How Fleece Is Made

Fleece is one of the most popular fabrics for winter gear. It keeps you warm and comfortable, looks great and is durable. However, there are so many different types of fleece on the market that it can be hard to know what to look for. Luckily, we’ve put together this guide to help you choose the best fleece for your needs.

Fleece fabric is made from synthetic fibres, usually polyester but sometimes wool and other natural materials. It has a brushed surface on the inside that gives it a soft, warm and fluffy feel when you touch it. Fleece is also lightweight so it doesn’t bulk up when you wear it. It is designed to keep you warm without overheating, and it also has a good stretch so that it can move with you while you’re active.

Traditionally, fleece was made from wool, which is a naturally breathable and insulating material. However, it can be heavy and scratchy, and it requires special care. In the 1970s Malden Mills, now Polartec, began experimenting with polyester as an alternative to wool. Their efforts paid off and, in 1981, they introduced the world to a revolutionary new fabric called Synchilla. It was a huge success and became the benchmark for all other fleeces. Malden Mills’ then-owner, Aaron Feuerstein, wisely decided not to patent the fabric; instead he opened it up for everyone to copy and innovate upon. This was a tremendously generous and selfless decision, as the result was an incredibly successful product that now dominates the outdoor clothing industry.

Today, fleece is almost always created from polyester. Occasionally, other natural fibers such as wool and hemp are woven into the fabric to create different textures or to make it more sustainable. It can also be made from recycled plastics like water bottles, which gives it an eco-friendly edge and makes it inexpensive.

To make the fibres, manufacturers heat them to form a molten liquid and then force them through microscopic holes known as spinnerets to create long filaments that will become the building blocks of the fleece. Then, the filaments are twisted into yarn and woven or knitted into a fabric. This process is a very labour intensive and time-consuming process, so fleece fabric is expensive. This is why it’s often sourced from specialist textile companies such as Polartec or Pontetorto, and from the own brands of big outdoor companies like Patagonia, Haglofs and Peak Performance.

One thing to watch out for when buying fleece is pilling, which occurs when the fibres rub against each other and create small matted balls. This will reduce the durability and insulating qualities of the fleece, so look for a low pill rate when choosing a garment. Some of the most comfortable and durable fleeces also feature thumb loops, which help keep the sleeves up when wearing them. This is a very useful feature for people who like to climb or do other strenuous activities, and it also helps to keep the warmth in.

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