Sexy, Sexy Polar Fleece

Click for source

I decided to challenge myself and make the next hack out of polar fleece- or rather, out of an Ikea Polarvide throw.  Before I started researching, I thought of polar fleece as boxy, boring zip front activewear.  They take abuse, keep you warm and wash easily.  Those are all excellent qualities- so why are polar fleece jackets all cut this way?

click for source

I’m making mine using this cut, by popular suggestion.  I haven’t decided whether to use a separating zipper or buttons, I may embellish with some sporty grosgrain ribbon and I’ll make 3/4 sleeves.   A zipper will allow me to fit the polarfleece closely; buttons may gape with movement.  I hate that.


What is Polar Fleece?

Malden Mills developed Polar Fleece in 1979 as a synthetic wool alternative.  It’s lighter than wool, vegan-friendly and easier to care for than wool was in the 70’s.  (Though we merino lovers know that’s changed since then!)  It’s a stretchy, plushy fabric that washes easily, made from PET (basically plastic).   This nifty page dissects the differences between wool, polar fleece and other high-performance fibers from the point of view of a horse.

Here’s the part about polar fleece I find fascinating: the developer of Polar Fleece, Aaron Feuerstein, decided not to patent the process to aid the spread of the new fabric technology.  This accounts for the wide range of qualities available on the market.  His gutsy decision didn’t hurt the company, either.  Malden Mills still produces polar fleece fabric today- Polartec.

(Fabric Nerds: This is how they make polar fleece!  Neat!)

A little digging on the company website showed me they’re still leading the industry in polar fleece production and innovation.  They’ve turned their attention to creating fleece from recycled bottles.  I remember hearing about that a few years back.  Apparently it takes 25 plastic bottles to make enough fabric for an adult’s jacket.

Polartec doesn’t just offer recycled bottle fleece as a novelty for the green-guilty- all of their fabrics use at least 50% recycled fibers.  Some of it comes from plastic, some of it is fabric scraps discarded while making those boxy zip-front jackts.  Rad!

And even RAD-der: they offer all of their fabrics online by the roll or by the yard.  And it’s not hideously expensive.  What?

I really had no idea polar fleece was so sexy.

Click for source- A really awesome tutorial on making creative and simple stuffed monsters using polar fleece!

Sewing Advice for Polar Fleece:

I have never sewn with polar fleece, to the best of my memory.  Before I work with a new fabric, I always do some research.  Here’s what I turned up:

  • Fleece has a right side and a wrong side: “On prints the right side is usually clearer or the colors are more vivid than the wrong side. On solids, the right side is smoother than the wrong side which looks more like felt. If your not sure, ask the fabric store personnel before you purchase it. If you have some already in your stash and are not sure which is the right side, wash the fabric a couple of times. The side that looks the best is the right side.”

Excellent.  I love this kind of practical advice.

  • Easy to sew
  • Use a cool iron or finger press
  • Flat fell seams look good
  • Use sharps, a medium to slightly heavy weight needle
  • Use a narrow zig-zag stitch
  • “Select a simple sewing pattern with few design features.  Loose-fitting styles work best. Eliminate as many seams as possible because bulk is your biggest challenge.  Consider a custom closure such as a separating zipper… instead of buttons and buttonholes.”

The last bit of advice comes from a nifty little pdf from the University of Kentucky Extension service.  I’m old-fashioned so I’ll print this little gem and stick it in my fabrics notebook…   They fail to mention why I should keep the cut simple, aside from the bulk issue.

“On paper” I’m pretty excited to be working with fleece.  Granted, my little Ikea throw isn’t made from recycled anything, but if I like the results of my hack I can always make the pattern from something greener and more durable.  I wonder how much shaping I can introduce before my little jacket implodes and melts?  I assume there must be some practical reason no one sews fleece garments in any shape other than “box”.  Do you know why?  What can you tell me about your own experience working with fleece?


62 comments

  1. I’m excited to see what you do with your Polarvide! I went to visit a friend who I pet sit for today and said Polarvide throw in red is currently what her puppies have as their blanket. I asked her how she thought it was holding up to wear and tear (I had a look too) and she said she had washed it a few times and the dogs drag it around etc. and there are very minimal sings of wear and tear. This is quite good considering Sophie and Oscar are only 10 months old and still quite active. I can see me having to make her a matching polar fleece jacket!

  2. Found that pattern! http://groehm.tripod.com/miyake/id4.html It was Vogue 2976, but as it seems to be the second of three patterns with that name, and the earlier and later ones are the only ones that turn up on Google searches, this is the only image I could find. TIckled me no end to render it in rainbow colours!
    Love the ideas!

  3. take a look at the womens-section of some outdoor-shops. they have some tight jackets and sweaters – with waists. so it will work for you.
    some of the cheaper fleece´ shrink at the first wash – so wash before cutting out.
    for me that would be nothing – my nails wont to roll when I have to touch it!

    • Yes, that’s true.. But it’s still the same boring cut more or less. I”m not sure what “nails wont to roll” means but I think I understand! :)

  4. Interesting fleece facts Steph! I’ve only used polar fleece to make a cushion cover for the cat’s basket and a small hoodie for a sock monkey. Both were made before I really got into sewing, so I just dived in. Think I made the mini hoodie by hand cos it was fiddly and I didn’t even have a machine yet.

  5. I’ve made polar fleece dressing gowns for all female members of my family, 6 in all. They are much loved by all. The left-overs have been used for littlies jumpers and even a lined dog coat. All successful sews. The only thing I noticed was, no matter what I did to alleviate the problem, all the button-holes stretched out over time. Easily fixed with a few stitches though. The dressing gowns have a shawl-type collar, skirt gathered onto a curved yoke, sleeves gathered onto a wrist-band and buttons down the front. I am very interested to see how you get on with a more structured style. I wouldn’t dare suggest it couldn’t be done cos I know you will just go out there and work out how to do it. Good for you. I can’t wait to see what magic you weave.

    • I have no experience either!! But there’s enough sharp-eyed clever types around here that can help out so we can all learn something… ;)

  6. “Sexy” and “polarfleece” is an oxymoron. Keep a vacuum cleaner handy for all the fluffy bits left as you cut and trim. Use a ball-point needle. Prepare to have your scissors/shears sharpened after you’re done cutting out. Be sure to ascertain the degree of greatest stretch (DOGS) before you lay out your pattern — it may not necessarily be from selvedge to selvedge … that’s all the hints I can throw at you about fleece. I have sewn garments of this fabric, I have received throws as gifts. It is a bit like wearing a plastic bag, to me — heat is held next to your body, yes, but it has no way to escape when you overheat. Wool is a better insulator, imo.

    • The tongue, Lin, the tongue is inside my cheek…. (It’s hard to say “sexy” with your tongue in that position…) ;) Thanks for the words of wisdom!

      • Well, yes, I thought as much. Still, the world is full of folk who find the oddest things arousing … .

  7. I haven’t made much from polar fleece but last year just before Thanksgiving I got Simplicity 4032 view D sewn up. It went together quickly, tho I wish I’d been able to take the time to do some fitting. I am really looking forward to your hack, thank you for all the great information, LOVE your blog!

  8. I LOVE polar fleece! Wool is very pricey in the states, so I dress my kids for winter almost exclusively in fleece. I’ve made several fitted garments, although the most fitted was this jacket, which I sewed several years ago, but still wear often and it still looks great! I agree with Pam that button holes tend to stretch out. I usually use zippers as a closure if one is needed, but I also like button looks with a placket as an alternative to buttonholes.
    I wonder if the recommendation to avoid fitted styles is to avoid the bulk of darts? I deal with that by just trimming down the dart legs and finger pressing flat. Works great!

  9. If I remember correctly, when Malden Mills had a big fire a number of years ago they actually kept paying their employees to ensure that they would have the same workers ready to step back into jobs when the new factory finally got built. They seem like good folk.
    My experience with fleece is that it is finicky with my serger. The puffiness of seam allowances just shrunk away from the overlocking. It doesn’t have to be serged, but the seam allowance bulk does add up. -As does turn of cloth!
    Can’t wait to see your solutions!

    • They do seem like thoroughly decent and well-informed folk.

      Thanks for the serger tip… I hate leaving seams unfinished, even when it’s not strictly necessary to finish them… I have an idea for a cool way to cover the seams though… we’ll see!

  10. I think fleece is fun, it comes in pretty much any color or print you can think of. I think the reason for loose cuts is because seams can get really thick really fast. I just finished a sweater made from sweater knit fleece (knitted looking on one side, fleece on the other) and when you’re adding hem bands and extras like that it’s slow going through 4 or more layers at the seams. But if you just go slow, you’re fine. I’ve never needed to use a zigzag before though, while it’s made of knit fabric, fleece doesn’t stretch a ton in my experience so straight stitches usually work just fine.

  11. What a nifty write-up! Also, WOW at that website. Coolio.

    I’ve had pretty good luck sewing with fleece when I’ve tried. And my fleece sewing book has some neat garments, some of which have a fair bit of shaping. I think your sweater idea will be AWESOME!

    • You totally put the idea of working with fleece in my head, last month when I was working with my fancy-pants merino… (LOVE the merino sweater by the way, I keep getting asked where I bought it from people who *know* I don’t buy my clothes…)

      Yeah… Fleece is way more radical than I thought…

  12. Here in Seattle fleece is practically a uniform. It sheds water and keeps you warm at the beach or on top of a mountain. And so light weight compared to wool, which absorbs water. Many of my purchased fleece jackets and tops are nicely shaped to be formfitting, Princess seams and curved insets on lots of them. The lower quality fleece fabric will pill badly, FYI. Flat seams, such as flatlocked or lapped work well. I would not do flat felled seams, too much bulk. Plain seams work just fine for me, too.

    • I do love wool, though… I doubt that fleece will ever replace wool in my book… But I can see that fleece is a terribly useful fabric… Thanks for the advice!

  13. That was a fascinating collection of links! I had to laugh at the one about fleece vs. wool from the perspective of a horse…

    I grew up wearing fleece in that shapeless box cut that you describe, so I will be very, very curious to see what you can do to make it more fitted and dare I say it, sexy. I’ve sewn with fleece quite a bit in making plushies, and I have to say I love how easy it is to shape and manipulate. I don’t love how much lint it sheds, though; I have to keep cleaning out my machine’s insides as I sew.

    • Hehehe. I couldn’t figure out how else to work that link into the post, but it’s really interesting and i couldn’t leave it out!!

      Scroll up a few comments and check out Kadiddlehopper’s link to her fitted polarfleece jacket… It’s super cute.

      Will keep the lint problem in mind… Thanks for the heads up!

  14. What Kimbersew mentioned was correct, about Malden Mills keeping their workers on payroll after the factory burned. There is a huge difference in quality between Malden Mills fleece (which comes in a myriad of types, weights, and styles, and the less expensive fleece – it is definitely worth the price difference.

    There is no reason why fleece garments need to be boxy and simple, though whatever pattern gets used needs to be adapted to the characteristics of the material. In some ways it seems to me like a stretchy version of melton cloth and If I was going to do buttons and buttonholes, I would add a placket of a compatible material rather than try and make them through the fleece, for example. And while something like, oh, say, a pleated skirt, would not work, I have seen fitted garments, even shaped jackets made from fleece, as well as small items like socks and gloves. I suspect the reason why the ubiquitous boxy fleece jacket is that A. it is simpler to manufacture, and B they are usually intended for outdoorsy layering, not fashion.

    • Well, to me, the price seems fairly cheap anyway… If I can find anything approaching a decent type of fabric here for $12/m, I’m happy.

      I think you’re probably right. About everything… :)

  15. Ooh, fleece is sexy. Early on in my sewing career I made two jackets from fleece. It was really easy to work with and they were definitely more shaped than just a box. One even had gathers. I still wear them although my sewing skills were pretty crap at that time. Also, my grey swing coat I made last winter was from a ponte knit fleece. One side was soft and fleecy and the other side was a waterproof ponte knit. I LOVE that coat and I wore it almost every day during the winter. Sewing with fleece is easy but it does get annoying that you can’t really press seams.

  16. I have a friend who lives in a big old house and wears fleece tops, jackets and trousers. None of which, though I love her dearly, can be considered sexy. So I, for one, am intrigued to see your hack, as my whole experience of fleece is boxy and utilitarian.

    • hehehe. She sounds rather eccentric. Love it.

      We’ll see what I come up with… If it’s cool, I might work more with fleece in the future.. If it’s weird we can all have a good laugh. :)

  17. Most amusing blog headline ever. I’ve only used fleece to sew hats, a robe (dressing gown in Australian), and PJs. None of these items are sexy, particularly the pajamas. Cidell made me swear I would never wear them in front of my boyfriend. But they are so warm!

    • heheeh. Glad I made you smile.. (I don’t really speak Australian… Sometimes I don’t even think I speak English very well… More like it’s my third language…) I bet you’re frickin adorable in your fleecy jammies. :)

  18. I have seen plenty of women’s fleece hoodies and jackets with interestingly shaped control princess-ish seams for flattering fitted-ness, so I would think that would be fine as long as you stay away from too many details like cuffs, etc. that would just make too thick seams. And yes, the cheap fleece from JoAnns, Hancock et. al. pills a lot and ends up looking bad, but the good stuff from Malden Mills will do great. I have one diaper cover made out of the 300 weight, and have made a double layer cover out of the 100 weight and both have held up very well, with a lot more washing than a jacket is ever likely to get.

    • They don’t ship outside the USA? Hogwash. They could do with more business, I’m sure. Time to write a few letters…. Some manufacturers/retailers are still stuck in the “The United States is the entire world, why should we bother with what’s outside the borders” mindset but will often change their minds when they see a foreign market… Not Denver Fabrics, they seem to drag their feet and screw up international orders on purpose, but most are quite willing to see sense.

  19. Two thoughts (both of which you may have already considered)…
    One – because polar fleece is both lightweight and thick, it doesn’t drape well. This might only affect your fitted jacket at the hem which might need a little extra length or something sneaky to help weigh the hem down.
    Two – some polar fleeces generate more static than others.

  20. My favorite fleece jacket of all time had princess seams that gave a very fitted look to the front. I loved it dearly and wore it to shreds. Sadly I’ve never found one like it again. Perhaps I should make one…..hmmm.

  21. Pingback: The Mountain Man Sweater « Toferet's Empty Bobbin

  22. Hi Steph, I don’t think I’ve commented before but I was introduced to your blog by my good friends MrsC and The Dreamstress. I’ve often pondered the polar-fleece-should-not-be-ugly dilemma myself, and was mind blown to find an awesome jacket in Wildilocks, an alternative-wear shop, last year. My amazing colleagues arranged a whip-round for my 30th birthday and said coat is now mine. And I love it! Here is a link. http://wildilocks.com/webstore/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=6_43&products_id=243 The makers, Nubia Vodabox, do other awesome polar fleece things. They seemto work with the bulk of polar fleece seams as a design element, creating amazing textured curves and seams I’ve seem some great jackets in-store at Wildilocks by other brands, including one that had pretty brocade embellishments. My big mission is now to make some amazing shaped and cool polar fleece garments that aren’t boxy and nasty. I was always wondering about making things out of pretty but not-warm fabrics like brocade or printed cottons and lining them with polar fleece. I haven’t experimented with that yet though, might be beyond my rudimentary skills!

    • Oh. MY. DOG. That jacket is amazing!! I knew polarfleece could be interesting!! Cool cool cool. Any friend of those two estimable ladies is a friend of mine. :)

      • Thanks so much for saying so! I’ve just been exploring WordPress and only just discovered that it tracks replies, and that I’d missed this! I’ve been following your blog every post since this, but have only just decided in the last few days to stop lurking all the lovely blogs I follow and pipe up occasionally – at the time this was a bit of a once off :)

  23. Hi Steph, I don’t think I’ve commented before but I was introduced to your blog by my good friends MrsC and The Dreamstress. I’ve often pondered the polar-fleece-should-not-be-ugly dilemma myself, and was mind blown to find an awesome jacket in Wildilocks, an alternative-wear shop, last year. My amazing colleagues arranged a whip-round for my 30th birthday and said coat is now mine. And I love it! Here is a link.http://wildilocks.com/webstore/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=6_43&products_id=243

    The makers, Nubia Vodabox, do other awesome polar fleece things. They seem to work with the bulk of polar fleece seams as a design element, creating amazing textured curves and seams. I’ve seen some great jackets in-store at Wildilocks by other brands, including one that had pretty brocade embellishments. My big mission is now to make some amazing shaped and cool polar fleece garments that aren’t boxy and nasty. I was always wondering about making things out of pretty but not-warm fabrics like brocade or printed cottons and lining them with polar fleece. I haven’t experimented with that yet though, might be beyond my rudimentary skills!

  24. Again, you read my mind!

    Here I am many miles away in a European “summer” still wearing my hideously daggy fleece jacket every day and planning a stylish version because, yes, exactly fleece rocks,and why must every jacket made of it be so ugly?

    Can’t wait to see what you come up with, and your tips are very helpful already!
    thanks!

  25. I’ve been working on a princess seamed vest in polarfleece knocked off from a RTW one that,while not exactly sexy, is a bit less boxy that things like M3402 which must be one of the ugliest fleece patterns in the universe. I’m yet to see if the much more curved lines work in PF. Closer to sexy (well more cute than sexy, but still quite nice) is the decorative trim in Marcy Tilton’s V 8676, where the collar and cuffs are maybe from 5 cm strips of fleece (cut on either grain depending on what your fabric does) stitched wrong sides together and lightly steamed so they roll. Just don’t let the iron touch them or you will have melted plastic!

  26. Pingback: Sewing Books « Toferet's Empty Bobbin


Is it kind, useful or interesting? Great!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s