What is Fleece? – Everything You Want to Know is Right Here

Curious about fleece? Based on its name, you might assume it is closely associated with sheep. However, this article will enlighten you that fleece is, in fact, a synthetic fabric. Don’t be amazed; let’s delve into this fabric that may seem natural but is brimming with technological innovation.

What is Fleece?

Fleece is an incredibly suitable fabric for cold seasons. It is not sourced from sheep but is instead made from synthetic fibers, usually polyester or a blend with other materials. Both sides of the fabric have a fuzzy texture, providing an exceptionally soft and fluffy sensation.

Fleece offers exceptional insulation while remaining breathable and moisture-wicking, guaranteeing optimal warmth. Moreover, it outperforms natural fabrics with its quick-drying and easy-care properties, making it a valuable substitute for wool. You can find fleece in a wide range of everyday winter garments and outdoor apparel designed for warmth.

The Evolution of Fleece

Although fleece has a relatively short history compared to natural fabrics, it has undergone several decades of evolution, much like an elderly figure in human years. However, as a textile, it remains a young and promising material with vast potential for further development.

The origins of fleece can be traced back to the previous century. Its predecessor, “Fiberpile,” was produced by the Halley Hansen company in 1963. Made from polyester fibers, it showcased excellent insulation properties.

After ten years of relative obscurity, fleece experienced a revival. In 1979, the American company Malden Mills seized the opportunity for a material revolution by introducing polyester fleece, a synthetic wool-like fiber. They collaborated with Yvon Chouinard’s small outdoor equipment enterprise, continually improving their research on fleece and creating the “Synchilla” fabric.

Fleece quickly gained popularity in the textile market due to its unique warmth and lightweight characteristics, becoming a favorite among outdoor and hiking enthusiasts.

During the 1980s and 1990s, fleece gained widespread recognition, leading to a wide range of fashionable and outdoor applications. Fleece jackets, vests, and blankets became extremely popular among consumers.

Today, fleece continues to hold an irreplaceable position in people’s minds, and efforts are being made to address its shortcomings and promote sustainability through advancing technology.

What is Fleece Made of?

Fleece is a warm fabric made from synthetic fibers, usually polyester. Its primary raw material is petroleum, which undergoes chemical extraction and processing. The fleece fabric is formed through spinning, weaving, and brushing. 

Polyester can also be blended with other fibers like cotton or spandex to enhance specific characteristics of the fabric. These fibers contribute to the softness and warmth of fleece fabric.

How is Fleece Made?

Fleece was created to be a wool substitute and shares a remarkably similar structure to wool. However, it is a synthetic fabric. So, how is it made? Let’s explore the production process of fleece—a fascinating journey originating from petroleum.

Firstly, after extracting petroleum, the byproducts of the chemical industry undergo reactions with chemicals to form polymers. These polymers are then spun into synthetic fibers, which are utilized in the production process. 

The fibers can be knitted or woven into fabric and then undergo a process called brushing. Steel wire brushes are used to raise the nap of the fabric, and it is subsequently trimmed to a uniform length. This fabric is lightweight, fluffy, and soft. It can utilize air pockets to optimize insulation by taking advantage of the abundant cavities containing air.

Different Types of Fleece

While fleece is a synthetic fabric, it offers a variety of options, much like other fabrics, each with its unique characteristics suited for various applications.

Polar Fleece

Polar fleece is a fabric crafted from polyester fibers with a fuzzy texture on both sides, providing exceptional warmth and softness. The name “polar fleece” derives from its ability to endure extremely cold weather, akin to the wool found on sheep. This solidifies its excellent insulation properties. 

Consequently, it is widely utilized in the creation of essential cold-weather items such as blankets, jackets, sweaters, scarves, and other garments designed to offer warmth. This makes it a beloved choice among outdoor enthusiasts.

Microfleece

Microfleece is a lightweight and finely textured type of fleece. The fibers used in its production are wonderful, about a fraction of the width of a hair, resulting in a fabric with a smooth and soft surface. It is perfect for layering and can be comfortably worn in milder weather conditions. Adding microfleece as a layer adds a stylish touch. 

Microfleece is gentle on the skin, making it suitable for creating pullovers, bedding, and other warm products that come into direct contact with the skin. It is also commonly used for making jackets, hoodies, blankets, gloves, and more. Its lightweight nature caters to various daily and travel needs.

Sherpa Fleece

Also known as Sherpa fabric, this type of fleece is primarily designed to imitate Sherpa wool. It shares a similar appearance and texture. This fabric has different appearances on each side. The outer layer resembles a knit fabric with a smooth and durable surface. Meanwhile, the inner layer imitates the fluffy texture of wool. 

Its dural-sided functionality allows for more diverse designs. You can use it to create outerwear, blankets, and other garments, as well as linings for shoes, hats, and gloves.

What is Fleece Used For?

Before the production of fleece, people had to rely on natural materials for warmth. Animal skins, cotton, and wool were the only available options for insulation. However, they all had their limitations. Driven by strong demand, fleece emerged as a solution to people’s warmth needs. Nowadays, fleece has developed a deep connection with outdoor activities.

Various sudden and harsh weather conditions impact outdoor enthusiasts’ pursuits. The introduction of fleece has propelled the advancement of outdoor sports. Fleece is used as lining in mountaineering clothing, windbreakers, gloves, hats, scarves, and socks, providing protection for various activities, keeping the body warm in cold weather, and preventing unforeseen circumstances.

Of course, fleece is also extensively used in everyday applications. Fleece garments have gradually become a fashion trend. Jackets, sweaters, hoodies, vests, and other clothing items offer refuge in cold weather.

Fleece is employed in the production of bedding and pet accessories. Whether for yourself or your furry friends, you can enjoy a warm and comfortable sleeping environment during the cold winter.

Fleece also serves specific purposes in industrial settings, often utilized for filtration, cleaning, or polishing.

The softness and warmth of fleece are sufficient to bring your visions of practical and warm products to life.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Fleece

Pros of Fleece:

  • Lightweight and warm, without feeling bulky or restrictive.
  • Good breathability helps regulate body temperature, ensuring comfort during physical activity.
  • Hydrophobic properties and quick-drying capabilities keep you comfortable, even in heavy sweating or light rain.
  • Abrasion-resistant and durable, ensuring longevity.
  • Easy to maintain.

Cons of Fleece:

  • Heavier fleece may lack breathability, leading to excess heat and moisture, causing discomfort.
  • Prone to static electricity, attracting fine particles and dust.
  • Pills easily with frequent rubbing.
  • Can contribute to environmental pollution.
  • Offers poor windproofing.

Is Fleece Sustainable?

Fleece is generally considered unsustainable because it is typically made from polyester, a material derived from non-renewable resources. Its lack of sustainability is evident in both production and chemical usage, which are neither environmentally friendly nor sustainable.

Another aspect of its unsustainability is observed during the washing process. Each time fleece is washed, it releases microplastics into the water, contributing to water pollution. This polluted water eventually finds its way into the oceans, impacting not only wildlife but also human health.

Furthermore, fleece’s lack of sustainability extends to its disposal. Discarded fleece is non-biodegradable and takes a significant amount of time to decompose, causing irreversible harm to the environment.

The utilization of recycled polyester in fleece production offers some sustainability benefits. Using recycled plastic bottles and other plastic waste as raw materials reduces reliance on non-renewable resources and helps minimize waste accumulation.

The production processes also require fewer steps, resulting in lower energy consumption and a reduced carbon footprint. This approach supports the development of a circular economy.

However, it is important to note that even with recycled polyester fleece, there is still some environmental pollution during the washing process. It is advisable to use laundry bags to minimize the release of microplastics into the water.

Care Guide for Fleece

Fleece is a synthetic fabric that is relatively easy to maintain.

How to Wash Fleece Fabric?

  1. The care label serves as your assurance for maintaining the optimal performance of your fleece product.
  2. For localized stains on the surface, gently rub them with a mild detergent, rinse, and air dry.
  3. Flip the fleece fabric inside out and place it in a laundry bag. Wash it using a gentle detergent, cold water, and a delicate cycle. (These steps help prevent fleece from getting damaged, developing pills, or releasing microplastics into the water.)
  4. Refer to the fabric label’s instructions to determine whether to use fabric softener for reducing static.
  5. Hang the fabric to air dry.

Can You iron fleece fabric?

Fleece fabric does not require ironing. High heat can cause the fabric to melt. If you need to iron fleece for specific reasons, use a low-heat setting and use a pressing cloth. It is wise to conduct an ironing test in an inconspicuous area before proceeding.

Fleece vs Wool

Fleece and wool are both fabrics used for insulation. 

Fleece, being a synthetic fabric, has the disadvantage of not being environmentally friendly and melting under high temperatures. However, it is lighter, quick-drying, easy to maintain, and more affordable compared to wool.

Wool, as a natural material, has a unique texture and is breathable, naturally lofty, and soft. It is also biodegradable. However, wool can cause skin itching issues and is more expensive and slightly more challenging to maintain.

When choosing between natural wool and its synthetic alternative, fleece, which would you prefer?

FAQs:

Is fleece better than cotton?

The answer to this question depends on your personal preferences, specific needs, the season of use, and other factors. Fleece is a synthetic fabric that is soft, warm, lightweight, and quick-drying, but it may not be as environmentally friendly. Cotton is a natural fabric known for its breathability, softness, comfort, and versatility, with excellent moisture absorption.

How to sew fleece fabric?

The key to sewing fleece fabric is selecting the appropriate needle and thread. It is recommended to use a ballpoint needle and 100% polyester thread. The color of the thread is not important since it will ultimately be concealed by the surface fibers. Use pins or clips to secure the fabric, set a longer stitch length, and use a universal stitch for sewing. Using a serger can greatly assist in your sewing process. Lastly, avoid exposing it to high temperatures.

Does fleece shrink?

Generally, fleece fabric does not shrink. However, exposure to high temperatures or improper care methods can potentially lead to shrinkage. Additionally, if fleece contains blends with fibers prone to shrinkage, there may be a risk of shrinkage. It is important to carefully follow the instructions on the fabric label.

Is fleece vegan?

Yes, fleece is vegan. It is a synthetic fabric that does not involve the use of any animal products in its production, ensuring no harm to animals. Therefore, it is a suitable choice for vegans.

Is fleece waterproof?

The fleece itself is not waterproof. However, it can be treated with a durable water repellent to allow water to bead up and roll off the surface.

Conclusion

Fleece has established itself as a unique and fashionable choice among various natural fabrics, owing to its distinctive qualities. As technology continues to advance, we can anticipate the emergence of even more diverse variations of fleece. It’s never too late to begin exploring and experiencing them!

More Resources:

What is Polyester – Source: Sinosilk

What is Wool – Source: Sinosilk

What are Natural Fabrics – Source: Sinosilk

What is Synthetic Fabric – Source: Sinosilk

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