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What is Flannelette? (Hint: It's Not Exactly Flannel)

By Vinita Baravkar

You may have heard of flannel; the thick, woolly, warm fabric that keeps us cosy during the winter months.

But there's another flannel-like fabric that's making waves as an alternative.

Enter flannelette.

It sounds similar to flannel, but not exactly.

Despite being more popular in recent times, there still remains a lack of awareness around what flannelette is and how it differs to flannel.

Whether you've recently bought flannelette sheets and want to know the best way to care for them, are deciding between different fabric options or simply want to learn more, we've got you covered.

By the end of this article, you'll have an expert level understanding of what flannelette is, how it's different from materials like flannel and cotton, and where you can get your hands on good quality flannelette products.

First, let's look at what exactly flannelette is.

What is Flannelette?

Flannelette is a type of fabric that's woven from cotton. Since the cotton yarn is brushed with a thin metal brush, flannelette is also known as 'brushed cotton'.

The fabric is thick yet lightweight, warm yet breathable.

Flannelette fabric resembles the feeling and texture of flannel. However, it tends to have a coarser warp. The fabric often gets mistaken for flannel as both share a napped appearance.

You'll commonly find flannelette in bed sheets, pyjamas, sleepwear and other clothing for kids and youngsters. Due to its warmth and softness, the fabric is a perfect choice for making kid's clothes.

So now that you know what flannelette is, let's find out how it's made.

How is Flannelette Fabric Made?

Flannelette is made in cotton ginning mills or textile factories.

Here are the steps on how flannelette is made by your favourite brands:

Step 1: Gathering the Base Fabric

There's no flannelette without cotton. Hence first, cotton fabric, which is also the base material, is acquired.

Step 2: Spinning the Yarn

Next, it's time to spin the cotton yarn. The process is the same as spinning any other fabric yarn. Not much change happens in this stage before moving to the next one: weaving.

Step 3: Weave Yarn into Fabric

The spun cotton yarn is now going to be woven into fabric. Based on the type of flannelette fabric you want, two different weaves are followed here - twill weave or plain weave.

Step 4: Brushing the Cotton Fabric

In the final and most important step, the cotton fabric is 'brushed' on both sides to give it that softness that we all like.

During the brushing process, the fibres are gently raised upwards from the surface of cotton with a fine metal brush. This results in air pockets or 'naps' which create a layer of insulation that help trap body heat. These air pockets are what gives flannelette its warmth, and comfortable finish.

Brushing or 'napping' also enhances the fabric's durability and lends that iconic 'distressed' look (with raised, unspun fibres).

Note: Good quality flannelette fabrics are brushed on both sides or 'double-brushed'. Remember, double brushing equals double the comfort.

Luca Faloni, the owner of Italian brand, Luca Faloni, points out:

“Brushed cotton provides protection against wind chill, but it doesn’t make you feel overheated. Usually, during cooler spells, you might need to wear a V-neck in-between your shirt and jacket, but with brushed cotton you don’t have to as it’s such a good insulator; it saves you the trouble of bulking up with multiple layers.”

Flannelette vs. Flannel

Flannel and flannelette — both these fabrics sound the same, look the same and often are made in a similar manner.

It can be confusing, especially considering that both flannel and flannelette are soft-wearing winter fabrics. However, there are some striking differences between the two.

Flannel typically comes from wool or a blend of wool and cotton. Flannelette is made of cotton using gentle brushing techniques to produce a soft, plush feel which is unique to this fabric.

Nowadays, these terms are often used interchangeably when referring to cosy, luxurious winter fabric textures.

But from the table below, you can make a comparison between flannel and flannelette to weigh out the differences and see which works best for you.

Differences

Flannel Flannelette
Made from wool, wool-cotton blend or other synthetic fabric  Made only from cotton fabric 
Can be brushed on one or both sides Always double-brushed; has napping on both sides 
- Mostly used in sleepwear, bedding and pillows

Advantages

Flannel Flannelette
Tightly woven threads; hence tougher, stronger fabric  Extremely lightweight and breathable
Perfect for outdoors  Soft, fuzzy feel with a nice, smooth finish
Can handle frequent washing Easy to care for
- Less polluting to the environment 
- More affordable than flannel 
- Can be used in all seasons but ideal for winters

Disadvantages

Flannel Flannelette
More expensive  Woven slightly different than flannel, hence might have a coarser texture 
More polluting to the environment due to use of synthetic fibres and toxic dyes  Soft, fuzzy feel with a nice, smooth finish
Mostly suitable for winters -
Often has excess fibres sticking out -

Flannelette vs. Cotton

When it comes to quality bed sheets, both flannelette and cotton are excellent choices.

But depending on your needs, they have different characteristics which serve specific purposes.

For instance, while flannelette earns credit for its warmth and softness, cotton is good for its breathability and durability.

Differences

Cotton Flannelette
Appears in its original form Is created by brushing (or napping) the cotton fabric on both sides

Advantages

Cotton Flannelette
More durable Provides more warmth as it traps body heat due to its napped surface
More breathable Soft, cosy fabric
Can be worn in all seasons Breathable Ideal for winters

Disadvantages

Cotton Flannelette
Not always a sustainable, eco-friendly option (organic cotton being the exception) Performance of fabric can be drastically altered if made with a blend of cotton and polyester, or other synthetic fibres.
Conventional cotton is one of the most polluting fabrics on the planet. -

Why Flannelette Makes Perfect Sheets

Flannelette is a particularly good fabric option for bed sheets because of its warm, fuzzy feel and luxurious softness which keeps you and your family warm and comfortable during the winter months.

Flannelette sheets are super easy to take care of and maintain, with the extra perks of warmth and comfort, making it perfect for those who are busy and on the go.

Aside from that, flannelette is more sustainable when compared to other fabrics like traditional flannel. ‘Flannel’ often refers to products made from animal products like wool or synthetic materials using unsustainable, unethical practices which are harmful to people and the planet.

How to Care for Your Flannelette Sheets

One of the qualities of flannelette is that it is a low-maintenance fabric. Hence, washing and caring for your flannelette sheets is fairly simple and hassle-free.

The entire process is covered in just a few steps listed below:

Start with the Care label: Before washing your flannelette sheets, check the care label for any specific instructions. Some flannelette sheets are machine washable, while others require hand washing or dry cleaning.

Sorting: We recommend sorting your flannelette sheets based on colour and fabric type in order to avoid bleeding or damage. In the same manner, washing your flannelette sheets with similar colours and fabrics helps avoid fading or shrinking.

Washing: Set your washing machine to a gentle cycle, either 'delicate' or 'hand wash,' to avoid causing damage to the soft material.

Detergent usage: It's best to use mild detergents (especially ones formulated for natural fibres like flannelette). Strictly keep your sheets away from bleach or chlorine, as they can damage the fibres. Best case scenario is to use plant-based, eco-friendly natural detergents.

Water temperature: Make sure to wash your flannelette sheets in warm water, but not hot. Trust us, this little detail makes a big difference.

Drying: Once you're done washing, it's crucial to dry your flannelette sheets correctly. When it comes to drying, avoid direct sunlight as it can cause the colour to fade. Shake well before line drying to release any loose fibres or balling.

Ironing: If you feel your flannelette sheets need ironing, use the lowest heat setting possible. Flannelette doesn't take heat very well as high temperatures can damage the fabric and even cause shrinkage. For smooth, wrinkle-free sheets, use a spray bottle to add some moisture to the material before ironing.

Folding and storing: Once dry and smooth, fold your sheets and store them in a cool, dry place. Damp areas are a big NO as they encourage mildew growth.

Read more: This is How Often You Should Wash Your Sheets (and How to Wash Them)

Where to Buy Flannelette Sheets

The next time you're browsing a store (or the internet) for soft, cosy flannelette sheets and pillow covers, the most important thing you have to keep in mind is: quality.

Most bedding brands use flannelette fabric which is a mix of cotton and polyester.

Even more brands choose conventional instead of organic cotton.

You might be wondering if that makes any difference.

Truth is, it does.

Conventional cotton uses toxic dyes, harmful fertilizers and pesticides in its production process. These toxic chemicals often stick to your fabric for years and have been shown to cause irreversible damage to human health. Many studies show that these dyes can often cause cancer and other terminal diseases.

Organic cotton, on the other hand, is free of all such chemicals and toxic dyes, with zero toxic pesticides. Right from using non-GMO cotton natural fertilisers and natural, eco-friendly dyes, the entire process is safe, ethical and good for people, the planet and environment.

The best quality flannelette fabrics are made from 100% organic cotton.

Organic flannelette is a soft, luxurious fabric made with incredible attention to detail (following sustainable practices).

Read more: The Best Materials For Your Bed Sheets

The double-brushed shearing techniques create a beautiful velvet like texture that keeps the warmth in. Made from pure organic cotton, it is light and breathable and does not trap heat in like other flannelette. This is perfect for layering up in winter and staying warm (also to prevent dry skin and flare ups).

So look for sustainable sleepwear or bedding brands that sell organic flannelette sheets.

Sustainable bedding brands like Bhumi are among the few with an entire range of organic flannelette sheets.

Bhumi's thick and luxurious flannelette sheets are in a class of their own. Thicker, warmer and more durable than your average flannelette, these sheets will keep you warm and cosy in bed. The doubled-brushing and shearing techniques create the perfect velvet texture that is more than just soft.

Crafted from 100% Fairtrade certified organically-farmed cotton, Bhumi's organic flannelette creates warmth for your bedroom sanctuary.

"This is my second pair of beautiful flannelette sheets from Bhumi. Incredibly soft and warm and love that they’re ethically made. Absolutely worth it to keep warm in winter!" - Jane.E

Pro Tip for Shoppers:

To be on the safe side, you have to first identify what type of flannelette fabric is used. Is it made of 100% cotton? Is it double-brushed? Is it certified organic?

One way to find out is by reading the tag on cleaning/washing instructions. Often the care instructions give you a hint of the type of flannelette fabric the sheet is made of.

FAQs

Is flannelette for summer or winter?

Flannelette sheets are ideal for winter. Most flannelette sheets are made with 100% cotton. Cotton is great at insulating heat, making it warmer than any other fabric out there. This makes flannelette sheets the perfect winter bedding.

Is flannelette warmer than cotton?

You'd be surprised to know that flannelette is, indeed, warmer than cotton. The reason? Flannelette sheets are made by weaving and brushing the cotton fabric on both ends. This process creates air pockets within the fabric that gives the material the ability to hold warmth and a soft, fuzzy feel when touched.

Do flannelette sheets keep you warm?

Undoubtedly, yes. In fact, there are very few fabrics that are as soft, warm and comfortable as flannelette. The cotton fabric is napped or brushed to give it that soft texture you love. In fact, it's these air pockets inside the fabric which trap body heat and helps keep you warm during cold winter nights.

As the temperature drops and colder nights approach us, it's time to stock up and snuggle inside some luxuriously warm flannelette sheets and flannelette pillows.

Explore Bhumi's range of organic flannelette sheets, pillow cases and sleepwear for a peaceful, comfortable slumber.

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