Tips and tricks for sewing fleece and flannelette
The main difference between these two materials is that one is a largely natural fibre (flannel) and the other is a fully synthetic fibre (fleece), yet both are popular choices for any types of winter wear, most notably bedding and pyjamas.
Whether you choose to make something out of fleece fabric or flannelette is a matter of your personal preference, plus a few practical considerations:
- Durability - fleece material is usually considered more durable to flannelette and, best of all, it won't pill or wear out over time.
- Breathability - flannelette is much more breathable than fleece because it features a looser weave that encourages airflow. However, despite its breathability, it doesn't offer moisture-wicking capabilities.
- Warmth - fleece fabric is generally warmer than flannelette because it traps heat with its dense fibres (especially double-pile fleece varieties, such as polar fleece).
- Care - flannelette can shrink if washed with hot water but fleece is known to generate static electricity, which increases if you use a clothes dryer.
So, what other things should you know about flannelette and fleece before jumping into your own project? Let's look at each one in more detail.
Made from wool, cotton or other synthetic fibres, flannelette is a directional fabric, which means it has a nap (i.e. raised or fuzzy surface). Whether you're making a flannelette shirt, nightwear or other flannelette accessories, you'll need to ensure all the pieces of your flannelette project are cut in the same direction because the material looks either slightly lighter or darker depending on which way it is cut.
Flannelette's loose weave causes it to fray easily, so you should always finish your seam edges with an overlocker to avoid those unravelling threads. For best results, go with a zigzag stitch or finish with a French seam. Stay stitch or baste around any curved seams before sewing will make the process much easier.
When ironing flannelette, make sure you lift and press the iron to avoid warping, instead of running it across the fabric. You'll also find that starch is your best friend because it will prevent the fabric from stretching and distorting.
Machine settings for flannelette
Needle: Universal 100/16 needle works great, although flannelette will dull your needle so be sure to change regularly.
Foot: A walking foot will help prevent the fabric stretching and distorting while sewing, or you can use a general foot combined with heavy pinning to give you better control.
Thread: Polyester thread works best because it has a little give and is stronger than cotton.
Stitch Length: Increase stitch length to 3mm.
Tension: Reduce tension and pressure gauge a little when working with flannelette, because too much tension will stretch your fabric and cause pulling.
Unlike flannelette, fleece is a fully synthetic fabric but, similar to flannelette, it has a nap, which appears lighter or darker depending on which angle it is viewed. Consequently, when cutting your fleece fabric, be sure to lay out your pattern pieces facing the one way, usually with a downward nap.
Given fleece is a knit fabric, it can be cut without fraying, which makes it perfect for no-sew projects, such as blankets, although there's really no limit to your fleece project ideas - cardigans, hoodies, mittens, scarves, arm warmers, socks and more. There's also no need to overlock the edges of your work because the knitted weave won't unravel.
Identifying the right and wrong side of fleece can be difficult because there's only a subtle difference between the two. On printed fleece, the design will appear crisper on the correct side of the fabric. On plain-coloured fleece, it can be harder to tell, so we suggest cutting a small strip of the fabric and pulling across the grain. You'll find the fabric curls towards the wrong side of the fabric.
You can use a washable pen to mark the wrong side of the fabric when sewing a garment or project to avoid any confusion.
Machine settings for fleece
Needle: Sharp needle or ballpoint needle, although fleece will dull your needle so be sure to change regularly.
Foot: Use a walking foot, so the fleece doesn't move when you're sewing, or reduce the tension on the presser foot.
Thread: Polyester thread will accommodate the give of the fabric.
Stitch Length: Increase your stitch length. For seams that need to stretch, use a small zigzag.
Tension: Reduce your tension.
Fleece and flannelette are great fabrics to work with once you know how. We hope you refer back to these tips and feel confident in your future sewing projects, we can't wait to see what you create! Shop our huge range of fleece and flannelette fabrics online now.