Ask Coral

Hi Coral,

I am just starting to sew and I am learning the different kinds of fabrics that I can use. My question is, what is the difference between using fleece and flannel materials? Which material will hold up the longest and when I wash them will they develop those little pill things? Your advice will be appreciated.

-Riki from Canada

 Dear Rikki,

Both fabrics are easy to sew with. Using all flannel construction will provide for a heavier quilt, while fleece backing will provide for a light but warm quilt. For a beginner, the fleece backed quilt might be an easier option because there is no batting added between the layers when you are quilting and you have fewer layers to keep straight and true under the needle. For hand quilters, the fleece backed quilts are nice because it is easier to pierce the fabrics with a needle and therefore easier on your hands.

Both fabrics will hold up relatively well depending on how they are used, how often they are laundered, and how densely they are quilted. The pilling comes from the fibers that make up the materials and can happen with most fabrics under heavy use. The fleeces we use at A Coralberry Stitch are the anti-pill fleeces. Although no fabric will ever be made to be pill free forever, these fleeces hold up much better than the cheaper fleeces. I have not had any problems with them so far. Fleece backed quilts will age only as fast as the flannel face will age.

The flannel in our kits is made of 100% cotton, a natural fiber. These fibers are not as strong as the man-made fleece fibers and will wear with time. We use an all cotton batting with our flannel backings so the entire quilt will age and shrink like old fashion quilts. We try to procure only heavier weight flannels that will age and soften gracefully.

Both types of quilts are designed to be as soft as possible, and flannel and fleece are wonderful fabrics.

We will be offering an all cotton quilt kit line by the end of summer that will have the old fashioned unbrushed cottons in today's bright prints. The all cotton quilt kits provide an alternative to the flannel and fleece kits we offer.

Thank you for writing A Coralberry Stitch.


Dear Coral,

My daughter would like to learn how to sew.  I looked at one doll blanket my daughter has and it’s ~15X18. she likes purples/pink/blue etc. She’s originally from China, so red is a good option too. Whatever you think would be easiest for her to sew - flannel vs reg fabric, squares vs rectangles. She’s a very beginning seamstress, but has the basics of going forward and tacking at the end of the row. She really wants to know how to sew more, so I think this will be a great Christmas present. Our sewing machine has a really nice “slow” setting that actually works! (my other one had two speeds, fast and off), a walking foot and a quilting foot.

- M.F. from Portland, Oregon

 Dear M.F.,

I think a flannel/fleece quilt would be ideal because it would be more flexible (cottons will be stiffer) with the baby doll.  We could put together a small kit for the doll blanket using cotton fabrics, but I think it wouldn't be as soft and the baby doll won't stay "tucked in" as well compared to using flannel and fleece (this is my child-like expertise!!). 

Doll blankets are about 1⁄4 of what our baby blankets are sized, so we could easily modify a kit for the size needed.  A fringe quilt would also be a good option (two pieces of flannel w/ batting, or two pieces of fleece, quilt the fabrics together, then cut fringes on the edges).  Fringe quilts have no binding to worry about.


Dear Coral,

I am in the process of completing one of your beginner’s baby quilts and I am not sure how far to trim the fleece to the quilt top before I begin machine quilting the top and fleece together.  What do you recommend?

-L.O. from Bend, Oregon

Dear L.O.,

Trim your fleece backing to within 1⁄2 to 1 inch of the quilt top.  This will give you enough flexibility in case your topping stretches while machine quilting.


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