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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In no time, you will have slashed 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.
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.