Chenille in French language means Caterpillar. The word refers to the fuzzy surface of the fabric resembling the hairy look of a Caterpillar. Chenille is a fabric with a beautiful pile on its surface making it very soft and fuzzy.It also refers to the yarn with which the fabric is made of. Chenille yarn can be cotton, rayon, silk, polyester acrylic or olefin
Chenille fabric has the look of a beautiful velvet fabric with its soft smooth piled texture, though the process of manufacturing is very different from what it is for velvet.Where velvet is made with a double cloth construction, chinelle is made by wrapping loose fibers around a core fiber and cutting the fibers evenly for the fuzzy texture; looking a lot like the pusstail flowers.
It is used to make a multitude of things like shawls, bed sheets , throws, carpets, cushions, bathrobes etc. Because of the inexpensiveness of chenille fabric, when compared to velvet or suede, it is increasingly used for upholstery purposes.Soft Rugs / Carpets made of this fiber are high in demand. Quilts and bedspreads made in this fabric has an unparalleled luxurious feel.
Origin of Chenille fabric
The Chenille fabric was first made in France around mid 1700s. A cross woven fabric was cut into chenille yarn and this was used to make the fuzzy fabric.Then later woolen yarns were woven into fabric and then cut into chenille strips which was then heat treated to form the chenille fabric. A Scottish man named Alexander Buchanan is credited to have invented this method. Chenille fabric, as we know now today, has progressed a lot from these early days
As of now, Chenille is made in a completely different way, though the early methods are still followed in some places. It is made by wrapping short lengths of fibers (named as pile) around two twisted tightly wound core yarns.The piles can be cotton, rayon, silk or polyester. The wrapped fibers is then cut to produce the fuzzy look
A similar effect of fuzzy textured appearance on the fabric surface can be duplicated easily with some fabric scraps and a sewing machine by you at your home. Many layers of fabrics are sewn together and then slashed through the channels in between the stitching lines. The cut fibers will then protrude out from the base fabric resulting in a very chenille like look. Checkout the detailed process in the post – How to make faux chenille fabric with fabric stitch and slashing method
How to sew with chenille
Chenille is a comparatively easy material to sew with and is used as a substitute to velvet / chunky knits to make cardigans, jackets, vests etc. One very important to remember is not to finish the fabric edges – it frays a lot. For sewing a knitted chenille You can use a stretch needle and zig zag stitch.
Interesting reading : selbysoftfurnishings.com/what-is-chenille