Fleece Fabric • Sew Fleece • Fleece Clothing
Excerpted from Adventures with Polarfleece by Nancy Cornwall
Today's fleece fabric is a high-tech, high performance product that is very easy to sew because it's extremely forgiving. Fleece is extremely warm and soft to the touch. It wicks away moisture from the body, so it feels dry, even when soaking wet. Fleece offers tremendous warmth in comparison to its weight and offers high fashion colors, textures, and designs.
Fleece fabric is made by first twisting fibers into yarn. The yarn is then knitted into fabric. To raise the fibers and create a downy surface, the fabric is brushed with wire brushes. This process makes the cloth compact. Finally the fleece is then sheared and finished.
Fleece fabric is predominantly made from 100% polyester. However, it can be blended with other materials such as spandex, cotton, wool, and rayon.
Warmth Per Weight
Fleece is first spun into a yarn which adds weight. It is then brushed to compact the fabric and to build air pockets for insulation. Fleece offers more wind resistance per weight.
Also referred to as moisture management, wicking is equivalent to capillary action in material. The fabric is constructed in such a way to allow the moisture to travel along the fibers, or yarns, away from the body. This chemical application is found only on the lighter weight fleeces because they are worn next to the body.
Polyester and acrylic fibers are hydrophobic by nature. This means that they retain little water. With the technology of microfibers (fine denier yarns), these fabrics repel water by construction. Durable Water Repellent or DWR, a semi-permanent substance, is applied to the surface of some mid-weight and heavy weight fleeces to further repel moisture.
A clever trick to freshen up a fleece garment is the brush on the end of a travel steamer. Don't use the steam - just the brush.
Many of today's fleeces claim "no pilling." However, a more accurate claim would be "low pilling."
Pilling is the formation of little balls of fiber on the surface of the fabric. These balls result from contact, abrasion, and wear. As fabric rubs against fabric, fiber is pulled away from the yarn and raises to the surface of the fabric. This occurs in all fabrics and cannot be avoided. Pills are not as noticeable on natural fabrics because the fibers are not as strong as synthetic fibers. When pills rise to the surface on natural fabrics, they break and fall off.
Manmade fibers such as polyester and acrylic are very strong. When the fiber pills on the surface of these fabrics, the manmade fiber is so strong that it won't release the pill.
The fleece of yesteryear was notorious for pilling. Hanging on the rack in the stores, the garments looked as though they had been through war. Today's technology has assisted in the production of many very low pill fabrics. With the introduction of microfibers and the newer finishing techniques, high quality fleece now has a low-pill finish that looks excellent after wearing and laundering.
The surface appearance of fleece fabric is a direct result of shearing and finishing techniques. Shearing is a finishing process done by a machine similar to a lawn mower. Shearing controls the length of the pile or nap, and depending upon the techniques used, may create a patterned or smooth surface. A sculptured effect is achieved by flattening portions of the pile with an engraved roller and shearing the remaining areas.
Berber Fleece has a softly curled, nubby surface that is distinguished by a flecked appearance, resulting from a combination of fibers. It generally has a soft sweater-knit backing.
Shearling and Sherpa have a lamb's wool appearance that is achieved by curling the pile or surface nap.
Plush Fleece has a velvet-like appearance resulting from dense fibers that are evenly sheared.