From the French word for caterpillar, the production of yarns similar to modern chenille is thought to have originated during the 1700’s. Commercial production of chenille fabric started in the 1970’s though its popularity in the American market goes back to the early 1900’s. Prized for its softness and iridescence, chenille was once quite difficult to produce. The introduction of modern weaving machines has increased both the availability and popularity of this plush fabric.
Chenille fabrics and yarns are commonly woven from cotton fibers though synthetic fibers such as rayon and polypropylene are also used. As chenille has become more available, so have to the uses for this soft, plush fiber. The process of making chenille involves wrapping short lengths of fibers around a strongly wrapped fiber core. The result is soft, fluffy yarn that can be woven or knitted, most often by machine into articles of clothing and other items.
For example, beautiful bedspreads are made of chenille fabric and can be purchased in a variety of colors. From the traditional simplicity of pure white and earth tones to hot colors like lime, pink and red. In addition to bedspreads, chenille has found its way into blankets and throws, decorative pillow covers and is a popular fabric choice for clothing. Chenille can be woven into an endless combination of colors and patterns. The resulting is a tapestry quality that makes chenille an ideal choice as an upholstery fabric.
One of unique qualities of chenille is referred to in the fabric industry as the reflection effect. Reflection effect is why the appearance of chenille fabric varies depending on the direction and intensity of light. This effect is what gives chenille its unique iridescent quality. When woven with different color chenille yarns, chenille can give off a variety of colors and tones not possible with other fabrics.
To prevent fiber shedding, care should be taken when cleaning chenille. Chenille items that are machine washed should be done so on a delicate setting. Friction is the cause of fabric shedding and some fabric experts recommend placing chenille items in a pillow case or similar enclosure. Machine drying should be done on the lowest possible setting. As with almost any knit fabric, chenille can be air dried on a flat surface or dry cleaned. Before cleaning chenille items always refer to the manufacturer’s fabric care label.