Fleece is considered to be the vegan version of wool. It's more humane to wear fleece since it's made without the use of animals.
What is the Differences Between Pill and No-Pill Fleece?
Brrr… it's getting cold outside, which means it's time to bundle up! You're probably reaching for not only a mug of hot chocolate, but also a fleece jacket, hat, and gloves. This cozy material is a must for the wintertime!
Unless you study fabrics all day, you probably don't know a whole lot about fleece. Get comfortable, maybe grab a nice blanket, and fill your head with a bunch of facts about fleece!
What is Fleece?
Fleece is a fabric that's made from human hands. Unlike wool, which comes from sheep, or cotton, which comes from the land, fleece is 100% synthetic and is actually derived from plastic.
Most of the time fleece is made from polyester, but sometimes other fabrics like wool, hemp, lycra, spandex, terrycloth, or cotton are blended into the material. Overall, fleece is a very versatile fabric that's best known for its warmth and comfy feel.
What is Fleece Used For?
You can buy a variety of products that are made from fleece. Here are some of the most popular:
- Jackets & Vests
Aah, it's time for a relaxing day inside! Cozy up on the couch with a good Netflix movie, a bowl of popcorn, and a nice fleece blanket.
Get ready for some much-needed rest by putting on a cozy pair of fleece pajamas before you hit the hay. This sleepwear is a must if you like the room to be freezing cold at night!
Jackets & Vests
You can't go out into the snow without a warm fleece jacket or vest. It's an extra layer that will keep your teeth from chattering, whether you're hiking in the tundra or just trying to make it to your car after work.
Did Grandma tell you to "put a hat on" every time you went out in the winter? Make her proud by fitting a fleece beanie over your ears, and keeping it on until you're back inside.
Nothing is better than a nice warm pair of fuzzy socks! This is especially true around the holidays. You can easily fit a pair in every stocking hanging over the fireplace!
Protect your fingers and hands from frostbite by wearing fleece gloves during the cold season. You can even find a tech-friendly pair that allow you to still use your cell phone or tablet!
When the temperature is really freezing, a jacket might not be enough. Bundle up by wrapping a cozy fleece scarf around your neck!
Add some style to your living room or office by laying down a shaggy fleece rug. It'll be like it's the groovy 70's all over again!
Fresh out of the shower, there's nothing better than drying off with a fleece towel! You can even take it a step further by wrapping up in a fleece bathrobe.
Believe it or not, fleece is used to make the underwear worn by astronauts. Consider this proof that fleece is simply out of this world!
How is Fleece Made?
You can't make fleece without understanding the different types of plastic. Polyester in particular is used to create this fuzzy fabric.
This is how fleece is made step by step:
- Step One: The chemicals in the fabric are heated up and mixed together in a large vat.
- Step Two: As they mix, the chemicals slowly turn from liquid into a more solid state.
- Step Three: The chemicals are extruded through a nozzle that looks like a shower head.
- Step Four: The plastic is broken down into smaller chips and heated in another vat.
- Step Five: The plastic is extruded through a metal disk known as a spinneret, turning it into fibers.
- Step Six: The fibers are wound on a heated spool.
- Step Seven: A drawing machine pulls the fibers to make them longer and stronger. At this stage, it starts to look like fleece.
- Step Eight: The fibers are tested and wound onto giant spools.
- Step Nine: The fibers are dyed in the intended color of the fleece product.
- Step Ten: The fibers are knit together by a mechanical knitting machine.
- Step Eleven: To achieve that fluffy look, the fibers are ran through a machine known as a napper.
- Step Twelve: The final step is to spray a water-resistant finisher on top of the fleece.
Heating Up the Chemicals
Different chemicals are heated up and mixed together in a large vat. These chemicals are typically terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol, both of which are found in polyester, but other chemicals may be used if there are additional materials like cotton or terrycloth mixed into the fleece.
Binding the Chemicals
While in the vat, the chemicals bind together and become a more viscous plastic. This means they are in a state that's somewhere between liquid and solid.
Extruding the Plastic
Once this plastic is cooled, it is extruded through a nozzle that looks similar to a shower head.
Breaking the Plastic
The plastic is broken down into smaller chips, which are then heated in another vat at a temperature between 500°F and 518°F.
Turning the Plastic Into Fibers
The reheated plastic is extruded through a metal disk known as a spinneret, which turns it from a half liquid, half solid state into a fiber form.
Winding the Fibers
The fibers are wound onto a heated spool, becoming similar to rope in texture.
Drawing the Fibers
A drawing machine takes the heated threads and makes them longer. This also helps add strength to the fibers. The fibers are then cut down, creating a fluffy look similar to wool.
Testing the Fibers
The fibers are tested to ensure they're strong and durable. They are then fed into a spinning machine that twists them into huge spools.
Dyeing the Fibers
Depending on the manufacturer and how the fleece is being used, the fibers may be submerged in giant vats full of heated dye. This is why you can find pink fleece jackets or rainbow fleece blankets at stores!
Knitting the Fibers
The fibers are all knit together by a mechanical knitting machine.
Shearing the Fibers
Fleece is known for its iconic fuzzy texture. This look is achieved by running the knitted fibers through a machine known as a napper. Mechanical bristles brush the cloth, raising the surface of the fabric. From there, a shearer cuts the fibers to make them more fluffy.
Finishing the Fleece
The fleece is just about ready to go! The final step is spraying a water-resistant finisher on top and checking for quality control.
Malden Mills, a textile maker in New Hampshire, started creating the first fleece products in the late 1970s.
What is Pill Vs. No-Pill Fleece?
No-pill fleece is processed in a way that reduces the number of pills (or little balls of thread) that form. The fibers may be twisted together more tightly or packed closer together. They're also usually cut much shorter than the fibers of regular fleece. These are the differences from a manufacturing standpoint.
Are you still curious to learn more? Here's everything you need to know about pill vs. anti-pill fleece:
The main thing to keep in mind is that anti-pill fleece has been treated so it won't unravel or come apart very easily. If you want a material that will last a long time, it's worth spending the extra dollars on this higher quality material.
How Can You Tell If Fleece is Anti Pill?
You can tell if your fleece is anti-pill rather than blizzard fleece by checking out how the fabric looks. These are the main things to keep in mind about anti-pill fleece:
Take a good look at your fleece. Do you see little balls of thread? Is it thin and lightweight? You might be working with blizzard fleece instead of anti-pill fleece!
What Are the Different Types of Fleece?
Fleece isn't simply just fleece. There are many types of fleece out there, and some are pill while others are no-pill or anti-pill depending on how they're made.
The different types of fleece include:
- Coral fleece
- Eco fleece
- Micro fleece
- Polar fleece
- Sherpa fleece
- Slub fleece
Coral in the ocean is a type of plant that's often slimy and has the texture of leather. Coral fleece, on the other hand, is extremely soft to the touch and typically more expensive than other fabrics.
Eco-fleece is made from recycled drink bottles! This helps keep these bottles out of landfills. and makes the process of creating fleece more sustainable.
You'll find micro fleece used to make not only clothes, but also eco-friendly diapers. It's an extremely thin and delicate material, which means it won't irritate your skin.
Polar fleece is the most common type of fleece out there. It's thick and warm, which makes it especially great to have on hand when the weather is getting colder.
If this were high school, Sherpa would be voted most popular. This trendy fabric is puffy enough to look like wool and makes an excellent lining in blankets and jackets.
Fleece that's been mixed with another material like cotton or French terrycloth is sometimes referred to as "slub" fleece. It typically has a more textured appearance.
Which Type of Fleece is the Softest?
Micro fleece, coral fleece, or Sherpa fleece are usually considered the softest types of fleece. You will find these fabrics used to make blankets, jackets, socks, towels, hats, scarves, and rugs.
Soft fleece fabrics like these are also great for your pets. Look for beds or blankets made from micro fleece or Sherpa. Your cat or dog will appreciate having such a cozy place to rest at the end of a long day!
What Are the Different Weights of Fleece?
Most companies that create fleece items measure it in grams per square meter. They specifically follow a scale that uses 100, 200, or 300. The higher the number, the warmer the fleece.
Lightweight and breathable, which makes it great for athletic apparel
Not too heavy and not too lightweight, which makes it great for layering under other apparel
Heavy and thick, which makes it great for extremely cold temperatures
If you live in a chilly environment, it might be worth adding a variety of different fleece weights to your closet. You never know what you're going to need!
Is Fleece Environmentally Friendly?
It really depends on how it's made. Fleece could be eco-friendly if it's created using recycled plastic bottles, as is the case with eco fleece. However, you also have to consider the environmental costs that go into making the fleece such as the chemicals used during production.
In 2011, a graduate student from Plymouth University discovered microplastics from clothing and towels on 15 beaches around the world. He then conducted a study on different materials and found that fleece can shed as many as 250,000 fibers in a single washing.
So what does this mean? If you're wearing a fleece jacket in the winter or laying down a fleece beach towel in the summer, be mindful of how it's made. You want only the highest quality possible so you don't have to worry about it coming apart and causing further harm to the planet.
How Do You Wash Fleece?
You can get the most life out of your fleece by washing it in the machine on a cold, gentle cycle. Avoid using fabric softener, heat, or chemicals as they can be damaging to the fabric. You should also air dry your fleece instead of putting it in the dryer.
Is your fleece totally worn out? Donate it to a homeless shelter or your local Goodwill. If you have Patagonia branded fleece, you can also trade it in through their "Reuse, Recycle" program. Your fleece will be repurposed into new Patagonia gear, and as a bonus, you get credit toward future purchases!
Why is Fleece So Warm?
Fleece is always made with warmth in mind. During the manufacturing process, the fibers are heated and then reheated. They are then all wound together, which makes it so the warmth is always trapped inside when you're using a fleece blanket or wearing a fleece jacket.
This makes fleece stand apart from other materials like cotton or wool. Cotton can be made with a polyester blend, which tends to be more lightweight and breezy. Wool, on the other hand, is almost too hot sometimes. It also dries slowly, which makes it not as ideal if you're in a snowy or rainy climate.
Why is Fleece a Good Fabric?
People love fleece because it's an insanely durable and comfortable fabric, especially during the winter. It makes for the coziest blankets and the warmest jackets.
Here are all the advantages of fleece fabric:
Stats for Success
Roughly 75% of all fleece jackets are made using some type of recycled plastic bottle.
Patagonia is an eco-friendly company that uses 25 plastic bottles for every fleece jacket they make.
The North Face, a leading fleece jacket brand, reported a revenue of $13.8 billion in 2019.
The Bottom Line
Whether it's sledding with your kids, braving a ski hill for the first time, or just curling up with a good book on your couch, you can't go wrong with fleece. This material is excellent at keeping you warm and cozy all year long, but especially in those brutal winters!
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