Monday, August 29, 2016

Fancy Fleece Finishes + Fleece "Yarn" Tutorial!

I know this is a quilting blog, but sometimes, you just need a quick, easy, no-sew blanket or project!  And sometimes fleece is the answer. Lightweight and warm, a few snips and clips, and it's ready to go!

Last Fall, when I helped judge 4-H entries at the Utah State Fair, I saw many youth projects and blankets made of fleece.  Every one of them had edgings sliced in to fringe, and each and every piece of fringe had a knot tied in it.  Every. single. one!  I knew there were other "alternate endings" and
techniques to finish the edges of this stuff - so I compiled a bunch of these techniques and taught them in a class at last Spring's USU Sewing Training Seminar for 4-H leaders and FCS teachers.

First, a few details about this stuff.  (If your eyes are glazing over, just know that it is a warm fabric, easy to sew, and you should use rotary cutting equipment when cutting.  Then skip down to the pictures.)

“Polar Fleece” was developed in 1979 by Aaron Feuerstein as a man-made replacement to wool, hence the name. It is a lightweight fabric, holds less than 1% of it’s weight in water, is durable and washable. Fleece does not fray, making it great for no-sew projects and crafts. Fleece yardage usually measures 58-59” wide, so you get more fabric for your dollar. Fleece comes in a variety of prints, styles, weights and stretch-ability.  With fleece, you get what you pay for.  A higher grade of fleece is toted as “anti-pill” grade, as opposed to lower grades of fleece that are thinner and have a tendency to pill when washed repeatedly.  It’s recommended to wash in cold, and tumble-dry low so as not to “melt” the fibers. Fleece is easy to sew. You may need to use more pins to keep edges from slipping.  When sewing, use a size 9/14 ball-point needle, and stitch using a longer stitch length and/or a slight zig-zag stitch as fleece does have a bit of a stretch on the cross grain. Prepare edges by trimming off selvages. Rotary cutters make the best cuts, as fleece shows every scissor mark.

Edges cut with a Fancy Fleece ruler and rotary blade
Here's a comprehensive look at some NO-sew and LOW-sew techniques to take you "Beyond the Fringe!"

  • Polar Fleece  
  • Rotary cutting equipment: mat, ruler, rotary cutter.  Optional: wave blade or skip blade
  • Seam ripper
  • Size K crochet hook
  • Large-eye tapestry needle
  • Specialty Rulers (Optional)
INSTRUCTIONS   Download  >> Print-Friendly Instructions.

FRINGE:  I use June Tailor's Shape Cut Slotted Ruler to get straight, even slices for fringe.  Creative Grids also has a Stripology ruler, more geared toward quilting, but would work well also.   Cut strips about 3” deep, 1” wide.  Since I'm using 1" increments, I begin by squaring the fleece to the nearest inch.  Cut away a 3-inch square on corners. 

TIP: Whatever length of fringe you cut, that is the size square to cut away on the corner.
Another TIP:  Use a strip of painter's tape to mark the length of fringe.

*  Half-knot ~ Just in case you need to know.  Make a loop at the top of each piece of fringe and pull the end through. Repeat for each strand.  I'm not even going to show a picture!  Let's leave behind those lumpy knots and try something new!

*  Pull-Through Knot (“Not” a Knot) ~

Use a seam ripper (nothing fancy) to cut a small hole (about 1/4-inch) centered on the fringe above the cut lines.
Fold the end of the fringe into a triangle, then use the tip of the seam ripper to push the point of the strand through the hole.  Pull the strand all the way through so it creates a little roll at the top.  The fibers will lock and keep the strand in place.

This makes a nice, flat knot that will not unravel.  And, did I say flat?  NOT lumpy, NOT really a knot - the "Not-Knot".  This is my favorite treatment for fleece fringe.
picture credit
By the way, this pull-through knot is a great knot for fleece blankets donated to Project Linus, whose mission is to "provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need through gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer "blanketeers."  Find out more at

This fringe was cut a little wider, 1-1/2 inches and the bottoms trimmed to a point.  They look like Dad's Ties or maybe Bunny Ears.

Try a double layer of fleece for a little fancier effect.  Trim both pieces the same size.  Layer together and cut the fringe at the same time as diagrammed above.  Proceed with the Not-Knot technique, pulling both layers through the hole.  Fancy!

*  Curlicue Stretchy Strands ~

Usually, fleece will not stretch much on a lengthwise cut (parallel with selvage edges), if at all, but will stretch substantially on the cross grain, about twice the original size. Try cutting the strands in smaller increments (3/8", 1/2") for an even curlier look.  Then simply pull to stretch and curl the fringe.  This is also how you can make your own fleece yarn** (see tutorial below)  Looks great on the ends of a scarf.

*  Tied Bows ~ 

Cut away a 2-inch square on the corners.  Make a 2-inch slice, 4 inches apart.  Use a seam ripper to cut a small hole centered on the bow above the slice lines. Pinch to gather the center of the bow, then push a 2" to 3" strand of yarn, Perle cotton or self-made fleece yarn**  through the hole, loop around the gathers and pull tight, then tie a square knot on the back of the bow to secure; trim yarn.  Repeat process for each bow.

*  Stitched Bows ~

Skip the seam ripper and yarn altogether and take the gathered bow to the sewing machine to tack the center with a few zig-zag stitches.  Notice the cute edges, cut with a wavy rotary blade.

*  Chunky Crochet ~

Cut slices 2-inches deep, 1 inch apart. Cut away a 2-inch square on the corners. Clip a 1/2” snip about 1/4” up from the bottom edge of each piece of fringe.  Insert a large crochet hook (about size K), through the snip and pull an adjacent loop through the hole. Repeat and continue all the way around the quilt.

On the last loop, slice through the strand so you can take it around the base of the first loop, then tie a knot or stitch the loop back together to finish.  Tuck the knot under the first loop.

*  Loopy Braid ~

This technique looks a little smoother, doesn't require a crochet hook, and also works great with double layers. Cut away a 4-inch square on the corners.  Fold edges over 2” wide and zigzag to finish the hem.

Cut slices about 2-inches deep (to, but not through the stitches); 1 inch apart.  Use your fingers and begin by pulling an adjacent loop through the first loop.

Repeat and continue all the way around the quilt.  On the last loop, carefully cut the loop at the fold line, then take the strand around the base of the first loop and tie (see chunky crochet) or re-stitch the loop where it was cut.  Tuck the joint under the first loop to finish.

*  Crocheted Edging  ~

Make little 1/4-inch cuts with a seam ripper about 3/8- to 1/2-in from the edge of the blanket, and spaced about 1/2" apart.  Try using a “Skip Blade” in your rotary cutter to cut perfectly symmetrical 1/4-inch holes to prepare the edge for crocheting.

Single-Crochet around the edges of the blanket using yarn,
Perle cotton or self-made fleece yarn** and a large crochet hook.
Ask a friend or google "How To Crochet" for more comprehensive instructions.

*  Blanket-Stitch ~  

Use a skip-blade to perforate symmetrically spaced holes, about 1-inch from the edges.  Fold the fleece edge over 1/2-inch, then use a large-eye needle with fleece yarn or regular yarn and blanket-stitch the edge of the fleece.  Here's a little blanket stitch TUTORIAL in case you need a refresher.


Leave the blanket stitch as-is for a final finish, or add more crocheted edges for a fancier finish.  Try these Fun & Easy Edges.

So many different ways to finish a fleece blanket edge, and I'm sure there are tons more!  Who knows, maybe we'll see some change in the 4-H projects this year at the fair!

Happy Making!

How to
Make your own **Fleece Yarn!

Begin with 1/2 yard of fleece.  Trim selvages and square up the edges.  Cut 3/8-inch to 1-inch cross-grain strips (from selvage to selvage, the stretchy direction), then stretch the strip as far as it will go. It should stretch up to twice the original length, curling up on itself to be about half the original width.

Here's a "knotless" way to cut fleece yarn:  Use a rotary cutter and ruler for the cuts, slicing almost through at each end, leaving 1/4" to 1/2" uncut. Change the uncut portion to the opposite side with each slice as diagrammed below.

Slice the fleece, (I used 1/2-inch increments)...

...stretch out the yarn, trim off the square corners... 

...then wind it up like a ball of yarn.   
See "How to Roll a Ball of Yarn"  tutorial HERE.

Make rainbow yarn or use up scraps by cutting individual slices in the width desired, then tie or splice the ends together.  Stretch out the strips and wind them up in a ball of new "yarn".  You did it!

Gallery For > Snoopy Happy Dance Animated Gif


  1. Thank you for the tutorial. I have one question. When you say to cut the last loop in half, do you mean to cut it on the fold so it is no longer a loop or to cut it half-way up the loop? I can't tell from the pictures.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Susan. I've added a couple of pictures to clarify. On the last loop, slice through the strand so you can take it around the base of the first loop, then tie a knot or stitch the loop back together to finish.

  2. Great ideas. Thanks for the tutorials.

  3. Thank you very much for this useful tutorial. I have recently retired and joined my local county's Linus Project chapter. I am a quilter, but if the chapter needs a lot of blankets in a short period of time, fleece blankets would be the way to go. I have seen other blanketeers' fleece blankets finished in the usual way. Your ideas would bring a distinctive touch to these blankets.

    1. How wonderful to be part of your county's Project Linus group!

  4. What a fun post about making fleece blankets...I love all the ideas! Thanks, Deonn!

  5. Hey there friend! You are brilliant! I never thought I wanted a fleece project but you may have changed my mind!
    ❤️Marilyn, formerly A-33


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