Just as an introduction to the fabrication, it might be interesting to know that there are a great many varieties and variances to flannel. As a whole, it is a low-thread count, durable fabric made of thicker yarns. It has a somewhat open, loose weave. It is typically brushed on the face and underside, which gives its warm, snuggly quality by trapping air between the fibers. Different fibers (cotton, wool, rayon), yarn counts (thick or thicker), constructions (plain weave, twill weave), print methods (yarn-dye, reactive, pigment, discharge), brushing (double-brushed, single- brushed), and chemical treatments and finishes (or lack there of) can all go in to making this novelty fabric what it is.
Cloud9's flannel is 100% certified organic cotton printed with low impact dyes. It is minimally processed with double brushing on the face and single brushing on the underside, and uses no chemical whiteners and brighteners, softeners or finishes. As such, each printed or dyed fabric can have a slightly unique hand/feel and shrink rate. Flannel's open weave construction allows for greater than usual shrinkage. Through tests, we've found that ours can vary anywhere between 3%-5%, depending on the print. If shrinkage is an issue and/or you are grouping various prints, it's highly recommended that you pre-wash and -shrink the fabric before cutting.
We've compiled a list of handy information for working with flannels in general. Like any novelty fabric, implementing recommendations will ensure you are getting the best results for your finished project, while saving you some of time and expense of the hands on learning curve. We hope you find it helpful!
1. Always pre-wash and shrink uncut flannel fabric.
- This will snug up the weave, soften the fabrics and allow the nap to rise.
- Flannel can shrink at highly variable rates. The open weave and the amount of pigmentation can contribute to these discrepancies between different patterns. When working with different fabrics in one project, it is essential to preshrink.
- To get optimal shrinkage, wash in gentle cycle in cold water (the temperature of the water does not affect shrinkage, but it can have effects on the colorfastness- cold water is gentler on dyes) and dry on the hottest cotton setting. Cotton expands when wet and shrinks as it is drying. The hotter the drying, the more intense and faster the shrinkage and the more permanent its effects will be.
- Because of the greater than typical shrinkage rate and easily frayed edges, it's sometimes recommended to buy slightly more fabric than needed, in other words, give yourself a little buffer.
- Wash in cold water with mild detergent.
- Subsequent drying should be done at low to medium temperatures.
- While our low-impact dyes are quite stable and colorfast, the surface of the fabric has been brushed and will maintain it's vibrancy longer if treated with kindness (as would any fabric).
- Press with a hot steam iron
- Because of the open weave, it's best not to slide the iron along the fabric... rather press and hold, lift the iron and press and hold. By not tugging the fabric, you will keep it from pulling that can create puckering.
- Some people recommend spraying with starch to make intricate cuts cleaner and reduce fraying. Flannel's open weave tends to unravel more quickly than typical quilting fabrics.
- Designate a needle to sewing with flannel as it tends to dull them more rapidly. Flannel doesn't mind the dulled needle, so you may be able to use it again for future flannel projects.
- Flannel can also be tough on rotary blades and scissors. If you can, try designating tools specific to thicker fabrics like flannel and woolens.
- Clean your machine often- flannel can create a great deal of lint.
- It's recommended to use a 1/2" to 5/8" seam allowance. The fraying of the edges can make narrow seam allowances more difficult to control and they will be more likely to unravel.
- Flannel is not recommended for complex patterns with intricate details and a lot of curved or biased pieces. The open weave can be fussy around bends and thickness can make small embellishments difficult to execute.
- Use shorter stitch settings. This will keep seams as tight as possible. Loose weave + loose stitches = extra loose seams. Keep them crisp and strong with tight stitches.
- Finishing raw edges of seams, particularly before trimming, will prevent unraveling.
- Because of the thickness of flannel, its often best to press seam open (vs. pressing to one side of a seam)- this will keep bulk to a minimum and require less pressing force.
- Flannel doesn't care for seam rippers! The loose weave can be pulled out of shape with tugs. If you have to undo a stitch, do so gingerly. You may also want to press it back into squared position with a hot steam iron before continuing.
- Quilts made with squares and rectangles.
- Backing quilts with fabrics keeps them from slipping off beds!
- Blankets, burp cloths, wash cloths, and diapers.
- Pillowcases and cushions
- Stuffed animals and toys
- Robes and loungewear