How to Make Soft Blankets: Making Fleece Blankets
Why do we want to build a better blanket when there are millions of blankets for sale today already? Truth is, most blankets and bedding for sale today aren’t very good. They’re quickly and cheaply manufactured, and after just a few washes, the blankets look old, or in the case of fleece blankets, begin to fade, shed or pill and lose their softness.
These are the seven steps we take to make soft blankets. Let's take a look:
Step 1: How to pick the best fleece fabric for blankets
You can see and feel the difference between our fleece blankets and other fleece blankets. And the difference starts with the fabric we choose. Most fleece blankets are made from 144-filament yarns. We use 288-filament yarns. These fine filament micro-fiber yarns are part of what give blankets their key qualities of “soft” or “plush” or “warm”.
Then we increased the weight of the base fleece fabrics too, making them at 14 ounces per square meter or 400 grams per square meter. The extra weight gives the blanket a more weighted drape. If you hold the blanket up in the air and drop it, you’ll see how a blanket “drapes”. The drape of a nice blanket fabric is important in how the blanket will drape when folded over the edge of a bed or as a throw blanket, over a chair or sofa in the living room or den. The heavier blanket weight also allows for better surface coverage and helps make a more durable blanket that lasts. And the extra weight also helps make the blanket a warmer blanket.
Of course, there are dozens of great blanket fabrics out there, but if you're going to buy a fleece blanket (or make your own fleece blanket), our advice would be to use 288-filament yarn fleece with some weight to it. The quality of the fleece, its weight and durability will make all the difference.
Once we’re sure we’ve got the best fleece for blankets, we’re ready for the next step in the process.
Step 2: How to make a blanket feel soft & cozy
The best thing about fleece blankets is that they’re soft and cozy. One of the worst things about fleece blankets however, is that some fleece blankets shed or pill when washed or dried. In order to make a better blanket, we wanted to make a blanket that stays soft and cozy wash after wash and a blanket that won’t shed or pill—ever.
To do this, we first raise the pile (or softness) of a blanket by repeatedly brushing the blankets with super sharp brushing bristles. This raises the surface and nap of the blanket and helps the fleece ‘bloom’. As the blanket is brushed, the sharp bristles lift the fabric’s yarns and this is what makes the blanket soft and cozy and even warmer than before the blanket was brushed.
Most fleece companies brush their fleece once or twice to make the fleece look nice or feel soft. But to ensure that a blanket feels soft and stays soft and to prevent fleece from shedding, a blanket must be brushed again and again. We brush our fleece 6 times on both sides of the blanket fabric because a blanket should look and feel soft and cozy on both sides of the blanket—not just the side you can see.
Once the fleece is brushed or raised, we trim (shear) the fleece with razor sharp shearing blades to precisely cut each and every fiber of the blanket. The result: Blankets that have been brushed to lift the soft and cozy fibers and trimmed for a gorgeous, level pile.
Once we’ve got the best fleece in hand and the blankets have been brushed and sheared, we’re ready for the next step in the process.
Step 3: How to Cut Fleece Blankets for Any Bed Size
Typically, a fleece blanket manufacturer could stack and cut two-dozen pieces (blankets) at a time. American fleece blankets are so soft and supple and have such a luxurious drape that each blanket needs to be cut by hand on a custom made cutting table, one blanket at a time. If we placed even two of our blankets on the table and attempted to cut them at the same time, the fabric would become distorted because the fabric itself is so supple.
Two ‘cutters’ work at a table. They personally inspect each inch of fabric for holes, dirt spots or stain, dropped yarns or any other potential fabric flaw. The blankets are cut with an extremely sharp electric blade. Typically, we cut a batch of one blanket size first; e.g., king-size blankets, then work our way down, running or cutting a batch of queen blankets, then twin blankets, all the way down to our smallest blankets, baby blankets and quilts.
Our blankets are cut generously, typically just a little bigger than might be needed, but customers tend to appreciate a little extra blanket to drape the edges of their beds. A twin blanket is 60x90” or an extra long twin blanket is 60x96”. Queen fleece blankets are 90x90”, King Sized fleece blankets are 108x90” and oversized King blankets are cut at 120x90”. (Note: Luster Loft line runs 2” shorter in length across all blanket sizes). For a complete list of sizes and prices for blankets, see: Fleece Blanket Sizes & Prices.
The blankets must be cut straight, so that when sewn, the hems are straight, with no wavy lines for the hems. It’s easy to recognize when blankets weren’t cut properly because the hemline will be ‘off’, and when the blankets are folded, they appear off-center. Once the blankets are cut to the correct blanket sizes they’re ready for the next step.
Step 4: How to Sew Fleece Blankets (The Secret Overlock Stitch)
You can often tell the quality of a blanket just by looking at its hem. Is it a straight, perfect hem, or a wavy or uneven hem, the latter often being a sign of poor quality and lack of attention to detail.
We use two kinds of sewing machines when we make an American fleece blanket. We use a single needle sewing machine to sew in the American Blanket Company care content and branded label. This is stitched 4” down on the left side of the long side of the blanket. The second sewing machine is a hemming or stitching machine; a 5-thread, three-needle top and bottom cover-stitch machine, and this is used to sew the blanket’s 1” hem. We’ve had our greatest hem success using this machine for creating a durable hem that lasts and stands the test of time, because if one thread loosens or breaks, the others are unaffected, and continue to hold the hem in place.
Lots of fleece blankets use a satin binding to ensure overall product softness, even on the hem. Our blankets however, are already unbelievably soft and very durable, so we prefer to use a self-fabric hem, made of the same material as the blankets themselves.
Where the two hems meet, we use something called an over lock stitch to help enforce the four corners (the areas of a blanket likely to break down over time) from fraying or unraveling. An over lock is a kind of sewing stitch that sews over the edge of two pieces of the fleece blanket. The over lock uses a looper, fed by multiple thread cones to create thread loops that pass from the needle to the edge of the blanket so that the edges of the fleece are contained within the seam.
Once the blankets are hemmed or sewn and the labels are inserted, they’re ready for the next step.
Step 5: Vacuuming Fleece Blankets Removes Fibers and Reduces Shedding
Brushing, shearing, cutting, sewing and hemming fleece blankets creates lots of little loose blanket fibers around the shop. Our job—make sure none of them arrive on your new blanket! Gently vacuuming the finished blanket removes any loose fibers that have clung to the fabric in the process of making a fleece blanket. We run each blanket through the vacuum twice to ensure that both sides of the blanket are free from any loose fibers.
Vacuuming the blanket has an additional positive effect in that the air and suction in the vacuum machine fluffs the nap of the blanket up a bit, prior to folding and gift boxing. This helps the blanket stay fluffed, even when it’s compressed in its gift box.
Vacuuming a blanket removes over 90% of the loose fibers and helps ensure that the blanket won’t shed or pill. Still, we recommend that customers wash and dry their blankets once before first use to be sure that any loose fibers are cleared from the blanket.
The vacuuming process for fleece blankets creates an added step to making a better blanket, but we think it’s well worth the effort.
Step 6: Inspecting Fleece Blankets for Quality and Perfection
Each blanket we make has two blanket inspectors who check the blanket for any potential quality issues. We inspect for blanket length and width (bed) measurements, loose threads, holes in the fabric, dirt or stains and poor stitching along the hems.
We look for any blemishes in each blanket such as spots or even color shading variation. We then feel each blanket by hand, ensuring there are no rough spots. An American Blanket isn’t soft, plush and warm if it’s got rough spots!
A large percentage of our blankets are embroidered or monogrammed blankets. This means we inspect the monogramming or embroidery to make sure the blanket says exactly what the customer ordered, in exactly the color or tonal thread the customer requested.
If we find a flaw in our fleece blankets, we cut the flaw out of the fabric and hope we can still use the rest of the perfectly good fleece for a smaller blanket such as a baby or pet blanket. And if we can’t totally remove a flaw or remedy the fleece for a full size bed blanket, we often run a batch of small baby blankets or pet blankets and donate them to local hospitals or pet shelters. This past August, we donated many of our blankets to the Animal Rescue League in Boston, as part of their Adopt a Pet day. Once blankets have been inspected, they’re ready for the last step in the process.
Step 7: Gift Boxing Fleece Blankets for Customers
The best step in making better blankets is shipping them to customers around the country!
Blankets are carefully folded, then placed into a bed of white tissue paper inside a square, white gift box. Each box gets a silver ribbon, a gift tag and a Made in the USA label. Each blanket we ship is wrapped as if it were a gift. So whether you’re ordering a blanket as a gift or just treating yourself, your blanket will arrive folded, wrapped, gift boxed with ribbon.
If you’re ready to experience a blanket of exceptional quality and value, shop American Blanket Company Blankets, Throws, Baby or Pet. Our founder adds a note to your gift and then the blankets, packing slip and personal note are placed into a cardboard box, ready for shipping via UPS or USPS.
These are the seven steps it takes to make soft blankets that last a lifetime. We like to think we’re making more than better blankets and throws—we like to think we’re making a better company and a better brand, that like all of its products, will stand the test of time.