This has been the winter of fleece for me! I've made jackets for me and Logan, tunics, tops, blankets, pants - you name it! I love sewing with fleece, and I thought I'd share some of what I've learned along the way.
Whenever I sew a new to me fabric, I first look it up in Sandra Betzina's More Fabric Savvy, which my mother gave me when I first started sewing again, so that is where much of my information comes from, as well as what I have learned along the way.
So, what can you make out of fleece? Nearly anything! It is a knitted fabric, and quite stretchy on the cross grain, making it great for tops, pullovers and jackets. I love it for PJ pants - so warm in the winter! Of course, it was originally designed for activewear, so it is great for any kind of cold weather gear, like ski tops and pants, running shirts, and other layering pieces. Since it it a knit, it can be made into garments that are quite close fitting, making it perfect for an under layer. It is absolutely one of my favorite fabrics for casual baby clothes. It's easy care, warm and soft. There are tons of patterns out there designed for fleece, but don't let that limit you!! You can use any pattern, although those intended for knits will give you the best results.
When sewing fleece, you basically can treat it like you would a knit fabric. There are a few things that you may want to do differently, however. When laying out your pattern, you will find that pins rip right through your tissue, so pattern weights are a better option, although since I use soil separator paper for my patterns I just use extra long pins and that works fine. remember when you are laying out your pattern that fleece does have a right and wrong side! It curls to the wrong side when stretched. You can use either side, but be consistent. The length of the pile tends to differ, so the two sides will wear very differently, even if they look the same when new. It may help to put a chalk mark or piece of tape on the wrong side. When transferring pattern markings, the pile of the fleece will make a tracing wheel and paper impossible, but chalk works well.
Once you are all cut out, you're ready to sew! You can sew fleece with any needle type. I commonly use a universal needle, but sharps and stretch/ballpoint needles work just as well. One thing to remember is that fleece will dull your needles quickly, so you may need more than one for a complicated project, and be sure to change your needle after you've finished. Fleece, much like fur, also tends to create a lot of lint, so give your machine a thorough cleaning after sewing it. Seam fleece the same way that you would a knit. I like to use the "lightning" stitch, but a narrow zigzag or triple stitch are also fine. As with other knits. seams sewn with a straight stitch won't stretch and will tend to break. I know you want to press that seam open now, but don't. Fleece is pretty sensitive to the heat of the iron and melts easily. You can end up crushing the pile, which i not pretty! The seams lie quite flat in their own, so don't worry that this will make your project look unprofessional. For seam finishes I prefer just to trim the fleece to about a 1/4 seam allowance. Fleece doesn't ravel at all, and is very soft. Serging or binding the edges will not be as soft, so I don't. You can topstitch the seam allowances down, which will give your garment a sporty look.
While most fleece garments are casual and minimally shaped, you may occasionally want to sew a dart. This is no big deal, but since the fleece is bulky, I like to trim the dart down to about 1/8 inch and press it as flat as possible.
So, your seams are sewn. You garment is shaped. Your zippers are in. How to hem? Well, one option is to leave the edges raw. Like jersey, fleece doesn't ravel at all, so if you are looking to reduce bulk, just skip the hem. If you are going to sew a hem, avoid folding multiple layers, unless you want to add some body. A single fold hem, topstitched with a stretchy lightning stitch is the way I usually go. While the lightning stitch usually isn't suitable for topstitching, since it can look uneven, on fleece, it ends up buried in the pile, so you can't see the unevenness, but it stretches with the garment.
OK, you're done! Go enjoy your cuddly soft garment!