There are 2 very different schools of thought on beginners sewing with fleece -- the first group says that it's hard, and beginners shouldn't attempt it -- the second one (the group I stand with) says it's easy, and a great option for beginners.
While it can have its challenges, the nature of the fabric can make for quick construction of easy items, largely because there is no fraying or raveling of the cut edges. You can make one quick turn for hems, and casings, you can often omit facings, and raw edges can be cut with decorative rolling cutter blades to avoid hemming altogether.
There are a few little tricks to make working with fleece easy. So, if you're ready to start making all those cute little scarves, blankets, hats, pants, or whatever, here are some tips to help make the job easier. Click on "Read more" to continue...
Start with the right needle and thread: Use a size 90/14 Universal needle, and a good all purpose sewing thread. See my Sewing Machine Needle Primer and my Sewing Thread Primer for more information.
Use the correct presser foot: This is one of those "do as I say, not as I do things" as you'll see. Use your general purpose zig-zag foot -- if you have one that looks something this with a little spring on the side, that's your best choice.
Some recommend using a walking foot for fleece, but I think that's more of a pain than it's worth. If you don't have a foot that looks like this one, just use your general purpose foot.
Set your machine up properly: I generally sew with my stitch length set at 3.0, but for fleece I go up to 3.5 -- so just set your stitch length at about .5 longer than you would for normal sewing. If your machine has a fabric thickness setting (a dial that increases the distance between the presser foot and the feed dogs), set the machine for a thick fabric.
Starting the seam: Beginning at the very edge of the fleece fabric is a little tricky because the fabric has a tendency to get caught in the needle hole of the machine's throat plate. Place a piece of embroiderer's "topping", or a piece of tissue paper underneath the beginning edge of the fabric. I like to use solvy topping for this because it tears off easily, and any excess that remains in the stitching can be easily removed with a damp cloth.
Top-stitch to keep seam allowances flat: When pressing seams flat on fleece, you need to use a pressing cloth, and a good deal of steam. That can sometimes flatten the fleece more than desired, so I prefer to press, and steam as little as possible. Top-stitching the seam allowances down keeps them in place forever. Lengthen the stitch to 4.0, and use a quilters "stitch in the ditch" foot to sew a nice straight line down each side of the seam.
Matching seams at intersections can be a little more challenging when working with fleece. Once you have your seams matched, sew from the seam down, and then go back and complete the rest of the seam. This way, the fabric won't have an opportunity to shift before you get to the seam intersection
Keep your fabric from shifting as you sew: As the fabric passes through the sewing machine, it is advances by the motion of the feed dogs. When working with thick fabrics, the feed dogs advance the bottom layer of fabric at a faster pace than the top layer -- that's where the walking foot helps because it has feed dog on the foot, so 2 sets of feed dogs (top and bottom) are now advancing both layers of fabric at the same pace. Since I'm not using a walking foot, I compensate by holding my fabric in place as I sew. Match the bottom edges of the fabric when you place it in the machine. Lightly fold it, and keep it raised as you advance it through the machine. Sew slow, and adjust as you go to make sure your ends remain even.
And finally, because fleece creates so much lint as you sew, be sure to open up the bobbin case and brush out the dust and lint frequently.