fabric clips will work better than pins with the layers of thick fabric.
You might want to consider using a ballpoint needle due to the stretch in the fabric, but I found a heavyweight universal needle (like for denim) worked better. I broke five of the stretch needles before switching!
A rotary cutter and mat will help when cutting out projects as it won’t distort the fabric as much as scissors would. Although, you will have to clean the mat afterwards as fluff will get stuck in the cuts.
If your machine has a setting to increase or decrease the pressure on your presser foot, now is the time to use it!
Check your manual to see if your presser foot can be lifter higher to accommodate thicker fabrics.
A stretch stich is recommended in some cases due to the stretch in the fabric, although a zig zag stitch or lightening stich will also work.
I increased the tension to 4 when sewing with fleece (for reference, I use 3 for cottons and viscose). It seemed to make a difference, but this isn’t founded on any research, just trial and error.
Clean your machine often, and thoroughly after finishing your project. Fluff gets everywhere and will effect the running of your machine.
Finally, take your time, follow the instructions, taking notice of seam allowance, and enjoy your finished project!