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Choosing the Perfect Flannel

Choosing the Perfect Flannel

An expert guide by Daryl Wier 

Not all flannels are created equal.  Take it from someone who has been picking them for 30+ years.  There are certain things to look for in the actual fabric before making the garment.  Of course, it goes without saying, you want to look for yarn dyed, woven cotton.  Some lesser flannels are printed to look just like plaid, but are not actually woven to be a plaid.  Steer clear!! I learned this the hard way when I first started. 

Flannel should be dense, tightly woven, with clear colours and sharp distinctions between them.

Whether you're buying fabric to sew yourself or shopping for the perfect plaid flannel garment, consider these details below:

Feel: The flannel should be soft to the touch and not boardy (stiff).  Some heavier flannels will really soften up and become beautiful over time.  Check to see if the flannel has been brushed on both sides - the inside and the outside.  This is referred to as brushed both sides.  Most flannels I use at 49th Apparel are brushed both sides.  When choosing a fabric that isn't brushed on both sides, it is because I want the smooth feel on the inside rather than the extra warmth.

Two photos of woman wearing Basswood Plaid Flannel pajamas reading a book on a brown leather chair and curled up in a blanket.

Construction: With the massive amounts of inferior plaid flannels on the market (usually used to produce throw-away garments) it's easy to spot quality garments once you know just one thing - seams should match.  Down the side of any garment (if they were engineered properly, and care was taken when they were originally cut) the plaids should match up so the seams technically become invisible.  Careful pattern layout is a MUST so the lines will meet when the garment is constructed.  We take great pride in this at 49th Apparel and believe it really makes a quality garment stand out.  Skilled technical trades people make all the difference.  When our tailor, Henry, lays out a pair of pajamas, it takes longer to do so properly.  There are always more off-cuts of fabric produced than when making a typical unmatched pair.  The cost of making matched flannel garments is inherently higher, but we think they are absolutely worth it.

3 images showing examples of matched plaid seams on flannel tops.

Shrinkage:  If you're sewing your own clothes, remember to pre-wash your fabric before sewing.  Flannel, like most cotton woven cloth, is infamous for shrinking.  Keep in mind that it's not so much the flannel itself (which refers to the fact that the cotton has been brushed) but the quality of cotton may have been inferior to start with.  At 49th Apparel, I use the highest quality densely woven cotton I can find from a family run mill.  Because we do not have industrial sized washing machines (yet) we also cut our garments bigger to accommodate the 3-5% shrinkage that will naturally occur.  Remember: do not wash your PJs in hot water or dry on high heat (never boil and bake your flannel).  Heat of any kind, either from the washer or the dryer, is what ultimately effects the nature of the fabric.  If you properly care for your cotton clothes they should serve you for a long, long time.   

I hope these three tips help you find flannels you will love for years to come.  Much of my personal Flannel collection is Vintage but when I choose to shop new, I prefer to shop with Outclass (a Toronto based company) and Anian (a Canadian West Coast Circular Fashion Company).

If you want access to our luxurious flannels you can pick up a crafters box or pop by on a Fabric Friday to purchase fabric in the studio.  This is one way we divert textile waste from landfills.  While we strive to keep our waste and impact to a minimum, there is always going to some amount of wastage.  I refer to the fabric waste here at 49th Apparel as fallout and I cannot bear to throw it away! 

Thank you for reading all the way to the end.  Please, tell us your favourite place to buy quality flannel below!


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