Feeling the Warm Fuzzies: 12 Sewing Tips for Working With Fleece

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Fleece has a fabulous way of making even the laziest armchair athlete feel like an Olympian. The best thing about fleece — besides its awesome colors and extreme coziness — is that anyone can wear it, and not just when it's skiing or snowboarding weather. (Think freezing-cold movie theaters in summer.)

Bonus: Sewing with fleece is such a blast. Walk into just about any fabric store and you'll see row upon row of fleece in a zillion solid colors and prints.

It wasn't always like this. Unlike silk, velvet and other classic fabrics that have been around for literally centuries, fleece is relatively new on the scene. The totally synthetic fabric, made of 100-percent polyester fibers, debuted as Polar fleece in 1979, and it's now one of the most popular choices for crafts, outerwear and general sewing.

No wonder: Fleece is soft to the touch, affordable and ultra-warm on the coldest days thanks to its insulating properties. Plus it's low-maintenance: You can machine-wash and dry it, and it's wrinkle resistant.

Sold yet? Here's everything you need to know before you start sewing your next fleece garment.

1. Use "With Nap" Yardage Requirements

Fleece is a non-woven fabric, which means it has no real grain, but its surface has a brushed texture that moves in one direction. So stick to the “with nap” yardage requirements, and make sure to lay out patterns in one direction.

2. Remember that Fleece Has a Right Side and a Wrong Side

When you pull fleece gently along a cross-grain edge, it will curl towards the wrong side.

3. Skip the Seam Finishes

Since fleece's raw edges don't fray, seam finishes are more a matter of appearance and personal preference than actual need.

4. Make Sure to Stay Stitch

Fleece fabric has a lot 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 you'll need to stay stitch.

5. Reduce or Eliminate Bulk

Fleece gets bulky, so when sewing with it, you'll need to use methods to keep that in check. One thing you can do is use lining material to face collars or cuffs.

6. Always Use a New Machine Needle

Fleece is hard on needles and scissors. Start with a new needle every time, and keep your scissors clean. When you're working with fleece, Microtex or ballpoint sewing machine needles are best. You can use a bit of alcohol to clean the fiber buildup on scissor blades.

7. Use a Good Polyester Thread and a Slightly Larger Stitch Length (3 to 5 Millimeters)

Stitching with a straight stitch is fine for most seams, but a small zigzag stitch is better for points where the seam will move around more (like armholes).

8. Reduce Machine Tension or Presser Foot Pressure to Control Shifting

Since fleece is both bulky and stretchy, stitching seams can be a challenge sometimes.

9. Keep Your Machine Pristine

Working with fleece can be messy. After every project, be sure to clean your machine of fiber particles.

10. Consider Serged Edges for Seam Finishes

Serged edges will help compact the fleece and cut down on bulk. Overcast, pinking or zigzag stitched edges are also great options.

11. Contain Seam Allowances and Secure Hems

When you press fleece with a warm-only iron, it won't hold a crease. So you'll need to find ways to contain seam allowances and secure the hems.

12. Use Faux Flat Fell, Lapped or Double Topstitched Seams

All three will help you contain or manage bulk when you're sewing with fleece. Plus they'll give the inside of your garment a finished look.

Now that you've nailed your first fleece piece, you're ready to hit the slopes or the hiking trail — or just your comfy sofa (wink).

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Feeling the Warm Fuzzies: 12 Sewing Tips for Working With Fleece