Fleecy Fun!

Hello my lovelies! Yes, two blog entries in one week! Lucky ducks. 😛

Not as many pictures today, mostly because this is in response to a request/affirmation that I should do a blog entry about sewing with fleece! I don’t have any fleece projects going on right now, but I will probably end up doing at least one fleece project in the next year, so if I get my act together maybe I’ll do a more extensive walkthrough later. In the meantime, here is a cute example of a fun fleece project I made last fall, using this free pattern from Stitched by Crystal:

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Ain’t he a cutie? I’m pretty darn proud of him! I also had tentative plans for a skunk and a raccoon, but time wouldn’t allow. Maybe next time!

I realize in most of the Northern Hemisphere it’s not exactly fleece weather! But, even if you think it’s not the greatest time of year to think about fleece crafting, I am of the mindset that there is no wrong time of year to sew, well, anything! When I worked at a big box fabric store for a few years, I learned that tied fleece blankets are always being made – for babies, graduation (so. many. fleece graduation blankets! What a great gift for a grad to make for a friend!), weddings, you name it. Not only are they easy, thoughtful (who doesn’t love cuddling up in a warm fuzzy blanket??), and easily customizable, they can be inexpensive! The massive amounts of fleece I cut at my big box sewing store employer year-round still boggles me, to this day!

Massive amounts of fleece being cut also means Lots Of Remnants! Remnants from your big box sewing store are awesome for doll clothes & accessories, baby and toddler clothes, AND fleece projects. Scarves, hats, mittens, throw pillows, you name it; usually you can get around a yard of fleece (sometimes more!) for a major discount. Which is awesome.

Sewing with fleece can be tricky if you just jump in without researching and getting some tips, so guess what. I’m here to give you tips and tricks on successfully sewing with fleece!

First things first. Fleece is thick, fluffy, and stretchy, even if it doesn’t seem like a knit – it actually is. That’s part of what makes it so fluffy and soft!

There are two kinds of fleece: anti-pill, which just means that the fleece won’t pill very much; and regular fleece (called by different names at different stores), which will pill, but will still be soft and fluffy. Generally they’re interchangeable, except for personal preference. I prefer using anti-pill fleece for stuffed animals, pillows, mittens, and hats – items that get a lot of use and/or are very loved! But, in reality, I basically use these two types of fleece interchangeably!

When you shop for fleece, if you’re looking for anti-pill fleece, check the end of the bolt of fleece you’re looking at – or the label on the remnant. It should say Anti-Pill somewhere, if it doesn’t, it is the other stuff. The big box stores I’ve been to typically have both patterned fleece and solids in both. Some even have micro-fleece, which is AWESOME for garments – like light jackets and leggings – it breathes a bit better, I think. Lined with regular fleece – oh boy, that makes great mittens!!

So, you’ve got your fleece picked out! Next, stop at the needles. If you are a novice sewist, chances are you’ve never sewn with knit fabric. Lemme tell ya – knit fabric is AWESOME… if you have the right tools. One of the tools you need to look for is a needle pack labeled Stretch or Jersey (see below). Typically the Stretch needles are reserved for thinner, drapier, stretchier knits, and the Jersey needles are for thicker, more stable knits. They are both ballpoint needles, which means they won’t puncture your fabric.

Lace-Trimmed T-Shirt Tutorial (1)

A pack of jersey needles. For lighter-weight knits, use the pack labeled Stretch. You can use stretch needles for thicker knits, but the jersey needles work better. For fleece, you definitely want Jersey needles, not Stretch, for best results.

Wait. “…Why do I care about puncturing?” you ask? “Isn’t that what we’re doing when we sew – poking holes and thread through fabric??” Well, yes – but, if you’ve ever worn pantyhose – you know how you get runs? Well, the same thing happens with knit fabric – the way the fabric is made (knitted), a hole torn in the threads that make UP the fabric can unravel a massive hole if left unchecked. I don’t know about you, but I want my seams to stay together, not disintegrate! 🙂 A sharp, universal needle will poke holes INTO the fabric, a ballpoint needle pushes the thread THROUGH the fabric because it is rounded off. Pretty cool huh? (I’m such a nerd for this stuff.)

In the case of fleece, well, a hole may not be as catastrophic in your fleece blanket or scarf project as say, in a pair of silk jersey pants. But, if you’re doing something like stuffing a pillow or making a garment, you want those seams to be solid, so a jersey needle is the best way to go. If you’ve never changed out a needle for a project before and don’t know how to do it on your machine, you can do a Google search for your machine model and watch a video or find a tutorial – it will also be in your manual.

Once you’ve changed out your needle – just a few more things to note. Use a zigzag stitch – for fleece projects, length and size of the stitch probably isn’t that important – the fleece will fluff up and conceal any flaws, especially for pillows. I would suggest not using a teeny-tiny stitch though. Probably a 3 or 3.5 length would be good.

Go SLOWLY. Fleece is extremely fluffy, so feel free to take your time to make sure everything goes where it needs to. If your machine locks up on you, try lowering your feed dogs if you can, try a different kind of presser foot (again, Google your machine model # or consult your manual), lower the pressure of the feed dogs if you can, or try using a walking foot. Walking feet are AWESOME for thick layers, quilting, and projects that use a fabric that doesn’t like to stay put! They are SO WORTH IT, especially if you do a lot of home decor, quilts, and bag-making. (Plus they make a great gift idea if someone doesn’t know what to get you! :P)

Also, if you can, trim your finished seams down a little bit to cut out bulk. I would leave at least 1/4″ seam allowance, if not a little more; especially if you’re making stuffed toys or pillows.

Important Notes: CLEAN OUT YOUR MACHINE after you’re done (ask me how I know!)! Fleece is fluffy and linty, and you will be shocked at how much lint you clean out of your sewing machine afterwards! Also, throw the needle you used away afterwards – fleece sewing is pretty hard on them! I used to use canned air to clean out my machine, until I took my machine in for a tune-up and the tech was very adamant that canned air is horrible for sewing machines – it forces tiny bits of dust and lint INTO your machine mechanism – all they use at the sewing repair shop is Q-tips! (Seriously!) Also, your machine probably came with a small brush – this works perfectly for cleaning too; and you can buy cleaning brushes at most sewing stores.

Overall, sewing with fleece is a lot of fun! You can get pretty great results for very cheap, which is always my main goal when sewing!

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