I feel a bit bad – I just posted a jacket in sherpa poly fleece without any sewing notes. But the post would have been very long. Poly fleece can be challenging!
By itself, poly fleece has no vertical stretch, but it does have generous mechanical stretch (and decent recovery) horizontally. I would not touch poly/lycra fleece!
I haven’t worked with fleece for a couple years. My last project was a coat, which I love wearing. It’s a combo of many designs and always gets nice comments.
Things I’ve learned – some basics:
- Spend time with fabric scraps. Work out tension, stitch length, and presser foot pressure ahead of time, on both the sewing machine and the serger.
- Staystitch any edge with even a hint of a bias cut.
- Baste seams before stitching them. I find that the top seam allowance wants to move away from the needle otherwise.
- A seam ripper will not save you with fleece 🙂 The stitches get really sunken in the fabric, it’s just not easy to get at them.
- Use a ballpoint needle. Fleece is a knit and doesn’t ravel, but a very small puncture in fleece will be a hole very quickly. I use a 90/14 ballpoint needle, big enough to pierce the fabric and grab the bobbin thread.
- Presser foot: I decrease the pressure, from it’s normal setting of 5, to 3. This lets the fleece move smoothly under the presser foot.
- I don’t use a walking foot, because it does not move forward nicely on fleece. I find that my 1/4″ presser foot is great. A wider foot tends to grip and compress the fabric a little too much.
- Stitch length. I use 3.2 for seams and 3.4 for topstitching (my usual settings, for knits and cottons, are 2.6 and 2.8).
- Fleece serges beautifully! and serged edges look very finished. But I do the seams on the sewing machine. A serged seam in fleece loses its flexibility and can be disappointing.
A bit more:
- I find that placing pins on an angle with a seam works best and prevent the fabric from sliding out of alignment. True with many fabrics.
- I use 1/4″ twill tape, sewn in the seam allowance of the back shoulder, to stabilize the shoulder seam. Sewn on the wrong side, it does not show in the finished shoulder.
- Pockets get a similar treatment, so that the top of the pocket will not be stretched out by use. I sew the twill tape on the wrong side along the pocket edge that will be folded in and topstiched. This really works!
- Clip curves as usual, but be careful not to go too far with those snips. I made pockets for my jacket, although I did not use them. Nevertheless, those rounded corners, clipped and basted, were much more friendly than they would have been without some love.
- I’m generous with topstitching. It shows so well on fleece and can be a design element all by itself. It also works to stabilize the fabric and the lines of the garment.
Hope this is helpful!
And here’s a great site for sewing with fleece, on Craftsy, Tips for Sewing with Fleece.
Bye for now! Coco
Edited to add (thank you, Margene!): I drafted and attached a back neckline facing in cotton broadcloth, instead of turning under the back collar seam with hand-stitching. The woven fabric stabilizes that part of the neckline beautifully – I think it would have been very stretchy otherwise, since it’s cut across the grain. It just peeks out in the upper part of the last photo.