What is Chenille Fabric?

Throughout history, some inventions changed the world for the better. It significantly changed and influenced how we do things today.

The earliest human beings discovered fire and used it to cook their food and keep them warm.

Fast forward a few centuries later, hundreds if not thousands more of new inventions made things much simpler. It paved the way for significant changes across all major industries.

The latest inventions all take a cue from the last one. It fixes the weaknesses to provide a better solution to the unsolved problems.

Today, people use matches or lighters to start a fire instantly. Heaters installed in homes regulate the room temperature where there are freezing winters. All the new inventions benefit us so many ways.  

In the textile industry, it’s also the same thing.

New machines are invented to speed up or perfect the production of certain fabrics. Sometimes, it's a new technique, developed as a result of countless experiments.

During the 18th century, a particular type of fabric was believed to have originated in France. It’s widely used and continues to remain a popular choice today because of its distinct style and luxurious appearance. 

The favorite materials used to produce this fabric are cotton, silk, olefin, rayon, acrylic, or wool.

What is chenille?

Chenille means caterpillar in French. It’s a soft, feathery, and fuzzy type of fabric or yarn. The texture closely resembles the appearance of a caterpillar where it probably got its name.

It’s the type of fabric used in the patches found in letterman or varsity jackets. These are the jackets worn by individuals to represent their respective schools or organizations in various academic or athletic competitions. It’s also used mostly on oriental rugs or home carpets.

It is achieved by knitting the leno fabric and cutting it into strips.

The history of chenille

By the 1830s, Alexander Buchanan, a shawl manufacturer, introduced the fabric in Scotland. He was credited for using heated rollers on the strips to create a fuzzy-looking fabric.

After some time, William Quigly and James Templeton teamed up to further enhance Alexander Buchanan’s technique. James was a shawl manufacturer while William was a weaver. It was William who possessed a more probing approach and an inventive thought process.

Their joint venture successfully secured a patent for weaving cords of chenille into carpets. It solved the difficulty of reproducing intricate patterns through automation. William later sold half of his rights to James.

James later founded James Templeton & Co. His company later became the leader in carpet manufacturing in Britain throughout the 19th and 20th century.

In another continent, Catherine Evans Whitener revived the handcrafted technique in the 1890s. She’s from Dalton, Georgia. She’s responsible for the increasing popularity of tufted bedspreads in the US during the 1920s through the 1930s.

Hand-tufted bedspreads with an embroidered appearance were referred to as “chenille.” A term that stuck and has been used ever since.

B.J. Bandy, with the help of his wife Dicksie Bradley Bandy, were the first ones to make a million dollars doing business with tufted bedspread products during the late 1930s.

Chenille then became used mainly for throws, pillows, carpets, mats, and bedspreads in the 1930s.

However, they only became popular for use in apparels just in the 1970s.

By the 1990s, Chenille International Manufacturers Association (CIMA) was formed. The organization is responsible for setting the standards in the manufacture and production of chenille fabrics. The Giesse group is one of the first manufacturers of machines used to produce chenille fabrics.

Characteristics that make chenille a popular choice


A trait that makes it ideal for products that touch your skin like blankets, towels, comforters, baby-items or pillows. The softness of chenille makes you comfortable and relaxed.


Chenille is stylish and luxurious. Its color also varies when you look at it from different angles. That effect is called iridescence like when you look at a soap bubble. There's also a lot of colors and designs you can choose from. Lastly, the raised pile gives it a 3D effect.


It is used for everyday lightweight items like throw pillows, ordinary blankets, or bedsheets. The item’s weight is not a problem as they can also be used for heavier things like weighted blankets, slipcovers, or heavy curtains.


The durability factor allows you to get the most value for your money. The cost is negated by being able to use the item for a long time.

Maintaining the chenille fabric

Taking proper care is essential for chenille to last a lifetime. The highly-recommended cleaning option for chenille fabrics is through dry cleaning. If it cannot be avoided, set it to low heat and delicate settings when using the washing machine.

Important things to consider when cleaning your chenille fabric.

  1. Always use a mild detergent.
  2. Wring it gently to drain the excess water when washing the fabrics manually.
  3. It must not be hanged to dry to avoid stretching.
  4. No ironing is necessary as it will flatten out or crush the natural pile of yarns.
  5. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions found on the label.