What Is Chenille Made of? Is Chenille Soft? (Helpful Guide)

You can’t tell the players without a scorecard. That is the exact same attitude for fabrics as it is for athletes. In order to know fabrics and how to use them you do need a scorecard at times to tell you the subtle differences between them. Or just have a great memory for fabric facts.

What is chenille made of? Chenille fabric is usually made from silk, wool, cotton, and rayon and it can be made from synthetic fibers as well. The fabric is given a pile so it is a very nice, soft, and cozy material to wrap yourself up in and enjoy the evening.

But that is not all of its characteristics.

To learn more about chenille, just keep reading our article. it has the information you need in order to use this material in the best way possible. Take a few minutes and catch up on all the details that are included in this fabric.

What is Chenille Fabric?


This is a French word given to the fabric because once its manufacturing is over it looks like a big fuzzy caterpillar. In fact, that is what the word Chenille means in French.

This fabric is hard to categorize as it can be made from fibers in all three main fiber categories. It can be made from natural, in-between, and synthetic fibers and file almost the same. This material is often mistaken for velvet as it has the same look as that material.

While this material is soft, it can be made into a durable fabric that handles high traffic spots with ease. It is very versatile and has many applications beyond the fashion world. The material was created in France at some point in the 18th century. The exact origins are unknown.

The process included turning fibers into fabric using the leno weave method, then cutting that material into strips to create the Chenille yarn. Heated rollers are a part of creating Chenille’s fuzzy look.

What is Chenille Made of?

Like most fabrics, if the fabric can be made with natural fibers, it can be made from in-between and synthetic fibers. There is no real boundary stopping the use of a variety of fibers in most cases when the fabric is made.

The original manufacturing process used silk, cotton, and wool. It stands to reason those fibers were used as in the 18th century in between and synthetic fibers had yet to be invented.

Once those other fibers were invented then many of them were used to make chenille fabric. Along with the already mentioned natural fibers, the following fibers are used to create this material-- rayon, olefin, polyester, and acrylic.

However, the fabric is not always made from 100% of each of these fibers. The material can be created using a blend of them all or maybe pairing up one or more fibers with each other to create a durable yet soft material.

The variety of fibers provides an opportunity for manufacturers to use different colors and designs when creating the finished look.

Where Does Chenille Come From?


According to those people who call themselves textile historians, the origin of this material is probably France. They say that it was somewhere in the 18th century when one or more Frenchmen created this material.

But like most origins of products, who, where, and when this fabric came into being is lost to time and history. Alexander Buchanan is credited with bringing this fabric to Scotland and that was during the early 19th century and he created the heated roller technique to make the fuzzy texture associated with this fabric.

Then it was James Templeton and William Quigley in later decades who found a way to turn this material into some fine copies of oriental rugs. When the latter gentleman sold his interest, James Templeton went on to found a top carpet-making company that lasted well into the 20th century.

Because the handcrafted tufted look became popular, that look became known as chenille and that is how the name stuck. This began in the late 19th century and continuing throughout the 20th century.

It is safe to say that many people in different countries had a hand in creating what is known as chenille today.

How is Chenille Made?

There are two different ways to make this fabric. The original way was to take silk threads and sew them into cotton to create the loops that give this material a distinct look and texture. Then there is the modern way to make this material.

The way the standardized modern method works is to take a short piece of yarn and place it between two other yarns. Then the three fibers are twisted together and formed into loops. The yarn or fabric is then cut into what is called a fuzzy pile.

Unfortunately, this is not a fail-safe system and there will be times where the pile comes loose and disappears leaving bare patches behind. That is why low melt nylon is included in the construction. The fabric is steamed after the pile has been created so it stays in place.

At this point, the yarn is woven and turned into chenille fabric. It's a long process and sometimes manufacturers can use heated rollers to create the fuzzy look.

What's Chenille Fabric Like?


If we are to take the French meaning to the word chenille literally, then this material is like a nice fuzzy caterpillar. It has a nice soft feel when turned into apparel fabric and when turned into upholstery fabric, it can be quite durable.

Some people say that it is like velvet in texture and feel and that may be true. it is often confused with that material so it could be called a poor man’s velvet. Then because a variety of fibers can be used to create this material the fabric can be quite colorful and decorative.

The versatility of the material adds to its charm as it can be made into a variety of items and have your home look good. How durable it is depends on the fibers used to create the fabric.

However, it is not a perfect material as it can fade, stretch and shrink. Also, you may have trouble cleaning it due to the nature of the fibers used in its creation. Keep it from direct sunlight and you should have the color last a long time.

Chenille Fabric Characteristics

The positive characteristics are many. Not only is the material soft and fluffy, but it is also durable and versatile. But like most fabrics, the positive qualities will depend on which fibers are used to create the material.

Those fibers will bring their characteristics to the fabric and when blended with other fibers, add even more positive characteristics. Because it can be made to be soft for towels, it is often used for towels, blankets, baby blankets, washcloths, and sweaters among other similar applications.

The versatility of the material is seen in its ability to be woven into rugs, carpets, drapes, pillowcases, and upholstery fabrics. Unfortunately, just like the positive characteristics of the fibers are included so are the negative ones.

Depending on which fibers are used, cleaning can be difficult as rayon, polyester, etc, have problems with heat or with getting wet. Then with natural fibers, the material is prone to shrink or stretch.

Color fading is an issue and will depend on how those fibers are dyed and which ones are used to create the material if the color will fade fast or slowly.

Is Chenille Soft?


Yes, it can be made to be soft but it is not always made softly because of the different applications this material can be used for. While the chenille rugs and carpets can be softer than other fibers, they are made more to be durable and strong than soft.

Those carpets and rugs should be kept in low-traffic areas to help them last a little bit longer. The material may be durable but it can wear out fairly quickly if not placed in the right location.

When the material is made into towels, face cloths, blankets, baby clothes, drapes, upholstery fabric, and other applications, then you will really see the soft side of this material. This fabric can be quite warm due to the thickness of the pile and the fuzzy texture that comes with it.

You would not miss out on any softness, warmth, or coziness when you use a chenille blanket to cover you as you watch your favorite horror or romantic movie.

Chenille or Velvet Which is Better?

If you went by the way the pile reacts when woven and used, then you would probably say that velvet is better. The reason we say that is because, as we reported earlier, the chenille pile tends to disappear on you and leave ugly bare patches behind.

Velvet, on the other hand, is made with a tighter weave method making the fibers nice and dense and harder for them to leave the fabric. Plus, this weave style has velvet looking nice and smooth whereas chenille looks rougher and more rope-like in comparison.

Cost-wise, chenille is probably better unless it is made from silk, then its price may be comparable to velvet’s cost. In terms of looks, this may be a toss-up as both fabrics can look stunning, elegant, and formal. Although, that last feature may be attached to velvet more than it is to chenille.

In the end, it will be your preference that makes the final decision in this competition.

Chenille vs Velvet


Chenille is a soft, bunchy fabric while velvet is a tightly woven material. The construction process makes velvet the tougher of the two materials and it should last longer than chenille does. Chenille has trouble with high traffic areas, making it wear out faster than other materials would.

On the other hand, velvet can easily be damaged especially when you are trying to clean up spills. Chenille may be a little tougher than that and can handle clean-ups without being damaged.

While chenille may be strong for simple clean-ups it can be stretched or shrunk if you are not careful during laundry time. Velvet fabrics may need special cleaning due to its delicate construction especially if it is made from silk fibers.

Also, chenille does retain heat making it cozier than velvet, and on cold evenings that may be the deal clincher when deciding which fabric to use. Chenille’s cost will also play a factor in this debate as it should be cheaper to buy than velvet is.

Is Chenille like Microfiber?

While chenille is soft, it is not like microfiber. It is a more difficult fabric to keep clean and the deep pile holds onto spills and stains making it harder to clean than microfiber materials.

Then chenille’s rougher look contrasts with microfiber’s smooth look. Where they have something in common is in the wide array of colors and designs both fabrics can have. Both fabrics can be colorful, well designed, and keep your home decor looking modern and tasteful.

When it comes to being made into furniture fabric, chenille cannot compete with microfiber. The latter fabric is one of the most durable materials that can be used to cover furniture. When cleaning these materials you should not use hot for either one.

The answer to the question is while the two fabrics have similarities, the differences make each one different from the other. Chenille is not the same as microfiber and uses different fibers in its construction, save for polyester.

Chenille vs Microfiber

Macro close up of purple chenille microfiber texture for cleaning, trapping dust

The competition is not really fair as microfiber has too many advantages going for it over chenille. While chenille is made from fibers from all categories, microfiber is only made from synthetic fibers. Those fibers are polyester and nylon.

When polyester is used to create chenille, then it is a close match to that competitor in certain areas. The weave style is what really sets these two fabrics apart as chenille can come apart on you and lose its looks.

Microfiber does not do that. Even the polyester fibers do that when turned into chenille fabric and that is not a good characteristic to have. As already stated, microfiber is easier to clean than chenille with the latter’s pile creating all the difficulties in this category.

Both need cool to warm water and drying temperatures or you could damage both if you stray and get too hot. One advantage chenille has over microfiber is its luxurious look and feel. That is due to the stain holding pile which overcomes its weakness by looking elegant.

Another difference will be in the cost of the two fabrics. Microfiber is the cheaper of the two and more economic. That is the price chenille has to pay for having a complex manufacturing process.

Which is Better Chenille or Polyester?

When the chenille is made from polyester fibers, then the competition will be a virtual tie. The only difference between the two materials will be in how the fabrics were woven. Polyester woven in the same way as chenille will not be stronger, more durable, or softer than chenille, but other weave styles make it superior.

Then when chenille is made from cotton or silk, the advantage should go to chenille over polyester. Natural fibers are generally better than synthetic ones and have a better look and feel to them.

The chenille should be softer, have a more luxurious look as well as not feel artificial when touched. Polyester will be easier to clean than chenille if polyester is not made into a deep pile fabric like it often can.

As to which is better, we would go with chenille when it is made from natural fibers. Natural is just better than synthetic and that goes without adding in any mention of how polyester is made. Natural fibers just have a better feel and look even though they can be harder to keep clean.

Chenille vs Polyester


Leaving polyester fibers out of the discussion is probably the best thing to do. It is hard to say which product is better when they are both made from the same materials. When it comes to cleaning, polyester is the champ no matter which natural fiber is used to create the chenille.

Cotton can shrink on you and silk can be easily damaged when cleaned in the wrong manner but polyester’s only concern is the level of heat used in both the washer and the dryer.

When it comes to color, both materials come in excellent color options but chenille loses out here because it does not hold onto its color that well in direct sunlight. If fading is an issue for you, then polyester is the way to go.

In the microfiber section, we mentioned shrinking and stretching, two big weak points for chenille when it is made out of natural fibers. Polyester resists both laundry ills and can stay the same size even after multiple washes.

Polyester, in some weave styles, will be more durable than chenille and when made into a carpet or rug, can handle high traffic areas which chenille cannot do. If you like synthetic fibers, then polyester will be the winner for you in this competition.

Which is Warmer Chenille or Fleece

The trouble with this comparison is that there are those people who remain cold no matter how high you raise the temperature or how many thick blankets you wrap them up in. No matter how warm a fabric is, it always loses to these people.

Chenille is known for it being nice, and soft, warm, and cozy. It has built its reputation on those positive characteristics. But the level of being warm and cozy will depend a lot on the fibers used to create the material. Some fibers will be warmer than others.

If you base the level of warmth on the breathability factor, then fleece would be declared the winner here. It does not breathe as well as chenille can making it the warmer fabric. Body heat and warm air have no place to go when one is wrapped in a fleece blanket.

If you are using other factors to determine which is warmer then chenille will probably win when those factors are used. The fleece is good but the chenille is slightly warmer.

Sewing With Chenille

This can be a very easy task to do or it can have its difficult moments. The fabric is generally easy to sew and you may want to finish the edges after cutting as the material tends to fray quite easily.

When made with a knit weave, the material can stretch a lot on you making sewing a bit more difficult than it should be. A stretch needle and a zig-zag stitch are the best options when working with knitted chenille materials.

The fabric should come with a right and wrong side that is easy to see and make sure to use a quality sewing machine. Quality does not mean modern in this case. also, make sure to use the right needle. You do not want it to be too large.

Finally, you have to find the right push and pull technique. Pull too hard and you can break a needle. Push too little and the needle can get caught in the fabric and so on. Make sure to clean your machine right after sewing with this material.

Some Final Words

Chenille may have a murky origin but it is seen as one of the better fabrics you can work with. Versatile and soft this fabric has a lot of applications that make it an ideal material to use in many different seeing projects. The softness may convince you to use it soon.

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