Fabric Dictionary: What is Flannel?

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Choosing the right fabric for each of your designs is essential. Take a look at flannel fabric: a soft woven fabric that is perfect for enhancing warmth and is often used in winter clothing. We hope you enjoy this edition of the fabric dictionary.

What is Flannel Fabric?

Flannel fabric is loosely woven. Known for being soft, comfortable, and warm, flannel is frequently used in blankets and winter clothing. It helps add weight to many types of fabric, which can help improve the way your designs drape and hang.

The Pros and Cons of Flannel Fabric

Trying to decide if flannel is the ideal fabric for your next design? Consider these pros and cons to determine whether you should add it to your repertoire.


Flannel fabric offers a number of benefits that make it a popular choice for many types of clothing, particularly winter clothing.

  • It’s warm and insulates well, making it a great choice for the winter months.
  • Flannel is soft, making it a great choice for kids and adults alike. It’s also commonly used in sleepwear due to its comfort.
  • Flannel does allow for reasonable airflow, so it can help maintain a reasonable body temperature in milder climates
  • Flannel is also easy to care for. It washes well and is durable, so clothing made with flannel will often stand the test of time
  • It is highly affordable, which makes it a good choice for many designs
  • Flannel helps wick moisture away from the skin, making it a good choice for clothing that will be exposed to sweat even during the cold winter months


While flannel has many advantages, it does have some disadvantages that you should carefully consider before incorporating it into your clothing line.

  • Some people find that flannel is too warm, particularly when used in sheets or pajamas. It’s also not appropriate for wearing outdoors during the hot summer months.
  • Flannel may not hold dye as well as other types of fabric, and colors may run or bleed more easily.
  • Flannel is not a sustainable fabric, which means that it may not be as eco-friendly a choice. However, there are sustainable flannel options available thanks to modern technology.

A Short History of Flannel

Flannel fabric was first created in seventeenth-century Wales, where sheep farmers used leftover wool to craft a warm, dense fabric that was appropriate for a variety of uses. Those sheep farmers frequently used for their work shirts, which helped keep them warm in the cool, damp weather. It didn’t take long for it to make it to England and France, where it was also popularly used for working-class individuals.

By WWI, flannel became popular for United States soldiers, who often used it to help add warmth to their uniforms during the winter. In the 1990s, the modern flannel plaid trend emerged as a popular “grunge” look. Plaid flannel is still popular today. It’s important to note, however, that plaid is a specific pattern, not the type of fabric. Flannel can be dyed in a variety of colors and patterns, and plaid can be placed on many different types of fabric, depending on the needs of the designer. However, flannel remains a popular choice for many types of plaid, perhaps due to the cozy associations to the print.

How Flannel Fabric is Made

Flannel was originally made from carded wool or worsted yarn. Recent flannel, however, is more commonly made from cotton, wool, or synthetic fibers. After it is woven together, it is brushed in either a single or double nap, which helps create the fuzzy texture that many users love from their flannel fabrics. It can be made using either a twill or plain weave, depending on the specific needs of the user.

When to Use Flannel Fabric in Your Brand

Flannel fabric is a popular choice for many fashion designers for a variety of reasons. As a general rule, it’s a better choice for winter fashions than summer ones, since flannel is a warm, cozy fabric and it may raise the wearer’s temperature too much for comfort during the warmer months. Flannel is often used for:

Blankets and Sheets

Many people choose to use flannel in blankets and sheets as it offers an inexpensive (but warm) solution for many of those needs. Flannel is a very warm fabric, which makes it cozy overnight. Keep in mind, however, that some users may find that it makes them too warm overnight. It’s important to consider the climate of your target audience as well as their usual preferences.


Just like blankets and sheets, pajamas often need that extra element of warmth in order to make the wearer cozy throughout the cooler hours of the night. Flannel is a popular choice for many types of pajamas, including kids’ pajamas and adult pajamas alike.

Cold-Weather Clothing

Thanks to its moisture-wicking properties, flannel fabric is ideal for a variety of cold-weather clothing items, including those intended for both fashion and work. Many people still turn to flannel for work shirts and even workout gear, particularly during colder months. Adding flannel as a lining on your cold-weather designs can also help make them warmer, which can help some of your customers wear them longer throughout the winter months.

 Clothing for Babies and Children

Because it is so soft, flannel is a popular choice when designing clothing for babies and children. It feels soft against the skin and, with a design that does not put seams or tags in uncomfortable locations, can help with some sensory sensitivities.

Outdoor Wear

If you have a line of clothing intended for users who spend most of their time outdoors, from camping clothing to outdoor wear, flannel fabric could be a great choice. It serves as an excellent shirt fabric or as a lining in pants.

Are you interested in learning more about the wide array of fabrics available and how they could impact your designs? Check out our fabric dictionary posts on wool, tencel, or linen.


StartUp FASHION is an online community where independent designers and emerging brands are coming together, helping one another, forming friendships, collaborating, letting off steam, sharing victories, and belonging to a network of people who get it; who are doing it too. We’re a place to access and discover the tools and information you need to build your fashion business. We help you define your path and give you the guidance, encouragement, and resources to follow that path.

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