Fleece is a popular material with a lot of people that want the fluffiness of sheepskin or wool without turning to the real thing. This could be down to comfort, as some find wool to be rough and itchy sometimes. Others may do so for ethical reasons, preferring a synthetic fiber to an animal by-product. Or, it could be a simple matter of cost. However, you may find yourself with a choice between sherpa and fleece. So, what is the difference here, and is one better than the other?
Simply put, sherpa fleece is a fabric that looks and feels more like sheepskin than a more standard fleece. The name comes from the sherpa guides in Nepal that wear something similar to stay warm on the mountains. You often get the fluffier pelt on one side and denser backing. The material composition is similar to fleece, but you may find that this is warmer and more luxurious. However, the applications of sherpa can be more limited. You won’t get the same range of fleece coats and sweaters that are so popular right now. You also get a different feel from a sherpa blanket to a microfleece blanket.
What Are The Similarities Between Sherpa Vs Fleece?
Let’s start with the similarities between these products and why it is so easy to get them confused. Sherpa and fleece are both:
a) alteratives to animal-product fleeces, either with polyester or a polyester/cotton blend.
b) warm fabrics with the potential for insulation in the winter
The first similarity here is that you have two fabrics that use alternative materials to mimic wool. Some people love wool and will happily find woolen sweaters and knitted items for that soft feel and better insulation in the winter. However, others feel that farming sheep for wool is unethical and would rather have a made-made or plant-based alternative. Fleeces are perfect because the combination of fibers replicates the look and density of a real sheepskin lining or wool garment. Some fleeces materials are purely polyester while others are polyester and cotton blends.
This similar purpose also means that you can use sherpa and fleece fabrics in similar ways. Both have density and softness to the pile of fibers that feels good against the skin and traps enough air for insulation. The difference comes in the ability to do so because of the length of that pile.
What Are The Differences Between Sherpa And Fleece?
However, there are some important differences in the structure of these materials that can affect their properties. The biggest difference between the two is that you get a longer fiber and more realistic sheepskin pile on the front of the sherpa and a dense weave as a backing. It is this fluffier feel that makes sherpa so popular, with many believing that it is the softer and therefore, the most appealing option when it comes to winter wear and blankets.
The science checks out here and you can find that this is a practical option for a blanket, even if it is more expensive or harder to find. The longer fibers and sheepskin effect of sherpa can trap even more air for greater warmth. Some assume that this also makes the material softer. But, that isn’t necessarily true, especially when compared to another type of fleece. There are also many other soft materials available, take a look at my guide for the softest fabric materials to learn more.
Sherpa vs Fleece: Which Is Warmer?
There is no doubt that all kinds of fleece have great insulating properties because of the density of the fibers. That is why you see both sherpa and cotton fleece in so many lining and blankets. Standard fleece is very warm because it provides such a strong barrier and traps enough air within the synthetic fibers. But, the greater the chance of trapping that air, the warmer the fabric is. That is why we love thicker fake fur throws and why we turn to sheepskin. Sheepskin has that thick woolly texture that can retain heat really well for a cozier time.
Therefore, it makes sense to create warmer blankets and items of clothing with sherpa because it does such a good job of replicating the look and feel of a real sheep’s fleece. This version is a nice synthetic cruelty-free alternative that we can all use to stay warm. The thicker fluffier material should be able to trap more air than the shorter cotton fleece.
However, you do need to consider the type of fleece used. Some would argue that polar fleece is warmer still because of the nap and the thickness of the material.
Sherpa vs Fleece: Which Is Softer?
It is a little more difficult to say which of the two materials is the softest. A lot of people that love using and wearing sherpa will say that it is the softest and most enjoyable material of the two. The thicker pile is more tactile in the way that it mimics the fleece of a sheep. That gives sherpa a more psychological edge because of the association with cute fluffy animals. However, some find the scruffier texture to be rougher and less pleasant than standard fleece.
A more typical fleece doesn’t have the same pile but, there is a uniformity and smoothness to the surface that a lot of people love. You can absent-mindedly run your hand over this with no problem. There is also the fact that this material is often blended with a good amount of cotton, which is naturally softer.
There is no definitive answer here because of personal preferences and the influence of past experiences. It is a good idea to get a feel for both before making a choice to see which is more pleasant. Also, don’t forget to add microfleece into that test as many find this to be the superior choice for softness.
Sherpa vs Fleece Blanket
The choice between sherpa and fleece can often come down to the way we use it. Fleece is perhaps the more common and diverse option because of its properties and textures. But, there will be times where it is preferable to use sherpa. One such option is a sherpa blanket. The fluffier texture of sherpa means that you can get a nicer feel from a sherpa blanket than a fleece blanket. There is something nice about running your fingers through the pile, a bit like a rough faux fur blanket. There is also the chance that you will be a little warmer at night with this thicker sherpa blanket on your bed.
Alternatively, you may prefer to have a fleece blanket out as a throw or something to take the chill off when curled up on the sofa The smoother texture may be more of a crowd-pleaser if you have guests over and you can get a wider range of color options to suit your living room decor. There are also the facts that these fleece blankets may be a little easier to clean and a little more inexpensive. The texture may diminish a little with repeated use but you can still get a lot out of a fleece blanket.
However, there is another option to consider where you could get the best of both worlds. Why not look for a blanket where one side is your colorful, smoother fleece and the other is that sherpa. We see sherpa used in lining so it makes sense to apply this to a blanket or throw. You can switch sides depending on the look and texture you want and still get some great thermal properties from the two different sides.
Sherpa Lining vs Fleece Lining
There are similar considerations to keep in mind when it comes to adding a soft lining to clothing. You may find jackets and similar items with a fluffier interior lining for added insulation. This is great for colder climates where you don’t want to wear anything too heavy but would still benefit from an extra layer. You may also decide to sew a lining like this into homemade clothes for the same effect. But, you need to be sure that you have the best material for the job.
The first option, is to get some of that sherpa material as a lining. There are lots of people that will prefer this approach aesthetically. The fluffy white sherpa gives the look of sheepskin for a more fashionable edge. The denser pile is also more inviting to wear for that psychological edge. However, there is also the fact that some find sherpa to be rougher than fleece so, may not like to have this constantly against their skin. That is where sherpa is better for blankets and home furnishing than clothing. It could also be a more expensive choice when making your own clothes.
Fleece could be more of a crowd-pleaser as an interior lining for sweatshirts and other garments. The smoother texture isn’t going to be as aggravating and could make the item cozier for long-term use. There is also a good chance of getting synthetic dyed fleece to match the other layers so it doesn’t stand out so much. You could put black fleece inside a black jacket and not notice it until you feel it. Of course, the downside is that you might not get quite as much insulation as you would with the sherpa fleece. The choice could come down to the climate more than the look of the material.
How Does Sherpa Compare To Microfleece?
Microfleece is an interesting alternative material that you can find in synthetic garments and blankets. Many people love to use microfleece because of the soft fibers and the more luxurious feel that you can get. It is a practical choice that isn’t going to be too thick nor too cool. The synthetic material also means that it comes in a range of colors for home decor. The material doesn’t pill too badly and holds up well with the right care.
However, you don’t get the same feel or look in microfleece as you will with sherpa. After all, the aim here is to replicate the pelt of the sheep as closely as possible without using the real thing. So, those that like the natural look can appreciate the natural wool color and the texture of sherpa more than something that looks completely man-made.
Where Can You Find Sherpa For Use In Clothing Or Around The Home?
This more specific purpose for sherpa is where we come to one of its possible disadvantages. The most common application is as a lining for jackets, where that fluffy white lining provides a little more insulation and makes the item a bit more fashionable. Again, it allows wearers the chance to replicate the look of an authentic jacket with sheepskin lining, but without the cruelty. You may also get some throws or blankets in sherpa, but not so many as fleece.
Fleece, meanwhile, is a little more practical in that we can create thick jackets out of the soft material rather than simply using it as a lining. These fleece coats and pullovers are denser and a little cheaper in quality. But, you can get different colors and prints. Some brands have taken advantage of the growing trend for fleece by using it in some stylish cuts for fashionable coats. Other wearers are embracing the more ironic side with the animal designs and oversized fit.
Then, if you want a throw for the sofa or a blanket on your bed in winter, you may have more luck with fleece or microfleece. There are some very nice sherpa blankets, but options are more limited and they can be pricier.
Sherpa Vs Fleece: Which Is Better?
There will be those that love sherpa that claim it is the far superior option when it comes to its feel and warmth. This is no doubt due to that fluffiness and the closer links to the real sheepskin material. However, others appreciate the feel and practicality of fleece. Fleece is still soft and great for homeware, especially if you choose microfleece. There are pros and cons to both so get a feel for them and see what works for you.
I’m a stay at home mom with our two kids. I really enjoy doing crafts with my kids however, that is typically a challenge with how limited their attention span can be and how messy it gets. So, I’m always looking for ways to make crafting an enjoyable experience and creating fond memory for all of us.