Here are some sewing tips for working with fuzzy fabric. Learn how to sew fur, fleece, sherpa and other fabrics with a nap.
Hey y’all, today I’m sharing my best tips to sew faux fur and other fuzzy fabrics, like sherpa, fleece, plush fleece and minky fabric. This is in answer to a sewing question that was submitted here. Temperatures are dropping where I live, so it seems like a good time to talk about plush fabric. Lower temperatures really seem to increase my interest in cozy, thick and furry fabrics. Based on my recent visit to the fabric store I’m not the only one. So today’s post will cover tools to use, including needles and presser feet, and how to cut and stitch fake fur.
I’ve got a video below that you can also watch on YouTube here with my top 5 tips for working with furry fabric. I also share details below the video, so you can be a faux fur sewing pro.
Understanding Fabric Nap and Pile
My biggest tip to sew faux fur is that you have to understand fabric nap and keep it in mind the entire time you’re working with fleece, sherpa, fake fur and other plush fabrics. All of these fabrics are made with pile, which is the fibers embedded in the fabric that resemble fur. If you were talking about real fur pelts, the pile is the hairs. Check out the image below of some faux fur – on the left the fibers of the pile are all pointed to the top, on the right side of the image they are all facing down.
Pile fibers all lay in one direction, and that direction is the fabric nap or nap of the fur. You can see on the image below some examples of the pile on plush fleece. When I run my finger against the fabric nap, the pile stands up and the fabric in that area appears to be a different color. This different coloring is caused by the way light and shadow hit the pile fibers.
The color difference is the biggest reason you have to pay attention to the fabric nap when laying out your pattern to cut. If you’ve ever seen a pattern that has different yardage requirements for fabric with and without nap, this is why. With napped fabric you have to lay all the pattern pieces out in the same direction, and that typically takes extra fabric. If you skip this (as I have, accidentally) then it can look like you colorblocked your garment without meaning to. As you can see in the picture below, the seams would look like they joined two different colored fabrics.
Tools and Notions for Sewing Fake Fur and Fuzzy Fabrics
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Top tools and notions to sew faux fur, fleece and other fuzzy fabrics
While none of these is essential to sewing fur – you can make due without – they do make handling plush fabrics easier. (Commissions earned on the links below)
- Larger sewing needles – I like a 100/16 size universal needle.
- Washable marker for tracing the pattern on the wrong side of the fabric
- Sewing clips to hold the fabric together instead of pins
- A walking foot for the sewing machine
- Applique scissors (also know as duckbill scissors) for removing fur from the seam allowances
- Pattern weights to hold the pattern down while you trace it
Here are some notes about sewing needles and thread for working with fleece and fur. These types of fabrics generally have the pile worked into a fabric that is a knit or stretch base. If you look at the close up image below, you can see the knit stitches of the fabric backing. Faux fur, sherpa, fleece, minky, etc are generally made of polyester fiber and constructed by knitting (for more on fiber vs. fabric see this post). Because they are knit fabrics, you may find that a stretch needle works better than a universal needle. Of course, this depends on your specific fabric and machine. More about sewing needles here.
And you should generally use a stretch stitch, like a zig-zag, when working with fur as well to avoid popped stitches. I recommend a long and wide zig-zag stitch. For very heavy weight plush fabrics and furs you may want to use a thicker thread, but I usually stick with an all purpose weight.
Tips for Cutting Furry Fabrics
As mentioned in the section above on fabric nap, you have to be careful of the direction of the nap when laying out any pattern pieces. Make sure the nap runs in the same direction for every piece. It’s also a good idea to cut out the fabric in a single layer. This will help you keep track of the direction of the nap. Just remember to flip pattern pieces face down to cut the second piece of any pieces that need to be mirrored. I like to use pattern weights to hold the pattern pieces down on the wrong side of the fabric and trace them with washable markers before cutting. It’s very difficult to pin patterns to faux fur or thick plush fabric without bending the pins.
When you cut out your patterns, try to keep your scissor blades pointing in the same direction as the nap. This may mean starting in the middle of a piece and cutting one direction, then going back to the middle to cut the other side as I demonstrate in the video. Cutting in the direction of the nap will result in cleaner edges.
Fleece, faux fur, minky, sherpa and other cozy fabrics are generally made from polyester fiber. That can really dull your scissors, so it’s a good idea to sharpen your scissors before and after working with a large amount of these fabric types. A sharp blade will make cutting easier. While some fabric stores offer scissor sharpening, I’ve had better luck taking mine to the local knife sharpener. The same goes for your serger blade if you use a serger to sew them. You may want to have a replacement serger blade on hand.
Tips to Sew Faux Fur and Fleece
As mentioned in the tools section, a walking foot is useful to sew faux fur. It helps keep the fabric feeding evenly so that you don’t end up with offset edges, something fake fur is notorious for. Clips also help to keep the top layer of fabric from moving away from the needle. Whenever possible, you want to stitch in the direction of the nap.
You should use a stretch stitch. There are two basic methods of construction for seams on faux fur fabric to hide the stitching. The first is to trim the pile in the seam allowances and the stitch the fabrics with right sides together. Then press the seam to one side. That is shown on the left below.
The second method is to cut the seam allowances off and then butt the edges of the fabric together and sew so that one side of the zig zag stitch lands on one piece of fabric and the other side lands on the other piece. This is also called a hinge seam. A hinge seam is flatter than sewing with the fur right sides together. After sewing fur together this way you’ll want to take a pin on the right side of the fabric and gently pull the pile hairs from the stitching. This type of seam is shown on the right below.
Both types of seams can also benefit from running a comb through the pile on the right side.
Finally, you probably want to line your faux fur garment. It’s incredibly difficult to hem faux fur without a lining and have it look good, even if you hand stitch. No matter which seam construction method you choose, fake fur seams can be itchy. And the pile fuzz can continue to shed and end up on your undergarments if the clothing isn’t lined.
Tips For Cleanup
The most frustrating part of working with fleece or fur for me is that fuzz ends up everywhere. Little tumbleweeds of fuzz roll across my sewing room and stick to the bottoms of my feet. For that reason I think a vacuum is an essential tool for sewing furry fabrics. For surfaces like the cutting table, you can use a handheld vacuum (my preferred method), an electrostatic duster, or you can spray the surface with cleaner. Spraying cleaner or even just water will weight down the fuzz fibers with liquid and make them easier to wipe up.
I wanted to share with you that you have been SO helpful to me over the years! You know how one gets tons of emails? Well, I generally go down the line deleting them but, not yours! I always save it and go back to it when I have a moment to absorb all the cool stuff you are teaching me. Thank you again for all your helpful hints, guidance and knowledge.
I always enjoy your emails. It seems that you hit on something that I’ve always wondered about or needed exact information. Sewing with fur information has been very helpful and encouraging to make a vest or something for this fall. Thanks and keep sending more sewing info.