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.
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!
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).
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.
(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!)
Polar fleece, blizzard fleece, glacier fleece (name depends on manufacturer)
Many of the names of fleece actually describe various finishes produced during manufacturing:
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.
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!