Fabric Focus – French Terry vs Fleece Sweatshirting

Know your fabrics to help you make better choices

Fabric Focus

French Terry Vs Sweatshirt Fleece

These two fabrics are very similar in a lot of respects, but differ in a few ways that can make a difference to the project you want to make. 

What are they? 

French Terry

This is a fabric you have probably worn without realising it. It is a very common fabric used for casual and active wear. Its soft feel and drape make it the perfect fabric for loungewear. It is light to mid weight in handle, so lighter weight than a standard T-shirt single jersey but not as heavy or densely knitted as a Ponte Roma. 

It is still created by knitting, giving it a smooth flat, outfacing right side, but the wrong side of the fabric has very distinctive looped threads. This is the terry part you are probably more familiar with from a normal terry towelling fabric that you find on bathroom towels or robes. 

French Terry Navy & Print Flowers



Fleece sweatshirting

Again this is a fabric you have probably worn quite frequently as it is another fabric suitable for active and casual wear. The feel and handle is slightly different to the French Terry as it can be heavier weight and slightly thicker as well. This means it is great for more outdoorsy garments such as track pants and hoodies. 

Again it is created by knitting and has the same soft smooth out facing right side, but the looped threads on the back have been cut,  shredded and fluffed up to give the reverse of the fabric a soft plush texture. 

Peach Passion Loopback Sweatshirt

How do they compare? 

Fibre Content

Both fabrics  are usually cotton based. 

French terry can be 100% cotton or a mix of cotton, spandex, polyester or rayon. 

Fleece can be part cotton but will usually have another man made fibre to allow the loops on the back to fluff up nicely. Most commonly it’s a mix of cotton and polyester. 


Both are knitted so they will be soft and fairly drapey fabrics. But French Terry is a lighter weight fabric than the Fleece. 

Absorbency and wicking properties

Because French Terry has the loops on the reverse of the fabric intact, it allows the fabric to absorb more moisture than the fluffy backed Fleece. This makes it more suited to active wear as more sweat or moisture can be wicked away from the skin. In fact 100% cotton French Terry can hold up 27 times its own weight in water! 


Fleece sweatshirting is usually a slightly heavier fabric than French Terry and it also has the fluffy underside. The manufacturing processes used to create fleece means it is more dense fabric with less breathability than French Terry. This helps to retain warmth around the body and makes it ideal for outerwear garments. 

French Terry because of its manufacturing process is more breathable than fleece. This means it is great as a layering or warmer weather fabric as it will allow your skin to breathe. 


Both Fleece and French Terry are stretchy to a degree because of the way they have been constructed. However a fabric that contains lycra or spandex will be stretchier. 

Having said that, both fabrics are pretty stable and easy to work with. 


What projects are suitable?

Both fabrics are great for relaxed casual or even activewear clothing. The softness and drape as well as the loopy or fluffy reverse are especially nice next to the skin. So they can be almost interchangeable for some projects. 

So it is worth bearing in mind what you will be doing when wearing the clothing you wish to make. French Terry is more breathable and lightweight, so perhaps better suited to clothing to actually do exercise in. Whereas Fleece is warmer and more cosy so could be a choice for loungewear. 

French Terry and Fleece both work brilliantly with the Regan Top, Paulina Dress, Nell Trousers, Peaseblossom Top, and the Julia Top too. 



Both fabrics are very easy  to care for and do not have to be dry cleaned or hand washed. They can be popped into the washing machine on a cool cycle quite happily. The fabric can be tumble dried on a cool setting, but I really try not to tumble dry anything at all. 

So hopefully now you know the difference between French Terry and Fleece Sweatshirting you can make better choices for your sewing projects.