I use a ton of different kinds! And no one kind is right for every project. I make a lot of art plush which are often more eclectic in fabric choice then a character plush like a pokemon, but let me answer all your questions:
I myself mostly use handmade wool felt, wool felt, quilting cottons, minky, fleece, and up-cycled fabric (aka felted sweaters, shirts, etc). I also sometimes use microsuede and velour.
(Holy shit detailed reply with lots of photos under the cut:)
Using handmade wool felt and up-cycled fabric is part of my esthetic as an artist and it is not for everyone, especially not for character (like pokemon) plush. I love the texture/softness/uniqueness of the handmade wool felt, and the individuality of up-cycled fabric like felted sweaters and vintage jackets. It makes each plush a unique work of art.
I buy my wool for felting on Etsy from sellers who hand dye wool roving, and also at local shows. My up-cycled fabric (aka old clothes lol) come from Goodwill or rummage sales (wash them before using of course! You gotta felt the sweaters anyway which you do in the washing machine).
For professional made wool felt, you can get blends or 100% wool felt (which will be nicest and strongest). I get mine on Etsy, tho my fav wool felt is from Magic Cabin….their wool felt is very expensive, but wow is it strong and smooth! I also have a lot of wool felt from rummage sales, I’ve been lucky in finding some nice wool felt, and the people selling it don’t know what it is worth! XD (100% Wool felt is $2.25 a sheet for a computer-paper sized piece on average, tho top quality merino like the magic cabin stuff or like this is $3 a sheet for the same size).
This plush is handmade wool felt with cotton tummy and corduroy ears/tail:
The back of this cowl used to be a vintage cotton towel :)
This plush is mostly felted stripey wool sweaters (but also has a minky body and handmade wool felt face):
For general plush and most character customs, the favorite of plush artists is MINKY (or ‘Minkee’) which is that thin, not too stretchy, low pile fur stuff, as seen on this guys body:
It’s soft, quality, easy to sew (compared to actual higher pile faux fur), and comes in a bajillion colors. I use it a lot in my plush!
You can get lucky and find minky at some local fabric or quilt stores (There are a few minky fabrics at Joanns under the name ‘Soft ‘n’ Comfty’ but they only have like 3 solids, most of it is the kind with the dumb dots on it which people buy for baby blankets), but it will be cheaper and you can get way more selection online:
The source I used to get it from died but there are lots of other sites to shop around (Even on Etsy and Ebay, and of course fabric.com), just google “Minky fabric”. I’d not pay more than $13 a yard for the solids (average price nowadays is 12.50 a yard, it used to be less) though you will pay more for the prints or buying half-yards. There is also a whole website devoted to selling minky.
Be sure to avoid the ‘double sided’ stuff, or anything that looks ‘fluffy’ or ‘eyelashy’….you just want the normal old ‘minky smooth’ … ‘minky 3’ etc. (The fluffy ones are for blankets and can be hard to sew for smaller plush).
This is tie-dye minky which is no longer available :( But I still use my stash of it in my plush as it really matches my esthetic:
Then of course there is FLEECE , which, if a nice fleece, is soft, strong, and easy to sew! I use it on some of my plushies, like this guy here:
Though fleece varies greatly in quality, you basically have to feel it. At Joanns they have some very shitty fleece but also some is quite nice. Fleece’s I consider not good for sewing plush are ones that feel too stretchy, are too thin, or not soft (yes some feel that terrible). You can buy fleece online too but all of mine is from Joanns, except a few, like my peach fleece which is no longer available in America and I found in Canada. I also found this lovely muted pink in Canada:
Anti-pill fleece has a furry texture where ‘blizzard’ fleece is smoother. Anti-pill is ‘textured’ because that texture counteracts the pilling fleece will get over time with wear (or snuggling). Depending on your plush though you may need the smooth look of Blizzard (also in my experience Blizzard is usually softer). Fleece is good if something doesn’t need to be furry!
Then there is VELOUR which is soft and is like super low pile minky. It sadly is super HARD to sew, like slips and generally stretches all over. I do not recommend it unless you can find firm backed velour (aka will not stretch as much). I do sometimes murder myself and sew things with it, then after wonder why I did that, then forget and do it again months later LOL. This lovely bunny was made with velour:
QUILTING COTTONS! Use these to accent your plush if you need a smooth solid color, or cute patterns. :) You can sew a whole plush out of them too but know they are not stretchy or very forgiving, your plush will be stiffer and less rounded (this is not a bad thing though if the plush is meant to look old fashioned or firmly stuffed!) You can see these on almost all my plush, like on the velour bunny above, it is used on the tummy and under the ears.
These leaves are appliqued on quilting cotton! You can use things like Wonder under or Heat ‘n’ Bond to iron on such things then sew them after (the iron on stuff helps it keep it’s shape / stay in place).
Some cottons will require INTERFACING if being used in plush to strengthen it (like if being used in an area other than the ears or being appliqued over other thicker fabric). You can get these at Joanns or a quilt store. Use the thinner interfacings like ‘Tailor weight’ or ‘feather weight’.
You can also quilt the cotton with some batting underneath. (sew over it with a decorative stitch, free-motion stitching, or just straight stitches). This will bulk up your cotton and make it decorative too!
MICROSUEDE (remember to use a microtex needle to sew it!) is a super soft and thin and non-fraying fabric. It is basically a mimic to thin animal hide. I love the feel of it and it can be used to accent in multiple ways. It is a pain to sew sometimes though, machines often like to eat it.
The teal body of this Owlkin is microsuede:
It’s cousin ULTRASUEDE is a mimic to thicker animal hides and can be used in place of felt in some cases. It is lovely to airbrush or paint. I use it a lot for eyes or wings.
Darcy here has a mircosuede purple body with airbrushed Ultrasuede ears/wings: