Monday, 14 January 2013

Make your own Faux Chenille

I have always loved texture on my quilts, so recently I have been experimenting with making chenille cushions.  So I thought, why not have a tutorial on this technique. I am doing this for a Quilt Along lesson with my Desi Quilters group, so I thought I'd share it here too.

Part 1

This is a tutorial about making your own Chenille.  For those who are not familiar with Chenille, it is a soft fluffy fabric that has a great texture.  There are special chenille fabrics that are available and are often used for baby blankets because of its great softness.  You can make chenille strips out of several lengths of strips cut on the bias and then use this to outline appliqué for another cute effect on kids quilts – but more on that later.
Making your own chenille is very simple.  It involves sewing several layers of fabric on the bias in parallel lines about .5 inches apart and then slicing through all but the final layer of fabric.  Detailed instructions to follow.
Below are some images of Cushion covers (experiments) that I have made using this technique. 
Picture 1 - applique with raw edge
Picture 2 - Altered diagonal cuts
Picture 3 - small floral print
Picture 4 - applique with fusible web only

Picture 5 - Raw edge applique

Picture 6 - Hand dyed fabric

From all my experiments above, I think I like Picture 1 and Picture 2 the best.  So some tips on fabric choices; you will need 4-5 layers of fabric. 
  • This can be cotton or flannel.  Stretchy or chiffon type fabrics will not work. Basically you are looking for fabric that will fray.
  •  Fabric with large florals work very well as they will ‘bloom’ when they are chenilled. This only applies to the top layers. 
  •  The layers below can be anything, but here colours will make a difference.  You can use 1 or 2 strong colours and that will really add some ‘zing’.
  •   The last layer of fabric will be visible through the slits so be aware of that.  In Picture 3, I used a solid pale blue colour which, but in picture 6 there is a print base – this definitely did not work.
  • If you are going to appliqué the top layer, then choose simple shapes only. Fine lines and details will not show up.  You can mark these details using a permanent marker as I have done in Picture 4 (for the petal shapes), but they won’t really show up when fully fluffed. I found that outlining the shape using the raw edge appliqué technique works better than just fusing onto the top layer with fusible interface.  The edges of the design show up better – compare Picture 1 with Picture 4.  Also note that the overlapping of fabric for the appliqué shapes will show up, so be aware of leaving only small overlaps in your fabric when you are fusing multiple colours together – see the leaves in both pictures..
Other Tools that you need:

  •  A Chenille brush, you can substitute with a toothbrush, a dish washing brush, a scrubbing brush.  They all work just as well.
  •  A chenille cutting tool or just sharp scissors.  A word of caution – when using scissors, make sure you don’t cut through the last layer.  I actually found using my scissors was quicker and better as the chenille cutting tool used to get caught in the layers of fabric; it does have the convenience of ensuring that you don’t slice through your last layer.  
  •   A tumble-dryer – very useful for the first wash because it helps the fluffing process.
  • Double sided fusible webbing if you are going to appliqué
  • Fine tip permanent fabric marker if required.
  • Quilting bar tool that comes with your machine if you have one.  This provides you with a guide after your first diagonal seem is sewn.  If you don’t have this attachment, then you will need to draw the sewing lines onto your fabric.

So to get started.... choose 4-5 different types of fabrics.  They all need to be cut the same size – finished size plus 1-2 inches extra so that you can trim later.

To be continued in Part 2.......

Quiltey Quip for today

Part 2

What you need to start:
·         5  fat quarters of fabric
·         Thread  (neutral or strong contrast to top fabric)
·         Scissors or chenille cutter
·         Temp. Marking pens/pencils
·         Ruler
Here are the 5 fabrics that I chose:
Place the fabrics on top of each other and then mark a line diagonally – on the bias. I used 2 rulers to give me sufficient length.

Using this centre line as a guide, mark parallel lines on either side of the centre line 0.5 inches apart. You don’t need to be extremely accurate. Chenille is very forgiving and a good beginner project.  You need to mark all the lines across the fabric top if you don’t have a quilting bar for your machine.  If you do have the quilting bar tool, then you can use this as a guide.

Pin all your layers and then take it to your sewing machine.  Using neutral thread (I chose this but a strong contrast will add a different effect so don’t be afraid to use it), sew across your marked lines. Do measure at regular intervals that your guide hasn’t moved too much.  A little won’t matter too much.  You may need to roll your fabric sides so that it fits in your machine throat space.

When you are done, this is what it looks like.
Front View
Back view:

Now you can start cutting your fabric layers.  Please be very cautious here and do not  cut the final layer of fabric. You can use the special chenille cutting tool or a very sharp scissors.  I actually find that the scissors is required to make a snip before you can slide the chenille tool, so you could just as easily finish with the scissors.

 And here is your final piece after all the cuts have been made.

At this point you can trim off the excess fabric and assemble into a pillow cushion,  blanket or whatever else you have chosen to make.  I would recommend finishing it off before you start to brush your chenille or you put it in the washing machine.   For our demonstration, I have rinsed my piece and thrown it in the dryer.  And this is what it turns out to be.

More washing and/or brushing will make this fluff even more.  I have done a small section to show you what it can look like.  You don’t have to brush it, I think it looks really good even after the first wash.
And we’re done!  Have a go, I’d love to see what you come up with. 
Next week, other effects with chenille appliqué......


  1. Thank you so much for the tut...i want to try it soon.

  2. Where did you get that nifty guide for your machine? Is it a separate piece that you attach is it apart of the foot?

    1. Hi Debbie, it is called a quilting bar. It attaches to the back of the shank. It came standard with my Janome.

  3. Wow, great tutorial! I've looked for others, and yours is very well explained and pictured - THANK YOU for sharing!! Glad to have found your blog! Hugs & Smiles

  4. I saw this chenille effect for the first time last week. The woman in the shop cut it out as long strips, cutting through all layers and used it as stems or trim around appliqué. I like your idea as well. Both treatments inspire me. Thank you 😊