Fleece vs Wool: What’s Best for You?

This article will provide you with an insightful comparison of fleece and wool, as well as their pros and cons.
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Last updatedLast updated: May 21, 2021

Both fleece and wool look the same at first glance—or at the very least, awfully similar. If you’re getting into making your own clothes, printing on clothes, or are simply curious about what the differences and similarities between the two fabrics are, read on! Spoiler alert, there’s more to them than meets the eye.

Both of these fabrics provide great opportunities to layer clothing—for aesthetic purposes, but also for the functionality of being able to add and remove clothing at will based on the surrounding environmental conditions.

What is fleece?

Fleece vs Wool: What's Best for You?What many don’t know about fleece from their first introductions to it is that it’s a synthetic material. That’s right—it’s man-made! It may not feel like it, but fleece is one hundred percent plastic derived. When its fibers are combined into an amazing fabric, the result is dreamlike. Oftentimes, other materials will be woven into the plastic fibers to help boost the texture of the fleece.

Fleece is a generally inexpensive material—it can sometimes even be blended with used plastics—making it an eco-friendly option as well! The process of fleece generally permits it to not only be beautiful but warm and amazingly durable, too! Fleece tends to be a multi-layered fabric, and the space between these layers ensures optimal warmth for whatever is used to create with it.

Fleece gained popularity, especially in the sportswear world, when its warm and anti-moisture properties helped its realization as an ideal fabric for high-altitude, low-temperature survivable fabric! Further, fleece is extremely versatile—it’s used from various underwear to keep warm in the cold, as well as used in the clothing of astronauts for the ultra-foreign conditions of space. Fleece originally began as an alternative to wool—a sheepless fabric, first and foremost. The fleece was not patented under the original company that used it (Malden Mills), and so now fleece is accessible to companies and creators alike.

Pros

Fleece is very tactile and tangibly soft, and that tends to be the main advantage to it. Not only is it extremely resistant to wear, but it also tends to dry very quickly when wet. This is because instead of absorbing moisture, fleece simply wicks it off of its surface. Unlike wool, it can often be a more low-cost and ethical approach to the fabric.

Fleece is breathable! Further, it’s an amazingly lightweight fabric—it’s comfortable and doesn’t make you feel weighed down by your clothes. When picking the right fleece clothing, always pick one that feels right in terms of weight on your body—the heavier it is, the quicker it’ll insulate—and the warmer it’ll be!

Cons

Fleece tends to produce and be a conductor of static electricity. Because of its density and other factors, it is also relatively flammable. Unlike wool, fleece tends to be prone as well to catching other materials on its surface (rather visibly) with time—so while it is soft and inexpensive, using and purchasing fleece doesn’t often give the premium experience that wool otherwise may give.

What is wool?

Fleece vs Wool: What's Best for You?Before we get into what wool itself is, here is a fantastically informing article from Sewing Land about the differences between wool and cotton fabrics—as if perhaps the differences between fleece and wool weren’t enough, we know!—but of course, all knowledge, if you want to be able to come back with having created the best products from projects, is a step in the right direction toward improvement!

Wool is generally attained from shearing sheep—unprocessed wool is generally referred to as “raw wool” or wool “off the grease.” It’s referred to as such because it hasn’t yet been cleaned of the sheep’s natural oils, perspiration, and skin tissue. This wool is not used for commercial purposes. Its cleaned alternatives are.

Wool from different parts of a sheep’s body tends to display different characteristics and is best used for certain textures. For example, wool from the sheep back tends to be more open wool, and its strength diminishes. Wool from the sheep’s hind legs and the tail is a much stronger wool option, though it is often very coarse to the touch.

Historically, wool has been utilized and optimized for various purposes, and the main purpose was clothing—it has been used throughout much of human history as a colonial commodity, especially during war eras. For example, World War I’s America saw a huge boom in the sheep industry—the production of wool helped provide for wartime supplies that often went quickly.

Oh, and one more thing before we move onto the pros and cons of wool. You may see the term cotton and wool being thrown around, often within mere words of one another. Sewing Land is here with another great article (which can be found here) that will easily clarify the differences between wool and cotton.

Pros

Wool is an eco-friendly material—oftentimes, the cleaning process involved helps this natural material clean out the environment of the bad, ingestible products found in the environment.

Not only is wool amazingly warm, but it can be reused—talk about versatility! Say, for example, you had a piece of knitwear—it’s a bundle of yarn, right? Why not unravel it and make something brand new of it?

Cons

Just because wool is an eco-friendly material doesn’t mean that its ethical sourcing levels aren’t questionable. The wool industry and trade primarily see sheep from which wool for consumption is harvested as a commodity—shearing can harm sheep in the long run.

When buying wool, the best thing you can do is do some research into the sourcing behind it—if you buy the first wool you see, it’s unlikely you’ll come across the sourcing of the wool without doing the research behind the farm and its harvesting processes—you don’t want to be unknowingly supporting unethical and cruel practices toward animals.

Final thoughts

Well, we’ve reached the end of this at-a-glance look at the differences between fleece and wool—what they’re great for, how they compare and contrast, and more.

If you’re looking for a great wool sweater, Sewing Land recommends the Amazon brand Goodthreads Lightweight Merino Wool Quarter-Zip. It can be found here. It’s not only affordable, but it’s an extremely versatile piece whose fabrics are conducive to all-year-round wear. It can generally be washed by machine, but it’s definitely recommended that its wearer goes about cleaning it by way of dry clean only.

As gift season rolls around, you may prefer to get yourself or someone you care about a nice fleece alternative to the classic wool approach. Sewing Land recommends the Amazon brand, Goodthreads quarter-zip—just like the last one, but blended with fleece! It follows the same general instructions as the previous sweater—it’s comfy, lowkey, and looks great!

Further, speaking of clothing ideas—whether you’re looking for something to keep your neck warm throughout the cold season, or are still stuck looking for a gift, here’s a comprehensive list of the types of scarves. I’m sure you’ll find something you like—who knows, maybe it’ll inspire a potential project down the line. Take a look at Sewing Land’s article concerning the best sewing machines under $300—which can be found here—and strike up some project inspiration!

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