What is Chenille? Fabric Guide and Description

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If you are new to learning about fabrics, you may not know what is chenille. Chenille is a French word for caterpillar and is used for both the yarn as well as the fabric that makes the chenille fabric. Before we go further into what is chenille, we should first understand how the fabric got its name.

What is ChenillePinWhat is Chenille


What is ChenilleHistory of the Chenille FabricHow is Chenille Made?Types of ChenilleWhat are the Characteristics of Chenille?What is Chenille Fabric Used For?Caring for chenilleWhat is Chenille`s Pros and Cons?What is Chenille – In ConclusionMore Fabric Articles

What is Chenille

The threads of the Chenille fabric are purposefully piled to create a yarn that closely resembles the exterior of a caterpillar. Chenille can be made from a wide range of fibers including silk, cotton, rayon, and wool. The fabric itself is a soft and fluffy textile that is used for fashion and home décor.

History of the Chenille Fabric

In this section, we will discuss what is chenille`s origin and how it grew to become a popular fabric. Compared to most textiles, chenille is a relatively new invention. It emerged between 1754 and 1895 in France then, later on, found its way to Scotland and the United States.

In the 1780s, the chenille fabric was introduced in France to replace the knot stitch. The knot stitch was a term that was used to refer to stitches looped around a needle in order to add texture to a woven piece. However, making knot stitches takes a lot of time, and the process itself is labor-intensive. Chenille quickly became a time-saving product for producing nature images like trees and grass. The soft nature of the fabric`s tufts made it an instant hit among women`s clothing.

The chenille fabric was introduced in Scotland in the 1830s by a foreman named Alexander Buchanan. During his days as a foreman in an industrial fabric mill, Buchanan developed a way of mass-producing the fabrics and selling them as fuzzy shawls. He made the shawls from the tufts of a woolen yarn that was woven on blanket fabrics. These were then cut into smaller strips that were fizzed on heated rollers.

James Templeton refined Buchanan`s technique to manufacture tufted carpets using a machine. The new carpets replicated hand-woven oriental carpets in quality and appearance, only they were much better.

In 1895, Catherine Evans from Detroit, USA invented a time-saving technique for making the tufted look of candlewick embroidery as she was making a bedspread for her brother and sister-in-law. She first created a decorative pattern of cotton cloth on a cotton base. She then shrank the fabrics in boiling water so as to keep the yarns in position. Soon, bedspreads created a popular cottage industry across Detroit, where Evan`s family made materials for the women who did the hand tufting. These tufted fabrics were then marketed as chenille.

After a few years, sewing machines were developed in Detroit which entirely changed tufting as it was known then. The machines created many needles to facilitate the mass production of tufting. The Detroit area then went ahead to produce imitations of the oriental carpet. The broadloom carpet was also invented in Detroit. They also manufactured bedspreads and bathroom sets and robes from chenille fabrics.

The chenille fabric was first used for clothing in the 1970s. By the 1990s, it was so popular that the Chenille International Manufacturers Association was formed to maintain standards in chenille manufacturing.

Now that we know what is chenille`s history, let us find out how this fabric is made.

How is Chenille Made?

What is chenille made of? To answer that question, let’s first talk about what is chenille`s manufacturing style. The production method used for chenille has evolved over the years. After the formation of the Chenille International Manufacturing Association, chenille production was standardized and today we have an agreed technique for chenille production.

The first step during chenille production involves placing short yarns between two core yarns and twisting the yarn together. When piles are formed, low-melt nylon is added to the core of the yarn to keep the piles together. If the piles are left to become loose, they lead to bare patches on the fabric.The next step involves steaming the yarn to ensure the piles stay put. Lastly, the yarn is then woven to produce chenille fabric.

Types of Chenille

There are two main types of chenille textiles: home décor chenille for upholstery and window treatment and utility chenille, which is 100% cotton and is used for baby items, robes, and towels.

It is good to know what is chenille`s options when it comes to shopping for this fabric. Chenille comes in a number of colors and styles and buyers have the privilege of narrowing it down to the textile that best suits their taste.

What are the Characteristics of Chenille?

It is the properties of this fabric that can truly explain what is chenille. They’re as follows:

Fuzzy and soft – Chenille is made by short materials on the fabric`s strands which makes it fuzzy.Beautiful drape – Chenille has a nice soft drape, so much that it has become a popular fabric for garments.Durable – Chenille is a durable fabric that will last for many years. However, chenille has a tendency to stretch and shrink and care instructions should be followed to ensure the fabric`s durability. You will not get to know what is chenille`s actual durability if you do not take good care of the fabric.Iridescent and shiny – Chenille is not made from shiny materials. That may leave you wondering what is chenille`s shining trick. Well, the fabric catches light at right angles because of the pile`s direction. This is what makes the fabric appear shiny.

What is Chenille Fabric Used For?

Chenille was initially made for rugs, linens, and bedspreads. However, as more and more people fell in love with this textile, its usage expanded to fashion accessories. Here are some of its most common uses:

Carpet and rugs – One of the primary uses of the chenille textile is making carpets and rugs. Chenille makes durable carpets with a soft and deep pile. The fuzzy yarn is densely concentrated producing a plush product.Throws and blankets – Chenille`s fuzzy material is great for making warm bedspreads and throws for couches and chairs.Home décor – Chenille is popular for pillows, chairs, and couches. It is also great for window coverings and dappery fabric.Shawls – The initial reason for developing chenille as a textile was for making shawls because it has a soft feel and provides a beautiful drape.Clothing – Increased production of chenille has led to the use of the textile for garment production. It is now used for making blouses, dresses, and more.Quilting– Chenille has been in use for quilting since the 1990s. It is used in finishes, yards and yarns. Real chenille quilts can be made using different patches of chenille fabric so as to produce quilts of different patterns and colors. Chenille quilts can be made with ragged seams or without ragging the seams.

Caring for chenille

While chenille is durable, the textile is made from sensitive piles and a material that can easily stretch and shrink. That is why it is advisable to dry-clean your chenille items. If you decide to wash your chenille items at home, you should wash them by hand and then lay them flat for drying.

You should not hang the chenille items because that will cause overstretching. For machine washing, wash the chenille in warm water while on a delicate cycle and then dry the textile on low heat.

What is Chenille`s Pros and Cons?

Like all other textiles, chenille has its strengths and weaknesses. However, the truth is that the pros of chenille are likely to overweigh its cons.


The chenille textile makes very good winter fashions because not only does it keep you warm but is also soft to touch and with a nice texture.Chenille`s sleek look will definitely provide a phenomenal look if you use it for your home furnishings.Chenille absorbs a lot of water.It makes great drapes for curtains.Chenille is a quality and durable fabric that is great for house furnishings.It is a multi-use fabric that you can use in any way you like.


It is not easy to clean chenille furnishings if you spill something.Chenille has the characteristic of shrinking and stretching.It is a heavy fabric which makes it hard to wash.The fabric color will fade if you put it near somewhere sunlight can enter.

What is Chenille – In Conclusion

Chenille is a quality and durable fabric that has gained popularity as a textile. When you are working on a décor project in your home, you will be faced with the challenge of choosing the textile that will suit your needs and make a big statement. Chenille should be one of your top options now that you know what is chenille and why it`s perfectly suited for your home décor. 

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