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Shrinking fleece
fabric problem or sewing problem?
Everyday Sewist
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Date: 2/2/03 11:00 AM

Hi, I'm hoping someone can help me figure out this problem...

I made some pants (Burda one-seams) out of polar fleece from Hancock fabrics (the cheap stuff).  I can't remember if I pre-washed the fleece, but I vaguely remember thinking I didn't have to. Anyway, they turned out great. I washed them twice, hung them to dry, no problem except some pilling which I expected.

Then the other day I put them in the dryer. Big mistake! Now the seams are all puckered and the right leg is shorter than the left leg.  :(

I am guessing the problem is that I used cheap "generic" fleece instead of the good Malden Mills stuff. (Does MM fleece shrink alot?) And maybe I should have pre-washed?  Or, could it be the thread I used? I couldn't find any matching Metrosene so I used Coats thread instead.
Or maybe I should have used a different stitch? I used a medium-long stitch and an 80/12 needle.

Any ideas or suggestions are welcome. I'd like to make more of these pants but I don't want them to shrink out of shape like this.

Georgene
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Date: 2/2/03 11:32 AM

Hi Betty,
My daughter has a bunch of pairs of pants in cheesy fleece type fabric that I got at a sample sale.  So mystery fiber content and definately not Malden Mills!  I wash and dry them, but remove from dryer while they are still slightly damp and pull the seams.  I let them finish drying flat on the bed.  This seems to work even after forgetting about them and letting them cook in the dryer.  Next wash and dry when applying this method they came out fine.
I hope this works for you.

Dale C
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Date: 2/2/03 12:10 PM

My guess is that it's the heat from the dryer that did it, not so much the fabric.  The fabric should respond the same way if it was pretreated the way it would be when it becomes a garment.  If you didn't dry in the dryer during pretreating, it could certainly shrink the fabric more than just a hot water washing would.  

But, if you can't wear it (like you don't have one short leg do you? ??? ) maybe you can chop it into shorts or capri length pants...

Hope something works out with those.  I always hate when I have to scrap a garment.  I'll try to rescue things from the grave and sometimes spend HOURS trying to make it work.

Dale

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Deepika
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Date: 2/2/03 1:56 PM

Betty, I have only used malden mills fleece very rarely. Mostly I use the micro fleece (slightly stretchy) from Joann fabrics and I throw them in the washer and dryer also. They come out fine. This could be just a microfleece feature though. It does not pill too much also. I love this stuff. On sale you can get it for as low as $4.99/yd.

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Everyday Sewist
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Date: 2/2/03 4:12 PM

The pants are just pajama pants, but I liked them so much, I wanted to make more. Deepika, I do have some microfleece I was going to try out. I will make sure to pre-wash and dry them first.  Georgene, I will try stretching them out next time I wash and see if I can make this pair look normal again. Thanks for the tips.  :)

TextileMike
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Date: 2/6/03 8:07 AM

Polyester fleece require special washing to keep them in top shape.  Heat, liquid fabric softeners, and dry cleaning chemicals are the enemies of poly-fleeces.  

Generally speaking:

1) Turn garment inside out (reduce pilling), wash in machine in cool (40C / 100F) water to abate heat shrink.  
2) No chlorine bleach, no liquid softeners.  Both of these have chemicals that degrade polyester.  Liquid fabric softener coats the poly filaments and really accellerates pilling -- this pull on the fabric can make seams wavy.
3) Tumble dry on delicate or lay flat to dry. Poly-fleece dries quickly without needing heat.  Mositure trapped in the seams gets much hotter than the surrounding fabric, this leads to fabric distortion when too much heat is used.
4) Never dry clean.

It's my experience that cheap and expensive fleeces behave the same as long as they are poly.  Some of the really cheep fleeces have acrylic mixed (fun-fur fiber) in, these fibers are really heat sensitive.

Hope this helps.

Lee Anne

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Date: 2/6/03 10:00 PM

Thanks, that is very helpful. I don't use synthetics much and I guess I always assumed (mistakenly) that polyester was indestructible. I really like the fleece and I plan to use it often, so I really appreciate this information.

Sherril Miller
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Date: 2/9/03 1:22 AM

LeeAnn, I find that poly fabric can have serious static problems. I always use pleanty of fabric softner to keep the static under control. Now you are saying I am killing my fabrics by doing this? How do I control the static without Downey?

Sherril

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TextileMike
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Date: 2/9/03 11:52 AM

Static is certainly a problem with poly fleeces (we handle them by the truckload -- somedays I feel like a lightning rod from all the shocks!;).  

Dryer sheet softeners are best - it's the liquid softeners accellerate increase pilling.  If you fabric is already pilled up then you might as well just use the liquid.

Hope this helps.

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