Home Video Tutorials Tips and Tricks for Sewing Flannel Fabric

Tips and Tricks for Sewing Flannel Fabric

written by Sarah November 16, 2016

Flannel, Flannel, Flannel…

You can sew so many great projects using Flannel Fabric. It’s soft, warm, and surprisingly strong. However, it’s also deceptively tricky to sew. I say deceptively tricky, because way back when I was learning to sew, I thought sewing flannel would be as easy as sewing any medium-weight cotton fabric.

I was wrong.

When I sew Flannel, I spend the majority of my time prepping the fabric. First, I always buy more than the pattern calls for; at least an extra half yard. You need the extra yardage because flannel shrinks a lot, frays a lot, and usually comes in a plaid pattern.

Make sure to pre-wash and dry your flannel before you start cutting. I like to serge my raw edges before washing to prevent excessive fraying. If you don’t have a serger, you can cut a 45 degree slit into each corner to reduce fraying when washing.

Next, you need to lightly starch the wrong side of your flannel to prevent the fabric from warping. I swear by Best Press. When ironing, remember to lift and press. If you “push” the fabric while setting the starch, your fabric will warp off grain.

Speaking of grain…

Just like any fabric, you want to make sure you’re cutting on grain. However, since Flannel often comes in plaid, you may find this to be particularly challenging. If your plaid is a truly woven plaid, following the lines will usually get you right on grain. If your plaid is “printed on” the flannel, the lines will likely not be exactly on grain.

All this prep work makes Flannel seem high maintenance, but this prep work makes the actually sewing easy. The rest is just making sure you have the correct supplies.

You’ll need a 100/16 Universal Needle. Why such a large needle? Well, flannel wears a needle down quickly, so you’ll get more hours out of a size 100/16. For thinner Flannel, you can get away with a 90/14 Universal Needle. A Straight Stitch Foot or General Purpose Foot should work just fine, but if your feed dogs are struggling, switch to a Walking Foot.

You can use a regular straight stitch to construct your seams. I recommend increasing your stitch length to around a 3.0mm and decreasing your tension slightly. Also, when sewing multiple layers of Flannel, you may benefit from reducing your presser foot pressure dial a smidge.

I’ve found All Purpose Polyester Thread to be best for Flannel due to its strength and give. The only exception I can think of would be if you’re quilting 100% cotton Flannel and prefer 100% cotton thread.

To finish your seams, a serger/overlock machine works best. If you don’t have an overlocker, you can use an Overcast Stitch or a Zig-Zag Stitch with Fray Check. For a truly tailored and neat finish, opt for French Seams or Flat Felled Seams.

I hope this helps you more easily sew Flannel and increases your “sewing confidence”. If you have any comments or questions, be sure to leave them in the comment section below. Happy Sewing!

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17 comments

Casey February 21, 2017 at 10:38 am

I have a question regarding flannel. I don’t see another place for asking a question so I’m trying it here. I’m making my granddaughter pj’s. Each leg has only one seam (the inseam, child’s size 10) so the pattern piece is wide enough to use the entire width of the fabric. The easy way to cut this solid color flannel, as I’ve done in the past, would be to fold the fabric cut end to cut end, pin and cut both leg pieces at the same time. This puts the top of the fabric for one leg in the opposite direction of the other leg. Does this matter with flannel as long as the right and wrong sides of the fabric are the same for each leg? Or should I be cutting one leg at a time making sure that the cut is made with the top of the pattern going in the same direction for each piece?

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Sarah February 22, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Flannel does have a very small nap, so it’s recommended to follow the nap layout of patterns. The nap doesn’t affect the construction or durability of the flannel – it’s just an aesthetic feature. So if you don’t mind the naps not matching – then you can cut it any way you please. Good luck!

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Gail Owen November 21, 2016 at 11:42 am

Great information! Explains the difficulties I’ve had! Thanks!
Gail

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Regina Conner November 19, 2016 at 10:38 pm

Thank you for all the wonderful tips. Your tips were awesome!

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Jo Dunlap November 19, 2016 at 7:12 pm

Thanks for clearing some of the issues I have encountered with flannel, Sarah. I am new to sewing (recently retired) and just chocked my flannel frustration to my ignorance. Very rear information! I love all of your instructional tutorials and have ruffled up a storm after learning how from you. Keep teaching on my level…

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Marcia R November 19, 2016 at 4:04 pm

Thanks for this info! I just ordered some plaid flannel to make a skirt and will implement all of your tips!

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Vanessa Mitchell November 19, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Very nice video! Great job! Extremely helpful tips!

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Norman November 19, 2016 at 12:32 pm

Very helpful tips..thanks for the information

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Brenda November 19, 2016 at 12:06 pm

Thank you, great tips. I sewed a lot when I was younger, now that I am retired I’d like to start sewing again. Things have changed a lot! Improved techniques and tools.

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Linda Lu Soukup November 19, 2016 at 8:23 am

Thanks appreciate your tips on working with Flannel!

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Susan November 18, 2016 at 8:12 pm

Thanks for the good tips. I enjoy watching your videos

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Ramona Walter November 18, 2016 at 6:51 pm

Thank you so much Sara. I love your videos. So easy to learn from you even though I’ve sewn most of my life. You always teach me something. Thanks again.

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Joyce D'Agostino November 18, 2016 at 6:07 pm

Very good tips. I have sewn flannel for years and the things you mention are right on. Thanks for the information.

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Monica November 18, 2016 at 5:40 pm

Thank you! Very informative.

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Carrie Cunningham November 16, 2016 at 9:23 pm

Another great video with great tips! 🙂

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Sarah November 17, 2016 at 12:27 pm

Thanks, Carrie!

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Hannah November 16, 2016 at 11:43 am

Thanks for the great tips! I want to make pj’s for my son, and I wanted to use:

http://www.moodfabrics.com/blue-black-gray-tartan-plaid-cotton-flannel-308620.html

I am glad to know I’ll need to use a thinner needle. Thanks again!

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