What Is Chenille Fabric?

Whether you’re upholstering your couch or buying a new sweatshirt, chenille is an excellent option for you. Fabric lovers always recommend this staple material because of its softness and suppleness. 

Are you interested in chenille fabric, what it’s made of, and where it originates? I’ll help you learn more about the unique fabric!

What Is Chenille Fabric All About?

Chenille comes from the French word caterpillar, and it’s exactly what it looks like. The fabric features fuzzy pills that protrude around the weave, resembling a caterpillar. Manufacturers pile the threads on purpose to suit upholstery, bedding, and fashion.

The fabric might come to mind when you hear the word “chenille,” but it’s also a favorite yarn among quilters. Faux chenille is perfect for sewing together in several rows. 

There are two kinds of chenille fabric. One is for decor items made of cotton and synthetic fibers, present in drapes and upholstery. The other type is for utility purposes, like baby commodities, robes, and towels, and they’re 100% cotton.

The fuzzy texture of the chenille makes it very soft to the touch. Manufacturers achieve the thickness by wrapping the short-length yearns between two main yarns. 

The result is an iridescent-looking fabric that makes your furnishings look comfier. Despite being called “poor man’s velvet” because of its velvet appearance, chenille brings elegance to your home.

Another characteristic of chenille fabric is its warmth. Its insulation makes the material suitable for comforters and blankets.

Where Does Chenille Fabric Come From?

Alexander Buchanan was the first individual to turn chenille yarn into fabric. The fabric mill foreman used it to produce shawls in Scotland during the 1830s. Many people adored the material because of its cozy and soft texture. 

He introduced chenille to the UK to mass-produce “fuzzy shawls.” The process involved weaving tufts of colored wool into a blanket then cutting them into small strips. Then, the “frizz” effect shows up by using heat rollers.

William Quigley and James Templeton improved Buchanan’s technique while creating imitation oriental rugs. Templeton became successful after patenting the method, becoming carpet manufacturers in the 19th and 20th centuries.

How Is Chenille Fabric Made?

Today, manufacturers create chenille by taking short pieces of yarn between two core yarns. They twist the pieces together for a pile effect. The yarn edges should create right angles to the yarn core for a super soft texture. 

Low-melt nylon is an essential component of chenille fabric. It helps avoid patches from falling apart. They steam the yarn for the style to be steady to be ready for weaving. Chenille doesn’t have iridescent fibers, but it has a luminous effect at different angles.

What Is Chenille Fabric Best For?

Chenille was originally for bedspreads and carpets. Now, you’ll also find the fabric in shawls, sweaters, gloves, tunics, cardigans, and robes. That’s because chenille is so soft and drapey that people started to enjoy wearing it.

Rayon chenille is specifically used for towels, sweaters, and robes. The natural fiber comes from wood pulp, which might lose shape over time. If you want something more durable, try cotton chenille. It comes from a combination of rayon, silk, wool, and more. 

The fabric is also durable enough for upholstering your material. The fabric offers a slick look that makes your furnishings elegant. 

It’s also available in many colors, both bright and neutral. Contrast them with your room background or create an accent in your room

Unless you have dogs and kids in the house, then chenille is the perfect couch upholstery for you. Note that the material includes small loops that your dog’s claws might scratch and damage. It’s also prone to soiling.

Chenille is irreparable once your pet ruins it. And buying a new upholstery fabric can be expensive. Even though it’s cheaper than velvet, chenille is still relatively expensive because of its long-lasting effect and rich quality. 

Common chenille uses

  • Clothing
  • Home decor
  • Bedding
  • Carpets and rugs
  • Upholstery


  • Durable material
  • Cheaper than velvet
  • Resistant to abrasion
  • Soft and thick for cold season, retaining heat.


  • Prone to stretching and distortion
  • Quickly absorbs moisture and stain
  • Not pet-friendly

Sewing With Chenille

Chenille is relatively easy to use when sewing. It’s a more accessible alternative to velvet and chunky knits for jackets, vests, and cardigans. Use a stretch needle and zig-zag stitch when sewing this fabric. And remember not to finish the edges since it’s prone to fraying.

Some machines do not work well with the chenille, making shorter stitches. If you’re sewing two layers of chenille, try to reduce the pressure on the presser foot. Stitch the fabric side down when sewing it to cotton. You may also remove the walking foot. 

Here are other expert tips when sewing with chenille:

  • If you’re hand-sewing, use a size 7-9 needle
  • The sewing machine needles must be 80/12-90/14 sharp or universal
  • Use a walking food or the Teflon foot
  • Set the machine’s stitch length to 2-2.5 mm with a looser tension
  • Use all-purpose cotton, polyester, cotton/polyester blend thread
  • Prepare your rotary cutter, sharp scissors, shears, and safety pins
  • Use a fluffy towel covering the right side of the chenille when pressing
  • Have corded buttonholes, bound buttonholes, or faced buttonholes for closures

Maintaining Chenille

You can machine-wash chenille clothing and bedding. But un-launderable items like sofa, rugs, and upholstery only require spot-treating. Pre-treat the stain with a stain solution, then use a mild soap to remove the dirt. It should also get rid of any grease, oil, and marks.

Since chenille is absorbent, it’s also prone to trapping odors. Make it smell fresh by soaking or wiping the item with a water and vinegar mixture.  

In Conclusion

Now you know why chenille fabric is perfect for clothing, upholstery, and all types of items. It has a fuzzy texture and iridescent appearance that you won’t get enough of. Plus, it’s easy to sew and maintain.

Want to explore other fabrics for your next project? Share your questions in the comments below!

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