What is Fleece? Properties, Uses, and Everything in Between

Melengo Team

Fleece is a fabric that’s always on trend. But what's behind this fabric?

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Who doesn't love a good fleece jacket? They're soft, they're fuzzy, and they keep you warm during the colder months. And the best part? Fleece never goes out of style.

But have you ever wondered what fleece is made of? And which type of fleece would be best suited for the garments you want to make? Let’s explore what fleece is made of, along with its properties and uses. 

But, first things first.

What is Fleece? 

Fleece is a wonder fabric made from a type of polyester or cotton (or a blend of both) that’s soft, cozy, and fuzzy to the touch. Aptly named after the fur coat of sheep, fleece is known for its insulating properties. Unlike wool, it’s lightweight, very comfortable, and allows moisture to dry quickly, making it a winter favorite. Fleece is also very breathable and has anti-perspiration properties, meaning it’s a great option for athletic wear. 

How is Fleece Made?

What is fleece made of? Typically, it’s polyester or cotton. And polyester actually comes from plastic, while cotton is harvested from trees. So, how do you go from that to the soft, fuzzy material that is fleece? 

The making of polyester fleece begins with polyethylene terephthalate (PET) aka polyester chips, which are melted down to form a thick liquid. The liquid is then forced through a spinneret, which is a disc with very fine holes. As the liquid comes out on the other side, it cools down and begins hardening into fibers. 

These fibers are, then, spun and stretched to strengthen them, and put through a machine to give them a crinkled texture before they are dried. Finally, the fibers are spun to create fine strands of thread, which are tightly knit to create a dense fabric. This dense fabric is brushed to give it more bulk, resulting in fleece. To make the fabric waterproof and windproof, it’s often coated with fluorochemicals as well.

Cotton fleece follows a similar process, except fine cotton threads harvested from cotton trees are used in place of PET chips. While polyester fleece is great for outdoor adventure gear or activewear, cotton or cotton blend fleece is ideal for winter loungewear and for those who prefer natural fibers over synthetic ones

Although virgin polyester and cotton are the most common materials used to make fleece, it’s not uncommon to find bamboo fleece or hemp fleece. Occasionally, polyester is also mixed with wool, rayon, or cotton fibers to give fleece a different texture as well as vibrance. For a more sustainable alternative, fleece is also made with recycled polyester, organic cotton, bamboo, or TENCEL™. Let’s take a look at the different types of fleece. 

Types of Fleece

Fleece comes in several variations, with each one sporting a different level of thickness. 

Polar Fleece

Made from: Polyester

Thickness: 100, 200, and 300 gsm

Used for: Blankets, socks, vests, jackets, hoodies, sweaters, outdoor adventure gear 

Polar fleece is the most common type of fleece and comes in different thicknesses ranging from 100 gsm (grams per square meter) to 300 gsm. It has a double-sided pile (the raised surface of a fabric), meaning both sides feel plush, and keeps the wearer very warm. The heavier its weight, the warmer it is. Since polyester is a synthetic fabric, polar fleece is also very affordable. 


Made from: Polyester

Thickness: Less than 200 gsm

Used for: Athletic wear, shirts, sweatpants, sweaters, throw blankets, bathrobes

Microfleece is a thinner and finer version of polar fleece, and is lightweight, usually weighing less than 200 gsm. Like polar fleece, microfleece is also double-sided. It’s known for being soft and flexible, making it an ideal fabric for gym clothes and light outdoor wear. However, microfleece doesn’t offer as much insulation as polar fleece, so it’s often used for layering. 

Cotton and Cotton-Blended Fleece

Made from: Pure cotton or cotton mixed with polyester and spandex

Used for: Sweatshirts, t-shirts, shirts, sweatpants, shorts, hoodies

Cotton fleece is usually made from 100% cotton, while cotton blend fleece is made with a mixture of cotton and polyester. Cotton fleece fabric is smooth on the outside and plush on the inside. Due to its softness and light weight, it’s commonly used to make sweatshirts, sweatpants, and other winter loungewear

Since cotton fleece doesn’t contain any synthetic fabrics, it’s a great choice for people with skin allergies. On the downside, cotton is very breathable, meaning it won’t keep you warm in very cold climates. So, cotton fleece is typically used for layering. 

Poly-cotton fleece, on the other hand, is better at insulation than pure cotton fleece. The blend of natural and synthetic fibers make poly-cotton fleece more affordable than its pure natural counterpart. 

There’s also another type of tri-blend cotton fleece made with a mixture of polyester and spandex that’s commonly used to make activewear. The spandex gives the fabric some stretchability, the polyester makes the wearer feel warm, while the cotton ensures air circulation to prevent overheating. 

French Terry Fleece

Made from: Cotton

Used for: Robes, loungewear, athleisure, towels

French terry fleece is unbrushed on both sides, so it’s very thin and light, and lacks the plushness that’s common with other types of fleece. It feels very soft against the skin and has amazing moisture-absorbing properties, due to which it commonly finds its use in the making of towels and robes. 

Sherpa Fleece

Made from: Polyester

Used for: Jackets, blankets, lining material

Made with 100% polyester, sherpa fleece is fluffy, snug, super soft, and resembles real wool. Due to the warmth that it provides, it’s often used to make winter wear, blankets, or as a lining for other garments. 

Properties of Fleece

Fleece might come in various types and materials, but all of them share some common properties. 

  • Insulation. Fleece is warm and insulates you even when it’s wet. The fuzzy surface of fleece leaves room for air pockets that trap your body heat and keep you warm during winter. 
  • Moisture repellant. Since fleece is technically plastic, it repels moisture instead of absorbing it. This means it also dries very quickly- qualities that make it ideal for keeping you warm during a workout, or when it’s damp or raining outside. 
  • Lightweight and soft. Fleece fabric is lightweight, giving you the perfect level of warmth in winter without making you feel like you’re lugging something heavy around. As an added bonus, the plush surface of fleece feels soft against your skin.
  • Breathable. Some fleece varieties such as cotton and cotton blend fleece are very breathable, making them ideal for places that don’t get too cold during winter. 
  • Inexpensive. Since synthetic fabrics like fleece are machine-made, they tend to be very inexpensive, making them affordable for everyone. 
  • Vegan. Since it does not contain any animal products, fleece is vegan. However, since it’s made from plastic, a non-biodegradable product, fleece is not sustainable, although sustainable alternatives of fleece do exist. 
  • Durable. Fleece is durable and doesn’t pill or fray as easily as other fabrics. It’s also wrinkle-resistant, so you can use it for years to come. 

Easy to care for. Fleece can be machine-washed safely, dries quickly, and doesn’t need ironing, making it super easy to maintain even when worn frequently.

Whether you want to make hoodies and sweatshirts or jackets and socks out of fleece, Melengo makes it easy for you to get started. [Start your project now.]

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