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Create the Look and Feel of Fabric Chenille

Chenille is a soft and fuzzy type of yarn named after the French word for caterpillar – how’s that for a visual? It can also refer to the fabric that is made from that yarn. Chenille yarn is made by twisting short lengths of yarn between two core yarns. The short piles stick out from the core giving chenille both its softness and its characteristic look. It’s typically made from cotton, but can also be made using acrylic, rayon and olefin.

Chenille made its way into the quilt world as patches of real chenille fabric were stitched together in patchwork. It also appeared in a technique known as “faux chenille”, where fabrics are slashed or ragged to create a similarly soft and fuzzy effect. Want to learn how to create the look and feel of real fabric chenille? It’s easy and fun!


When choosing fabric for faux chenille, two characteristics are very important:

1. The Weave: Look for loosely woven fabric – the more it frays, the better!

DO choose a loose weave DON’T choose a tight weave
DO choose a loose weave
DON’T choose a tight weave



2. The Dye: Make sure that the fabric fibers are dyed, and that the color is not just printed on top. Once the fabric frays, you want the threads to have the same rich color.

DO choose dyed fibers DON’T choose dye printed on top
DO choose dyed fibers
DON’T choose dye printed on top



Make a Fabric Stack

Cut three pieces of fabric to the same size. They can be all the same fabric or three different fabrics. It’s so exciting to experiment with different fabric combinations and see what happens!

Cut a fourth fabric for the base layer half an inch larger on all sides. Having a bigger base layer will make it easier to slash the fabrics.

Cut a variety of print and solid fabrics
Cut a variety of print and solid fabrics



Lay the three smaller pieces of fabric on top of each other and center on the base layer. Pin them together.

Sew diagonal lines

Begin by sewing the layers together from one corner to the opposite diagonal corner. If the fabric pieces are small enough, you can do this by eye. Otherwise, you might need to mark the line(s) with a removable marker and a ruler.

Continue sewing parallel diagonal lines approximately half an inch apart until the whole area is covered. Stitching on the bias grain will result in better fraying when the fabrics are slashed.

Stitch parallel diagonal lines
Stitch parallel diagonal lines



Slash the Fabrics

Now for the fun part. Slash the top three fabrics between the stitched lines. You can do this with a sharp pair of scissors or with a Clover Slash Cutter – a rotary cutter specifically designed for this task.

Clover Slash Cutter
Clover Slash Cutter



Insert the Slash Cutter guide between the rows. Press down firmly on the fabric with one hand and use the other to push the Slash Cutter forward.

Cut with Slash Cutter
Cut with Slash Cutter



In no time, you will have slashed between all the rows.

Slash between all the rows
Slash between all the rows



Wash and Dry

I like the way the Clover Slash Cutter instructions describe this last step. “When you have finished making all the cuts, wash the fabric in the washing machine to agitate the cloth and make it bloom.” Bloom? That’s a good way to describe it! It’s so much fun to open the dryer and see how the fabrics have blossomed.

Faux Chenille Fabric
Faux Chenille Fabric


I wish you could feel it! The transformed fabric is so soft and fuzzy, just like a caterpillar. We hope you enjoy trying your own fabric combinations to create the look and feel of beautiful fabric chenille, but this is only the beginning. Tomorrow, we’ll explore some creative variations and discover great ideas for using slashed fabric in our sewing projects.

Kathy is a multiple international-award winning quilter specializing in appliqué techniques in a “contemporary traditional” style. She lectures and teaches all over the country at guilds, shops and quilt shows and is a CQA/ACC Certified Quilt Judge. Her work has been featured in magazines, and her designs are available as individual patterns as well as in her book “Sewflakes: Papercut Appliqué Quilts”.

1 Comment

  1. Lesley

    I have made a couple of square baby faux chenille blankets. Please tell me how to do the lines of sewing on a longer larger throw type of blanket. Thanks

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