A Brief History of Chenille

Chenille is a soft, feathery yarn beloved by many weavers, and it gets its name from the French word for caterpillar (presumably the fuzzy kind). The first chenille was developed in 18th-century France and was actually created by weaving leno and then cutting the fabric into thin strips.

Later, the production of a chenille fabric began in Paisley, Scotland. In this case, wool yarns would be woven into a blanket and then cut into strips. The strips would be heat-treated to make the fabric soft and fuzzy. This technique was used to create faux-Oriental rugs that could easily be mass produced. (This chenille fabric, though, is different from the “tufted” chenille fabric popular in the 1920s and 1930s.)  

Today, the process of making chenille yarn requires no pre-weaving. Instead, short lengths of “pile” yarns are spun at a 90-degree angle between two core yarns. The pile yarns are what give chenille it's feathery appearance, and they can be made of cotton, rayon, silk, or other fibers. The core yarns, on the other hand, are typically low-melt nylon. This is so that, when the yarn is steamed, the nylon will set the pile yarns into place, while the pile remains unchanged. This process helps keep the iconic chenille fuzz tightly in place.  

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