Making Clothes Out of Fleece Without Getting Fleeced

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fleece clothes robe front

Young son’s fleece robe, front

fleece clothes

Young Son’s fleece robe, back

I like making fleece clothes. We won’t call it Polar Fleece as that is a registered trademark of Polartec LLC, and many companies make fleece. Fleece is available in every fabric store, even in Wal-de-Mart in the few stores that still have a sewing department. Fleece comes in an amazing variety of patterns and colors, and the selection changes from year to year, depending on the trends (or, more accurately, what the fabric stores and manufacturers think they are).

Fleece goes on sale all the time, so sign up for that JoAnn’s mailer, look for the ads, and don’t pay full price. There is no need to. JoAnn’s (the store I am the most familiar with) regularly runs fleece at 50 percent off, and does this often in the fall and winter when we are all supposed to be sewing our winter wardrobes.

The JoAnn’s mailer and the newspaper ad nearly always contain a coupon for 40 or 50 percent off a regularly priced item, including a cut of fabric. Many of the fabric chains do this, and they frequently accept each other’s coupons on regularly priced merchandise. That means if fleece isn’t on sale at JoAnn’s, you can bring in your A.C. Moore or Michaels coupon and still get 40 percent off. A cut of fabric is the entire piece you buy, one yard or fifty, and you pay the discounted price for each yard.

Thus, buy ten yards of $10-a-yard fabric, and you’ll pay $100. Get a 40% off coupon and price drops to $60, so look for those sales and clip those coupons. Save the money you could have spent on something else, such as more fleece.

Sewing with fleece is so easy. It never ravels so you don’t have to be as persnickety about finishing every single raw edge. This lets you make great fringe trim: very few fabrics will let you do this. It’s got a little give, more in one direction than the other. Pull on the fleece and see in which direction it wants to stretch. When you lay out your pattern, this may be useful. That is, if you want the garment to stretch across the body, rather than up and down, then lay out the pattern pieces to take advantage of the built-in stretch. This can matter for hats and mittens, too.

Fleece has a nap, and it has a right side and a wrong side. The wrong side is usually a bit duller in pattern and the fabric wants to curl to the wrong side when you stretch it on the cross grain. This isn’t easy to see. The nap layout may not matter to you, but if it does, or you’re matching patterns, be sure to buy extra fabric.

When you buy fleece, check to see if it’s non-pill. Non-pill fleece costs a little more (another reason to watch for sales) but it wears much, much better. Fleece that pills starts looking shabby fast; defuzzing it is an exercise in tedium that has to be repeated on a regular basis to keep the fleece looking good.

If you don’t see a fleece pattern you like in one store, go to another. Joann’s, Hancock, Wal-de-Mart, and I assume everyone else, don’t carry the same selection, so you can spend the time and gas and drive around and make yourself crazy in order to get something more to your liking. Having too many choices isn’t always a good thing. Bring your coupons so you don’t pay full price, other than at Wal-de-Mart. They won’t take another store’s coupons.

When you use fleece regularly to make those fleece pajamas and nightgowns (so useful when you set your winter thermostat at night to 55 degrees); fleece hats, mittens, and scarves; jackets and pullover tops; and everything else you can think of, you’ll end up with plenty of scrap pieces left over.

Sadly, piecing fleece into a quilt doesn’t work well. I’m still trying to figure out how to do it. The bulk of fleece gets in the way when you have all those tiny, intersecting seams. The few examples I’ve seen are all large squares tied or stitched together, backed with another layer of fleece. They aren’t quilted. I keep seeing a crazy quilt in my head, taking advantage of all the odd-sized bits left over from cutting out a garment.

I’ve made quite a few sets of fleece jammies and hats and scarves and mittens, and I’ve built quite a selection of scrap. Many of these pieces are quite large. What to do, what to do.

I’d been experimenting with sewing pajamas out of scrap fabric. This works pretty well and has allowed me to use up plenty of already-paid-for scrap for wildly patterned jammies.

It’s always a good idea to see what you can do out of your stash BEFORE you spend more money. This lets you use up what you’ve got and your partner is less likely to ask why you went back to the fabric store when you have a store-full at home already. It saves money too, as well as ensuring domestic harmony and more space in the closet.

So I have all these bins of leftover fleece, bought and paid for long ago. Younger Son is six foot two, with eyes of blue and still growing. He long ago grew out of his bathrobe and has been ‘making do’. I’ve been working on my sewing, trying to sew every evening and am making headway on my massive ‘to-do’ project list. I have fabric that I paid good money for that’s been hanging around for YEARS, and I decided that it was time I did something about it.

And that’s what we’ll get to, next week.