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Creative Variations in Fabric Chenille

Yesterday, we learned how to create the look and feel of real fabric chenille. It’s a simple process of layering a stack of fabrics, stitching them with rows of diagonal lines, slashing the top three layers between the stitching, and washing the fabric to make it fray. The result is wonderfully soft and fuzzy fabric. Now let’s take this technique further and explore some creative variations in fabric chenille.

We’ll change the direction of the stitching lines and add shapes and stripes to our fabric stacks while making “faux chenille” fabric. Then we’ll discover some great ways to incorporate slashed fabric into patchwork and applique projects.

Faux Chenille Fabric





Line Variations

What would happen if we changed the direction of the stitching lines on our stack of fabrics? To find out, I printed some designs onto Sulky Paper Solvy Sheets. These 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheets feed through a printer and dissolve in water – perfect to use as a temporary foundation. Here are the results of stitching, slashing, and washing chevron, zigzag, and curved lines onto a stack of fabrics.

Chevron stitched, slashed and washed





Zigzag stitched, slashed, and washed





Curve stitched, slashed, and washed





Shape Variations

What would happen if we added a shape, cut out of a contrasting fabric, onto our stack of fabrics before we stitched them together? Let’s find out.

Circle shape added to fabric chenille





Heart shape added to fabric chenille





Star shape added to fabric chenille





Striped Chenille

To create striped chenille, the fabric stacks are slashed first and stitched second. Layer one stack of three fabrics and cut every half-inch along the bias grain. Repeat for a second stack of contrasting fabrics. Remove every other strip from one stack and replace it with one from the second stack. Stitch the strips onto a larger base fabric.

Create striped chenille by slashing first and stitching second





After washing, the result is spectacular!

Striped chenille





Chenille Patchwork

Squares of layered, stitched and slashed fabric can be pieced together in two ways: seams in or seams out. I find it a bit easier to sew the squares together before washing, but it can be done after washing if you wish.

For patchwork with seams out, layer two squares wrong sides together and sew together. If the foundation squares were cut a half inch larger on all sides, the seam will be half an inch wide. The seam allowance will be visible on the front of the patchwork and will fray along with the chenille.

Patchwork with seams out





For patchwork with seams in, layer two squares right sides together and sew together. The seam allowance will be on the back of the patchwork.

Patchwork with seams in





Look what happens when you piece together squares of striped chenille and rotate the direction of the lines!

Striped chenille patchwork





Chenille Applique

Since my specialty is applique, I wanted to experiment with creating shapes out of layered, stitched, and slashed fabric and stitching them onto a background fabric. I also tried stitching strips of fabric cut on the bias to purchased bias tape to make chenille bias strips. The heart and leaves pictured below were appliqued with the raw edges of the base layer exposed, leaving them to fray along with the rest of the chenille.

Chenille applique heart, leaves and bias stem





This flower center was appliqued with the seam allowance of the base layer turned under. Bias chenille was used to form the petals.

Chenille applique flower





There are so many possibilities for creating and incorporating fabric chenille in our sewing projects! Whether you keep it simple or add one of these creative variations, it’s easy to add a wonderfully soft and fuzzy dimension to your work. Have fun stitching and slashing your way to beautiful creative variations in fabric chenille.

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”.

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