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Conversational Threads

Pros and cons of poly fleece vs. wool

BernaWeaves | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

I’m still trying to decide which fabric to use to make a cloak.

I love wool flannel or broadcloth for it’s non-wrinkle, dirt rejecting, flame retardant, warmer when wet, etc.  properties.

However, I’ve also been feeling up the polyester fleece, which looks just like the wool, only it’s softer, cuddlier and drapier.  Some of you had recommended fleece to me earlier, and I kinda poo-poohed it, but now I’m starting to turn.

So, what’s your feelings about the fleece?   Does it stretch?  How does it wash?  Flamability?   Wrinkling?  Static cling?  Do seams have nice creases or do they stay puffy?  How do you press it?  Anything else I should be aware off?  Weird sewing techniques needed cause it’s thicker and fluffier than flat cotton?


Thanks, Berna

Edited 6/20/2008 8:41 am ET by BernaWeaves

Edited 6/20/2008 8:41 am ET by BernaWeaves


  1. starzoe | | #1

    Poly fleece is a casual fabric, and wool flannel is a more elegant one which is more adaptable to a classic style, so my thought is that if you want an elegant cloak choose the wool.If you do go for the poly fleece, be sure to buy the non-pilling type.

    Edited 6/20/2008 12:10 pm ET by starzoe

  2. User avater
    JunkQueen | | #2

    Fleece does not drape nearly as well as wool, either, since it is so light weight. Unless, of course, you put some sort of weights in the hem.

  3. sewslow67 | | #3

    Check out one of my favorite books re sewing with polar fleece.  It is:  'Nancy Cornwell's Polar Magic: New Adventures With Fleece;.  It will answer all of your questions about fleece and more.  She also wrote several books before this one, which you might want to review as well - although this one has information from previous books as well, although not all of the former mentioned projects.

    Here's a link:  http://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Cornwells-Polar-Magic-Adventures/dp/0873492560/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1213984481&sr=8-1

    As to wool vs. fleece:  I definite agree with the other posters.  When I sew with fleece, I buy the best I can afford for the project.  I dislike pilling, so this point is important.  Also, the more expensive is actually less expensive in the long run.  That said, it sounds like wool might be the best choice for your project.

    1. BernaWeaves | | #5

      Thanks for everyone's replies.  I also think wool will be more classic and last longer.

      However, I did see the non-pilling fleece and some of the nicer stuff actually was nicer than I thought it would be. 

      I'll check out the link.




  4. woodruff | | #4

    For a cloak? Ah, I wish I could find where I saw it, but someone on one of these boards made a full-length cloak of black fleece with gorgeous appliqués, and it was a knockout!OK, I've made a lot of stuff with fleece (though not a cloak--yet), and if you get good 200 or 300wt fleece like that sold by milldirecttextiles.com, the former Malden Mills, it will astonish you with its virtues. It does not stretch or wrinkle; it is amazingly light yet warm (so much more comfortable to wear than wool); it will not pill; and it washes and dries like a dream (the mfr suggests low temps and powdered detergent).It is an easy, easy fabric to sew, though some special techniques are involved. You don't press it, though you can hold your steam iron above it and kind of finger-press underneath. It does not take a crease, but you can top-stitch a crease into it if you wish. It does want to stay puffy, so I generally use a fake flatfell seam and topstitch that. Buttonholes require a special approach.Static can build up, but with the meaty 200wt or 300wt, it is not a factor. Ordinary Polartec is not windproof, though they make a 'Windpro' line that is a wind barrier. If I needed a lining on a cloak, though, I'd probably use nylon tricot. Most fleeces are stable knits, and you want a lining that is compatible, however, again, the 200wt and 300wt would be pretty toasty unlined--unless you planned to stand outside for hours in a howling blizzard. Flammability is a non-issue, really, unless you live by candlelight and open fires.If you are new to fleece, I strongly, strongly recommend buying several excellent books on designs, tips, and techniques. The most stylish designs are in a book by Rochelle Harper, but the most popular author is Patricia Cornwell. Just google their names and their books will come up. At places like amazon.com, you can often leaf through virtual pages to see what's inside.

  5. GailAnn | | #6

    Hi BernaWeaves:

    I'm on board with Woodruff about the better quality of fleece, however, I learned last year ON THIS BOARD about washing and drying wools prior to sewing.

    You do need to buy about 1/3 more, but I have LOVED the results I've had.  One piece I not only washed in the washer in hot water and dried in the dryer, but since I wasn't crazy about the colour, I dyed it too.  Very satisfactory.

    I really think, for a cloak, that will be, out in the weather, you'd be happy with washed wool.  Gail

    1. sewslow67 | | #7

      Hi Gail:  Please tell us more about the process you used to dye your wool; i.e. brand of dye, etc. and how much shrinkage on average per yard.  Thanks ahead for any information you can share ...and possibly any books or articles that you found helpful with this kind of project.

      1. GailAnn | | #8

        It was an experiment with a happy ending.

        I had a very nice piece of wool, purchased over the internet.  I liked everything about it, except the colour, neither green nor blue nor grey.   Decided I'd prefer a dark forest green.  Bought 4 packages of Rit dye.  Put the dye, 1/2 box of salt, and a few drops of dishwashing liquid in the washer with about 5 yards of wool.  Washed it on hot twice.

        The result is not the dark forest green I had imagined, but rather a lovely soft sage green colour I really like.  Gail

        1. Josefly | | #9

          Gail, I'm saving your instructions for future use. What purpose did the dishwashing liquid serve in the wool-dying process?

          1. GailAnn | | #11

            I'm not sure why I added the dishwashing liquid.  I suspect the directions on the package of Rit dye suggested it.

            Years ago Esther Rudnick, lovely wife of Cy Rudnick, owners of Cy Rudnick's fabric store in Kansas City, suggested I use 1 teaspoon of Dawn dishwashing liquid in the washing machine to wash and soften linen fabric, prior to cutting it.

            It worked so well, reducing the linen's tendency to wrinkle, from the first wearing onward, that I now just keep a bottle of Dawn by the washing machine.  Whenever I feel the need to wash new fabric, whatever the fiber, I use a teaspoon of Dawn.  Gail

        2. Gloriasews | | #10

          I wish I'd known about washing the wool first.  In 1964, I made a lovely blue wool cape, which I wore all winter in the rain at the coast.  Unfortunately, the collar curled up around the edges from shrinkage.  O, how I wish I'd have had the nerve to wash the wool first, but you didn't do that in those days.  Everything I make now is washable.  That cape probably would have been, too, if I'd preshrunk it first.  It would have been warmer, too, with the shrink factor pulling the fibers closer together.  Thanks for the tip, Gail.


          1. GailAnn | | #12

            I'm so sorry about your cape.  You'd probably be resurrecting it for the Fall 2009 season, if it hadn't shrunk.

            Next time you come across a real bargan on a fine piece of 100% wool, give the washing a try.......Cool water, which of course, rain is.  Gail

          2. Gloriasews | | #13

            I haven't bought wool for years, as it itches me terribly (I can't wear wool sweaters, either).  I only bought the wool for the cape, for the warmth value.  As well, I was pregnant during that winter & none of the styles of coats at the time would have fit me.  The cape was ideal, except for the collar problem.  I didn't notice the shrinkage anywhere else.  I was able to wear Viyella in my early years, but I haven't seen it in the stores for years (& it was washable).  I always consider making another cape, but I really don't think I'd get a lot of wear out of it, as my lifestyle is quite casual & I prefer jackets with sleeves. 


        3. BernaWeaves | | #14


          Just for future reference, RIT is a union dye, which means it's designed to try to dye everything, and does nothing well.  That's why you didn't get the color you thought you would.

          In future, if you want to dye protein fibers, like wool, silk, or soysilk (soybeans are protein), use acid dyes.  The acid used is vinegar, and the dye take heat to set it, but you get fantastic color, and all the dye is absorbed into the fabric.  Lanaset or Sabraset dyes are good.

          If you want to dye cellulose fibers like cotton, linen, bamboo, tencel, or rayon, use fiber reactive dyes, like Procion.  They use cold water, and all the dye isn't used, as it bonds to the water, too. 

          I wouldn't normally recommend using your washing machine to dye anything as you could ruin your regular clothes that you wash after the dye, as who knows where the dye migrates to inside the machine.  Also, you could accidently felt the wool instead of just fulling it futher, but if you're careful, it will work.   I personally load up the bathtub with hot soapy water and stomp around on the wool fabric.  Much more fun and more controllable.


          1. GailAnn | | #15

            Thanks for the wonderful advice!  So good to know, especially if I should ever dye some important piece.   Which could happen, the  longer I stay home the braver and more courious I become.

            The green wool was dyed on a whim, but happily so.

            I talked to my niece before I decided to give dying a try, she suggested I give Kool-Aid a try.

            Turns out you would have been a much better source of councel.  Gail

          2. Ralphetta | | #16

            I've always wanted to try something I read about dying. It said that if you take a few pieces of mismatching different colored fabrics, (those odd ones that just never seem to go with anything) and dye them all together in the same color you will have coordinating pieces that will look good together. It sounds logical and I've got some really good fabrics that are in yucky colors. Yeah....I'll get around to doing that after I repair the dry wall and repaint the house, make new curtains, reupholster the sofa and make me a new wardrobe.

          3. starzoe | | #17

            I have dyed cotton yarn in a batch. The original colours were from white to cream to beige to darker tans and everything in between. I used a peach dye and knitted a sweater from the results. Everything did go with everything else and it is a success for sure.

          4. Gloriasews | | #20

            Guess you won't be dying that fabric soon, eh?  You have way too many other projects to complete first.  That's a great idea about putting all the mismatched fabrics in a dye bath - thanks!  I'd have never thought of doing that, but another poster said it worked well for her, so I'll try it before I give away any more pieces of fabric that I don't like.


          5. BernaWeaves | | #18

            Kool-aid is an acid dye.   It's basically dye and sugar, or just dye if you buy the kind where you add your own sugar.  Unfortunately, it's a very expensive way to buy dye (100 packets anyone?), and the colors are limited.  It's much more economical to buy real acid dyes that are designed for dyeing. 

            However, if you're ever dying with kids, Kool-aid is very safe.  Mix the Kool-aid with water and a cup of vinegar, and let the kids go to town.  Steam (or microwave on low) the protein fabric or yarn for them, and let it cool, and they can have a lot of fun with it.


            Edited 6/29/2008 3:48 pm ET by BernaWeaves

          6. GailAnn | | #19

            I have an issue of KnitPicks with several pages of information about dying wool yarn and sock "blanks" (?) as I understand it (not well).........Sock Blanks can be purchased and dyed according to your whim, then unknitted and knitted again, according to size and pattern desired.

            I am a courious woman and interested in many different thing, enjoying my time off right now to try my hand at this and that, but sock blanks????????????  I'm just not there quite yet.

            I've knitted a few pair of socks for my husband and he lives in them.  Gail

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