Know the types of fleece ~
Not all fleece is created equal!

Me shearing a sheep at our school's Family Night! I was afraid I would hurt it.Me shearing a sheep at our school's Family Night! I was so careful because I feared I would hurt it.

Many types of fleece are manufactured nowadays. However, according to the dictionary, fleece is the natural wool covering of a sheep or a goat. Yes, that's me shearing the fleece from a sheep for the first and, so far, only time in my life!

This article includes specific bullet lists that will help you to differentiate between various types of fleece.

Before the human race developed synthetic fabrics, plants and animals were our only choices for making blankets. Cotton (plants) and wool (animals) were the primary types of materials used to make cloth. Wool is traditionally warmer than cotton, so now we use the word fleece to mean a warm wooly fabric that keeps us cozy.

So, is the type of fleece you buy at your fabric store for your baby's luxuriously soft blanket made of real wool? Hardly. Contemporary fleece fabric has NO natural fleece at all! Most fleece available for projects these days is primarily polyester. So the term “fleece” as a noun has come to mean an extremely soft synthetic knit fabric that has a matte of longer fluffy loops on one side. During manufacturing, the loop side is brushed to raise the fibers, resulting in the silky softness we know as fleece.

If you would like more detail, here is a link for how polyester fleece is made.

Characteristics of modern types of fleece

Synthetic fleece fabric wicks moisure away from the body very effectively. Also, it is a great insulating material, capable of keeping baby and you comfortably warm and dry when the temperature plunges. Fleece is available in many weights. The heavier weights may also have loops of various lengths on the same fabric, resulting in a soft, knobby texture. This could be an attempt to mimic a real sheep's fleece.

In my research, I have discovered that natural and organic fleece, that is GOTS-certified, is available for sewing; however, most of it is made of 100% cotton, not wool. Go figure!

Cotton fieldCotton in its raw form

Some of the terms you will come across as you shop for different types of fleece fabric may be a bit confusing. I have compiled the following information about various fleece monikers from several sites on the web, so that you'll be able to more easily choose what you want, particularly when buying fleece online (where you can't reach out and touch it).


Natural fleece:
may be organic, check for GOTS-certification

Animal fleece ~ is only called fleece when it's straight from the animal. When it's processed into usable form, such as yarn or thread for weaving, it is called wool. So I'll save their properties for another article.

Cotton fleece:

  • absorbs moisture instead of wicking it away
  • prewash before sewing; cotton shrinks
  • made in the US or may be imported
  • often used to make cloth diapers

Cotton sherpa:

  • absorbent
  • warm, soft, fuzzy
  • prewash before sewing; cotton shrinks
  • appropriate for baby blankets or for lining clothing

(The word sherpa comes from the name of an ethnic group in northern Nepal. They live in the Himalayas and are mountaineering experts. We all know that it can get downright cold up in the mountains! I'm sure their clothing reflected the need for wooly warmth!)


Synthetic fleece:
easy-care; machine wash cold, tumble dry low or line dry (never use high heat)

Polar fleece, blizzard fleece, glacier fleece (name depends on manufacturer)

  • polyester or poly/cotton/acrylic blend
  • often made from recycled plastic bottles
  • medium or heavyweight fleece
  • may be anti-pill or non-anti-pill (often a cost difference)
  • one side is smooth, other side may be more fluffy
  • retains little moisture
  • retains heat, provides insulation
  • may be used for no-sew projects because it doesn't unravel

Many of the names of fleece actually describe various finishes produced during manufacturing:

  • Brushed fleece ~ flat smooth surface similar to felt on both sides, although there is a right and a wrong side
  • Microfleece ~ a lightweight brushed fleece fabric, softer than polar fleece
  • Microchamois ~ extremely lightweight with a buttery soft quality
  • Anti-pill fleece, premium fleece, velour fleece ~ usually a little heavier weight and more costly than regular brushed fleece, so soft on both sides!
  • Berber fleece~ flat knit backing with a knobby appearance on the front
  • Sherpa fleece ~ smooth knit on one side and like a faux fur or sheepskin on the other

CAUTION: The following types of fleece fabrics are NOT for no-sew projects! They must have their sides bound because the edges shed and stretch.

  • cuddle fleece, plush, minky ~ very stretchy, very soft, often has a pattern woven in (such as bubbles)
  • coral fleece ~ related to minky or cuddle fleece but with a more fur-like texture
  • Jersey fleece ~ cotton, poly/cotton blend, similar to sweatshirt fabric

Types of Fleece ~ Conclusion

Although most people will choose the softer of the fleeces for their baby blanket DIY project, any of the myriad types of fleece can be utilized depending upon the effect you want for your blanket. For tips on sewing with fleece, click here.

Use your imagination! I'm thinking maybe a sherpa fleece with a licensed jersey fleece backing (if I can find one) for taking baby out to the ball game! Rah, rah! Go team!

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