Have you ever wondered what is Sherpa fabric? It is a manufactured polyester material named after the Nepalese people from Tibet. This soft and warm artificial fabric reminds woolen clothing these people create from llamas and sheep wool.
This fluffy, super-soft, cozy fabric is a popular synthetic or cotton alternative to wool. Nowadays, manufacturers use it to make blankets, sweatpants, jackets, and shoe linings. It is equally warm as wool, but it is impossible making a piece of clothing of this material suitable for use on its own.
Sherpa Fabric History
Sherpa fabric got its name after a tribe from Nepal well-known for its clothing made of llama and sheep wool. However, synthetic Sherpa is a relatively new material since Collins & Aikman decorative fabric company manufactured it in the early 1970s.
The company aimed to develop a material that simulates wool. However, it took nearly thirty years for Sherpa to become trendy when Levi’s started lining their jackets with this material in the 1990s.
The original idea was to create Sherpa from polyester fibers. The next step was to mix polyester and acrylic or cotton. Modern versions are made of pure cotton or bamboo, making this material eco-friendly.
Nowadays, the predominant Sherpa production is in China, where over 300 manufacturers design clothes made of this material. You can also find some Sherpa makers in Mexico, while Wazoodle Fabrics, the American company, offers their ProEco bamboo and cotton Sherpa lines.
What is Sherpa Fabric?
Sherpa fabric (faux sheepskin, shearling, faux shearling) is a fluffy artificial material that reminds of wool but is much more like Fleece. As I have already mentioned, this warm, durable, and soft fabric got a name after the similar wooly clothing typical for the tribe of the same name.
Nowadays, you can buy numerous outerwear made or lined with Sherpa. Unlike the original wooly fabric, this material is 100% polyester, but you can also find acrylic, cotton, bamboo, and mixed versions. You can differentiate two Sherpa sides:
- A stitched, soft, and texturized wooly side
- A smooth and holey knit side
Despite having two layers, Sherpa is breathable and lightweight. These features make it an excellent option for cushions, blankets, jackets, coats, robes, sweaters, cloth diapers, baby toys, shoe lining, and hats.
Even though its crimped fibers resemble shearling, this inexpensive alternative to animal wool is an entirely vegan product. Unlike wool, this material can’t block cold winds because of the holes among the knit stitches. However, it is an excellent lining for suede, cotton, denim, and flannel clothes.
Sherpa Fabric Types
Even though Sherpa fabric is typically made of polyester, you can recognize three different types available on the market, including:
1. Polyester Sherpa
The original Sherpa was made of polyester and is still the most widely manufactured type worldwide. However, you can find two sub-categories created of polyester combined with cotton or acrylic.
Unlike traditional polyester material, Sherpa is supple and luxuriously soft, with a unique texture entirely different from the original fabric. Its design mimics wool and Fleece and is widely used for insulating skiing jackets, vests, coats, and boots.
2. Cotton and bamboo Sherpa
Cotton Sherpa is a material that manufacturers make from cotton plants. You can choose between a natural, 100% cotton fabric variety and a type made of cotton combined with polyester. Another natural Sherpa is the one created from bamboo fibers.
Both these Sherpa types are labeled as organic products, provided that the used raw material is certified organic. Many people prefer this plant-based fabric since it is eco-friendly, biodegradable, and with a lower carbon footprint.
3. Acrylic Sherpa
Acrylic is a synthetic, petroleum-based fiber produced in the 1940s and is still the rarest Sherpa version you can buy. It is an excellent material for knitting yarn, socks, hats, and sweaters.
In most cases, clothes made of this Sherpa type are pliable and stretchy, thanks to a mixture of polyester, acrylic, and spandex. A more luxurious option for acrylic Sherpa combines cashmere wool and synthetic fibers.
Sherpa Fabric Characteristics
Sherpa has an excellent capacity to retain warmth, so it provides high insulation level thanks to its furry and smooth sides. They make blankets warm, but this material used for clothes can’t protect you alone. Therefore, using it as a lining for other fabrics is better.
Wicks away moisture
The property that allows Sherpa to dry quickly makes this fabric ideal for rainy and snowy periods. It efficiently wicks moisture away, keeping you warm. Blankets made of this material will warm you up without the possibility of breaking a sweat.
Thanks to having the two sides, this material lasts for years without signs of wear.
Lightweight and not bulky material
Unlike typically heavy and bulky materials used for coats and jackets, Sherpa is thick but also lightweight and comfortable fabric. It is particularly convenient for making baby blankets since they are warm, cozy, and delicate at the same time.
Sherpa looks stylish and is particularly attractive when used as material for baby blankets. Many women also enjoy beautiful sweatshirts and vests made of this fluffy fabric.
Sherpa is a stain-resistant and easy-to-clean fabric. In most cases, it will be enough to remove spots and hand wash the material with light detergent and cold water. Avoid washing it too often to maintain its quality and longevity.
If you wash your piece of clothing or blanket made of Sherpa in the washer, you should put it in a laundry bag to prevent shedding. Always use the synthetic program and wash it at 86 F (30 C). Drying it in the air is the best way to avoid this material pilling. The big NOs are:
- Washing clothes made of Sherpa after every use
- Washing it with other clothes
- Dry cleaning
- Using bleach
- Ironing Sherpa
- Drying it in a dryer at a high temperature
Alternative to animal products
Genuine wool is an ultimately durable and warm material, but many people prefer plant-based or synthetic products nowadays. The best thing about tough and durable Sherpa is that this material has the same characteristics as wool and Fleece, but its production doesn’t harm animals.
Sherpa Fabric Pricing
In most shops, you can find Sherpa fabric for $9 to $14 per 1 yard (0.9 m). However, its price will depend on the material used for its manufacturing. For instance, the one made of cotton will be pricier than 100% polyester Sherpa fabric.
The most expensive Luxe Sherpa design reminding llama fur typically costs over $15 per 1 yard (0.9 m). You can expect to set aside about $15 to $20 for heavy-duty and Minky Sherpa.
On the other hand, color and pattern have no significant effect on this material’s price. Be careful with cheap materials because some stores sell other fabrics under the Sherpa name. Even though the one made of polyester is inexpensive compared to others, only blends can come at too low prices.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Sherpa
- Even though Sherpa is lightweight, it has better insulating properties than shearling
- It is an eco-friendly, vegan alternative to wool without animal fibers
- Sherpa is easy to clean, but it requires a prewash before sewing
- This warm fluffy material has high heat-insulating properties
- It is a moisture-wicking fabric that quickly dries
- It is an inexpensive material
- Since Sherpa is not a waterproof fabric, it is practical only as a lining material
- Its shedding and pilling make this fabric impractical for sewing
- Synthetic variety traps odors and attracts pet hair
- It is an artificial non-recycling fabric that degrades for hundreds of years
- The production process pollutes air, land, and water, making Sherpa the material with a negative environmental impact
Sherpa vs. Fleece
Unlike wool, Sherpa and Fleece are artificial materials without animal products. Fleece is a polyester fabric that provides a feeling similar to wool, while Sherpa is its off-shoot and is designed to remind sheepskin.
Sherpa fabric vs. Fleece
|Use||For blankets, coats, jackets, shoes, and sweatpants linings||For coats, jackets, mittens, and blankets|
|Warmth||Warm, but it is impossible to use it on its own||Warm material used for coat and jacket design|
|Moisture wicking||Very good||Very good to excellent, depending on the type|
|Softness||Super soft||A bit scratchy|
|Thickness||A lightweight material||Two variations, thick polar Fleece and light micro-Fleece|
|Maintenance||Cold wash only||Relatively easy, but without drying in a dryer|
Both materials are warm and moisture-wicking, but Sherpa is more lightweight and typically used as a lining material. While you can choose among several Fleece fabric thicknesses, Sherpa comes in a unique thickness.
As for softness, Sherpa is the softest winter fabric you can find on the market. On the other hand, Fleece softness significantly varies depending on the manufacturer.
Both materials are easy to maintain, but Sherpa is more expensive than Fleece. You need to set aside about $15 for average-quality Sherpa, while Fleece costs about $6.
Sherpa is a material that mimics wooly clothing typical for the Sherpa people of Nepal. You can find this warm and soft double-layered fabric made of polyester as the shoe and coat’s lining. Since it is lightweight and breathable, it is also an excellent option for blankets and sweatshirts.