What is Chenille?

SFN204P from Saffron by Safavieh

Chenille is an affordable fabric that looks opulent if you take care of it and use it in a quiet area. The manufacturing process gives chenille a shiny, velvety texture. Chenille may be made from rayon, olefin, silk, wool or cotton, or a blend of two or more materials. Chenille derived from combed cotton is used to make washcloths, bath towels, blankets, bedspreads, and scarves.

Cotton chenille yarn can make attractive patterns, and it is excellent for crocheting. The chenille used as tapestry fabric is soft, but durable and resembles Berber fleece. Tapestry chenille is soft as wool and durable as olefin. Therefore, it is often used as chair upholstery or for drapes or slipcovers.

Chenille Origin

MRB657D from Marbella Polyester & Chenille .63 by Safavieh

 The word chenille is derived from the French word for caterpillar. Chenille pile is made on a loom by weaving the pile yarn or fur as a weft. The tufts are then bound with cotton threads to form a long strand. The pile yarn is woven first on regular cloth looms and cut longitudinally in a striped pattern. Pile yarn is completed as weft, with the warp as bound cotton threads.

A gauze or leno weave binds the weft pile so it won’t falter when the strips are severed and before the final weaving of the rug takes place.

Chenille yarn is made by putting short lengths or pile of the yarn between two core yarns. The yarn is then twisted together. The edges stand at right angles to the core to give chenille a soft and shiny appearance.

The fibers in chenille catch light differently, depending on the direction. Chenille may look iridescent even though it has no iridescent fibers. Chenille yarn may become loose and show bare spots. Low-melt nylon can be used in the yarn core and then steamed or autoclaved to set the pile in place.

Chenille for Clothing and Towels

MAI12 from KI Malta by Kathy Ireland

 Soft cotton chenille is used for towels, baby products and robes. More durable chenille is used for upholstery, draperies and, occasionally, throw pillows and area rugs. You’ll find chenille in lots of styles, patterns, weights, and colors.

Certain types of versatile chenille can be used in the bathroom. Thick, microfiber chenille fabric is used for bathmats and available in dozens of colors. These microfiber mats have a PVC layer underneath and keep your bathroom floor from getting wet when you step out of the tub or shower.

In the 1920s and 1930s, chenille bedspreads with embroidered patterns became popular, and they remained a staple in many middle-class homes until the 1980s.

Chenille fabric is also used for the letters in varsity Letterman jackets.

Chenille for Home Décor

SFN204P from Saffron by Safavieh

Chenille is soft and attractive, but its delicate nature limits how and where you can use it in your home. It’s a great choice for draperies, bedspreads, upholstery and throw pillows, but it’s not used in area rugs as often. Delicate versions of this material are ill-suited for high traffic areas or damp bathrooms. Chenille rugs may be appropriate for bedrooms, as they provide a soft place for you to warm up bare feet in the morning. Chenille rugs also give babies a warm place to crawl and give toddlers a soft place to play games.

Chenille for home décor purposes has silk threads sewn on wool or cotton in tight loops. Although cotton is normally used to make chenille, sometimes tough synthetic fabrics are used for upholstery or rugs. The heaviest chenille fabric is reserved for drapery and slipcovers. Although chenille fabric for home décor is stronger than chenille used for clothing, it’s still relatively soft against the skin.

Chenille may be combined with viscose or other tough fabrics to make rugs that you can use in just about any location in your house.

Chenille Area Rugs: An Overview

GEO from Complex by St Croix

 Most chenille rugs or rugs that are combinations of chenille and other fabrics are fashioned in shades of gray, beige, white or other neutral colors, though you can find these rugs in other colors.

Combination chenille/viscose rugs have a silky feel and three-dimensional look. Some chenille rugs have a trendy distressed (worn-out) appearance. Chenille rugs are best for indoor use only, as they are too delicate to withstand sun, wind, and water. Power-looming is the method of choice for making chenille rugs. Most chenille rugs are made on mechanized looms and not hand-made.

Chenille rugs may have geometric or striped patterns or consist of one solid color. A chenille rug with a pile height of 0.25 inch is excellent for a low-traffic area (with rug pad).

Chenille rugs may come in bright patterns and colors, but these rugs are usually a combination of chenille and other materials like polypropylene. You can find purple, mint, blue, brown or forest green chenille area rugs, but they are usually a blend of viscose and chenille, jute, polypropylene, and chenille or other material combinations.

Advantages and Disadvantages

BSL-7128 from Basilica by Surya

Soft, deep pile chenille rugs may be braided or shag instead of woven. Tightly woven chenille is durable and you can use it in high-traffic areas. Chenille is best for bedrooms, offices, nurseries, or low-traffic living rooms or dens. Use chenille for comfort and/or luxury.

The colors may fade in direct sunlight. Loosely woven chenille damages easily, and this material should be kept away from humidity and moisture. These area rugs are difficult to clean, as you can’t use water or normal cleaning products on them. You can vacuum chenille rugs and brush them with a soft-bristled brush. Follow cleaning directions on the rug label or manufacturer’s website.

Some chenille fabric should be dry-cleaned. Machine dry on low heat if label instructions say you can machine wash the material. Dry chenille textile fabric flat; don’t hang it.

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