How to embroider on fleece

By on October 7th, 2019
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How to embroider on fleece
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It’s officially fall! And, do you know what that means? It’s fleece season! Fleece is a dream fabric for embroiderers. There are so many fun and practical items you can make with fleece, and embroidery looks great on it. But, if you’re new to embroidery, perhaps you are wondering, how to embroider on fleece?

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Why fleece is everywhere!

Despite its dominance as an outerwear staple, fleece has actually only been around for a relatively short period of time. It’s hard to believe when you walk down the aisles of your local Joanns that fleece is less than 40 years old.  They have an entire row dedicated to it!

Fleece was invented by a New England textile maker, Malden Mills in the late 1970s. Through a collaboration with Patagonia, the engineers at Malden Mills figured out how to wind polyester fibers into a dense fabric that we now know as fleece.

Because the inventors did not patent the technology, other companies were able to start manufacturing fleece. It also kept the cost low and allowed fleece to grow quickly in popularity. Not longer after its invention, fleece was widely embraced for its ability to wick away moisture and provide serious insulation. Soon fleece became the omnipresent outdoor material we know today.

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How to embroider on fleece using your embroidery machine
Fleece is cheap, warm, colorful and easy to embroider on

What’s great about fleece

Fleece is an awesome fabric because it:

  • doesn’t pill
  • doesn’t fray
  • is cheap
  • is strong
  • keeps you warm
  • wicks moisture away
  • is eco-friendly – made from plastic bottles!
  • comes in a ton of different colors and patterns

Can you embroider on fleece?

Absolutely! And it’s one of the easiest fabrics to embroider on.  It doesn’t tend to stretch too much, doesn’t slide around and (most style) don’t have too much pile.  Embroidering on almost any fleece item is a great machine embroidery project for a beginner.

What types of fleece items can you embroider?

Well, there are a lot of options.  You can either buy clothing, accessories and even home decor items made from fleece, or you can make it yourself.

Fleece items to buy

You can buy fleece items just about anywhere.  I’ve bought great little fleeces on sale at Old Navy, and OshKosh which has amazing deals around the holidays. You can also find some unique fleece items on the websites of these 10 awesome blanks suppliers, especially Sewforless.com (preppy fleeces) and Sanmar (sporty fleeces). Or even Amazon has tons of fleece items, including:

Because fleece is so soft, cozy and practical, everyone loves a gift made of fleece. And, fortunately, there are many different types of fleece items you can purchase and personalize, most of which are pretty reasonably priced.

Fleece items to make

However, if you are feeling ambitious and want to make some fleece items yourself, there are tons of great patterns out there suitable for fleece.

Throws

Heck, you don’t need a pattern to make a fleece throw. There’s not much to it.  In fact, my mother-in-law has sent us several pieces of fleece completely unfinished, under the guise of being a blanket. Whatever. My kids love them. Ironically, I made my husband a fleece blanket by stitching some cool trim to a fleece fabric.  His response was “what do you mean you made it? You just sewed trim around the edges.” Nice. Super appreciative. Maybe he would have been more impressed had I monogrammed it.

Hats 

Hats are REALLY easy to make and super useful.  My favorite hats are the weird monster hats I made for an article I wrote for Creative Machine Embroidery Magazine. As soon as they came back from the magazine, my son made it his own. (The monster embroidery designs are available on my site.)

fleece monster hat
Thomas loved this silly fleece monster hat.

Scarves

I mean, it doesn’t get any easier than this. All you need is a strip of fleece, cut some fringe and you’re done. Add a monogram and, boom –  you’ve elevated it to the next level.

Booties

monogrammed booties

I made these adorable baby booties with some quilted material. However, they are a perfect pattern to be made in fleece.  What a great winter baby gift!

Pillows

My sister used these fleece pillows as a birthday party activity / party favor.  She pre-cut the tops and bottoms, personalized the tops with each kid’s name and then the girls tied the strips together and stuffed it to finish the pillows.  Super cute.

personalized fleece pillow
Making this fleece pillow was a great party activity and party favor. It’s a bit lumpy now as it has been well loved.

Coats and vests

It’s hard to get me excited about making a fleece coat or a vest when they are so readily available at almost any store.  But if you do want to make some outerwear, I would suggest looking at Green Pepper patterns as they have tons of patterns for outdoor gear that would be perfect to make in fleece.

Need more inspiration?  Check out the website: Fleece Fun.  They have tons of free patterns for clothes, accessories, toys, etc… to make with fleece

Fleece on the cheap…

Before you spend a lot of time and energy making any fleece outwear, be sure to check the clearance rack.  On a recent shopping trip at Target (buying the 100th Lego Friends set for my girls with the gift cards they got for birthday and Christmas gifts) – I took a peek in the women’s clearance section and discovered the most DARLING fleeces for $4.50.  I added a monogram using my embroidery machine which made it the perfect teacher appreciation gift for my son’s teacher.  She immediately reported back that she loved the fleece and was impressed with the extra effort it took to figure out her monogram.

monogrammed fleece I embroidered on my embroidery machine

How to embroider on fleece 

There are a few things to consider before stitching a monogram or an embroidery design on an item made of fleece.

Design

Before committing to stitching a particular design on the fleece, assess the compatibility of the fleece and the design. Thin lettering or very delicate designs will get lost on a high pile fleece.

With really nubby fleece, it might make sense to stitch the monogram on an appliqué, such as one of these quatrefoil designs. Or you can integrate a knock down stitch before stitching out the primary design.

Hooping

Fleece is a fabric that you DON’T want to hoop. If you hoop the fleece, you can end up with hoop burn that won’t come out. Instead, just hoop some tear away stabilizer and float the fleece material on top. Either use adhesive spray or adhesive back stabilizer to stick the fleece to the stabilizer.  You can also pin around the edges of the hoop to keep the fleece in place. Fortunately, any pin marks will not leave a permanent mark.

Stabilizer

If it’s just a simple monogram or text design, you can stabilize with tear away. If it’s a more involved design, then some form of cut away should be used for permanent stabilization.

I follow the guideline: “if you wear, don’t tear it” to remind me of situations in which I should use cut away stabilizer.  If I’m monogramming a fleece vest, for example, I will stick a piece of cut away under the design and float the vest on the tear away.  (I demonstrate this technique in the video below.)

floating fleece on stabilizer
Sticking a piece of cut away stabilizer on the inside of the fleece.
hooped sticky back stabilizer
Hooped sticky back tear away stabilizer. Here I have peeled away the top layer of paper to expose the sticky surface and marked the center point to help with placement.

Topper

A water soluble topper should be used, especially if the fleece is nubby and has the potential to break through the threads of the embroidery. All you have to do is lay it on top of your fleece. Then, peel it away when you are done.  Any remaining topper will disappear in the wash.

attaching embroidery hoop to machine
Fleece vest floated on sticky back tear away stabilizer.
water soluble topper on fleece before embroidering
Water soluble topper floated on top of fleece vest prior to embroidery.

Needle

The jury is still out on this one.  I personally never change my needle when stitching on fleece, but some people prefer a ball point needle when embroidering on fleece.  I really think that fleece is so forgiving it doesn’t matter.

Start Embroidering

Once you have everything in place, you can start stitching out your design. Fleece doesn’t tend to slide around or buckle, but I would still not advise walking away from your embroidery machine while embroidering on fleece.

Admire your work

See how pretty embroidery looks on fleece?  Kind of makes you want to monogram a fleece for everyone.

finished embroidered fleece vest

Tips for embroidering on fleece

Ok – not everything is easy peasy when it comes to fleece.  You will have better results if you take a few precautions.

Don’t melt your fleece

Be forewarned: fleece can melt!  So, if for some reason you feel compelled to iron it, cover the garment with a thin cotton sheet before doing so. This will help to protect the garment from being affected from the direct heat of the iron. Also – don’t dry the fleece on a hot setting.  I’ve actually melted a fleece in a hot dryer.

Buy good quality fleece

Before you purchase any fleece, give it a little stretch test. When you pull it, does it snap back into place? If it tends to stay deformed, then take a polite pass on this fleece.  In addition, look for anti-pill fleece.  It will hold up better in the long run. There are different grades and weights of fleece, and it’s not worth spending the time embroidering on very low quality fleece.

Clean your machine after embroidering on fleece

Some varieties of fleeces put out a lot of fuzz. So, have a good lint brush handy and thoroughly clean out machine when done.

Still not sure about how to embroider on fleece? Check on my video to show you how I do it!

My mother-in-law bought my daughter a fleece vest a couple of years ago. Since it was a little big, we hung it up in her closet and then promptly forgot about it. A few weeks ago, we re-discovered it.  And we both concluded that it would be a lot cuter if we added a monogram.

And guest what… it is! In the video, I demonstrate exactly how I did it. Enjoy!

Happy stitching everyone,

Julie

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