We get a lot of questions from customers about the status of “Antron” Fleece and how it compares to Nylafleece® nylon puppet fleece. As the makers of both, we figured it was our duty to provide you with an online guide to puppet fleece, including some historical anecdotes and excerpts from an interview we did with Larry Guild, the elusive creator of beloved “Antron” Fleece.
What is “Antron” Fleece?
“Antron” Fleece is a special nylon fleece fabric used by professional puppet builders as a “skin” for their finished puppets. It is sometimes referred to as “nylon fleece”, “puppet fleece”, or “Muppet fleece”.
Why do puppet builders love it so much?
Professional puppet builders and costume makers love “Antron” Fleece’s fuzzy pile, “stretchability,” excellent seam hiding capabilities, and ease of dyeing.
Why is it called “Antron” Fleece?
We’ll try to keep this short. “Antron” Fleece was manufactured by Larry Guild, who owned a company called Hampshire Textiles. When the fleece was first knitted, it was made using a blend of nylon fibers, one being a proprietary fiber known as Antron, which was made by the Dupont company. At some point, Dupont decided to reserve Antron fibers for use in their carpet products exclusively and it became hard to source. A non-name brand version of the fiber was eventually sourced and used instead. The resulting fabric was identical to its predecessor. While it technically no longer contained name-brand Antron fibers, the puppet building community still referred to it as “Antron” Fleece.
How did it become popular?
Interestingly, zero marketing was done around the product. It was originally used for apparel. All it took was one revolutionary puppet builder to decide that he and his team enjoyed working with Larry’s Antron Fleece. At a textiles trade show in the 1970s, the Jim Henson Company placed an initial order consisting of “Miss Piggy Pink” and “Kermit the Frog Green” and the rest is history. Word spread amongst the puppet building community and before Larry knew it, a loyal customer base had formed around his niche product.
What happened next?
At some point, Hampshire Textiles was manufacturing more “Antron” Fleece than they could store or distribute on their own. Georgia Stage, a long-time customer that originally purchased Antron Fleece for use in its own costume shop, was able to help Hampshire Textiles with storage and distribution. Eventually, Larry entrusted Georgia Stage with managing all of his orders and distribution and was able to focus solely on manufacturing. According to Larry, he always had a good relationship with Georgia Stage, even referring to them as “family.”
When was Hampshire Textiles sold?
Eventually Larry decided to retire from the textiles industry altogether, so he decided to sell Hampshire Textiles. Because of the existing relationship and over 30 years of experience he had working with Georgia Stage, he ultimately decided to sell the company to them in 2018. Larry cared first and foremost about the product (he recently called it “his baby”) and customers, and knew that both would be in good hands with Georgia Stage.
Were there challenges at any point with the manufacturing of “Antron” Fleece?
As explained above, the fiber blend originally used to make “Antron” Fleece became scarce, so a new, similar fiber blend was used instead. The resulting fabric had all of the qualities a puppet builder would expect from “Antron” Fleece but when dyeing the fabric, unexpected bands of color might appear. Under the guidance of Larry Guild, Georgia Stage worked tirelessly on the issue and perfected its manufacturing process. The resulting product was one that Georgia Stage and Larry Guild both felt was one that would continue to reliably meet the needs of present-day puppet makers as the fabric of choice for puppet and mascot “skin.” Larry called the new 13.75 oz nylon puppet fleece (now known as Nylafleece®) “wonderful” and one of the best versions of puppet fleece he’d ever seen.
What is the difference between 12 oz “Antron” Fleece and 13.75 oz Nylafleece®?
12 oz “Antron” Fleece was made with the original fiber blend explained above – aka the “original” “Antron” Fleece.
13.75 oz Nylafleece® is the latest iteration of nylon puppet fleece (there have been many over time as fibers come in and out of availability) described above and by all accounts, it maintains nearly every quality of the “original” “Antron” Fleece with the exception of having a little less luster than its predecessor. Our customers and resellers are quite pleased with it and many still refer to it as “Antron” Fleece.
Is 13.75 oz “Antron” Fleece the same as 13.75 oz Nylafleece® nylon puppet fleece?
In terms of what’s available to the puppet building community and labeled as “nylon puppet fleece”, yes. The names are used interchangeably. Whether you purchase it directly from us or another reseller, it’s the same stuff.
Is 13.75 oz Nylafleece® nylon puppet fleece available in colors?
The short answer is yes! In the early days of Antron Fleece, Georgia Stage’s and Hampshire Textiles’ customers were professionals who purchased only white as they could easily dye it to whatever colors they desired. As more and more people started building puppets at home and for hobby, there was a growing demand for Nylafleece® nylon puppet fleece in colors. We began offering nylon puppet fleece in mill-dyed colors to customers and resellers starting 2019 and will be adding more soon! As always, if you require a custom color, please contact us.
Can I buy “Antron” or Nylafleece® nylon puppet fleece anywhere else?
Sure. We have a few resellers in the United States and U.K. but if you buy it directly from us, you’re going to save some money you can use for foam. And eyeballs.
Are there any substitutes for “Antron” or Nylafleece® nylon puppet fleece?
You could build a puppet out of any material really but if you’re looking for the tried-and-true nylon puppet fleece adored by puppet makers since the Jim Henson Company first discovered it, there really is no alternative. We have had customers ask about using polyester but according to Larry Guild, it’s difficult to dye consistently, is more expensive, and results in a thinner product with a lower pile height which doesn’t provide the seam-hiding capabilities our 13.75 oz Nylafleece® nylon puppet fleece provides.
Will “Antron” or Nylafleece® nylon puppet fleece fade in the sun?
Sure. Eventually. Most fabrics will fade when exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time. Unless you’re building puppets that will need to perform for days straight in direct sunlight, we don’t think you should be concerned. This has never been an issue for any of our puppet or mascot building customers since the birth of nylon puppet fleece.
Questions about “Antron” Fleece or Nylafleece®?
Contact us here. We make the stuff and know it better than anyone!