The ultimate in warm and fuzzy, chenille fabric is created by anchoring rows of tufting yarns onto a base fabric, often in various colors that create designs. Brushing the yarn ends makes them fluffy, and with repeated laundering, chenille becomes even softer. A special tool called a chenille cutter makes creating your own chenille cotton rug a quick afternoon project. Stack and stitch cotton fabrics, then use the chenille cutter to slice through some of the fabrics, creating yarn ends from the fabric weave. Voila! Chenille is born.
1 Cut prewashed cotton fabrics into pieces the size of the rug you are making. For a bath mat, for example, cut fabrics into rectangles about 24 inches by 30 inches. Cut a base fabric rectangle one inch larger than each dimension of the rug. You may choose to use a slightly heavier base fabric, such as cotton denim. The more layers of fabric you use, the fuller the chenille will be. A base fabric topped with six fabrics is good.
2 Mark a diagonal, bias line across the middle of the top fabric layer using a ruler and fabric marker. Stack the fabric layers so they all lie flat and smooth, and pin them to prevent slipping, placing the fabric with the bias marking on top. The base fabric should extend evenly beyond the stack, 1/2 inch on each edge. Set your sewing machine for a small straight stitch and install a heavy-duty needle and thread. Sew through all layers in a straight line along the bias mark, sewing from edge to edge. Turn the rug and sew in the opposite direction in a straight bias line across the rug, using the presser foot edge to space the rows of stitching at least 3/4 inch apart. Continue sewing evenly spaced rows until the entire rug is stitched. Alternating the sewing direction across the rug for each row helps keep the layers from slipping.
3 Double-fold the edge extension of the base fabric to conceal the raw edge. Sew the fold in place around the edges with a straight machine stitch to create a hem.
4 Insert the channel guide of the chenille cutter into one of the “tubes” formed by the rows of stitching. Place the channel guide under the six layers of cotton fabric and above the base fabric. Push the chenille cutter along the tube, letting the blade at the rear of the channel guide slice through all six layers of fabric at once, all the way across the rug. Cut the six fabric layers of each tube likewise, being careful not to cut the base fabric.
5 Hold the rug flat on a table or floor and brush the cut edges of the layered fabrics to fray the edges. You may want to brush the rug outdoors to reduce lint in the house. Shake the rug periodically as you brush to help loosen the yarn ends and fluff the frayed edges.
6 Machine wash and tumble dry the rug to make the chenille fuzzier.
Items you will need
- Cotton fabrics, prewashed
- Sewing scissors
- Fabric marker
- Straight pins
- Sewing machine
- Heavy-duty thread
- Heavy-duty machine needle for jeans or quilting
- Chenille cutter
- Chenille brush
- Nonslip rug backing
- Use a ruler and fabric marker to draw all the stitching lines on the top fabric layer if you aren’t comfortable using the presser foot as a guide.
- Always stitch on the bias when making chenille. Bias stitching anchors the fabric yarns at “X” cross points so all the yarns are secured and retained for fluffing. If you sew along the straight grain, half of the yarns brush away because the stitching doesn’t cross over them -- you’ll end up with skinny fringe instead of fluff.
- Apply nonslip rug backing following the manufacturer’s instructions to help stabilize the rug.
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