Antique Chenille Rugs – From the French word caterpillar was developed from an 18th century American technique called candle wicking; made by arranging tufts of cotton at intervals on a cotton ground to form elaborate patterns. Originally chenille was exclusively used in silk although newer techniques combine different materials.
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Chenille is a textile that has been used since the eighteenth century and is known for its unique look and soft feel. Unlike most textiles, this textile is not named after the fiber in which it made from, but from the process in which it is produced. The yarn itself is commonly made from cotton; however, materials to make chenille can also include acrylic, rayon, and olefin. Once the type of fiber is chosen, the yarn is manufactered by placing the pile, or short lengths of yarn, between the core yarns and then twisting them together. This method allows the pile to stand up at a right angle from the core. While a beautiful textile, tufts can easily work loose and create bare fabric. This is definitely a material that should be dry cleaned and dried flat to avoid stretching.
Originally produced by weaving the yarn into a ‘leno’ fabric and then creating strips to make chenille, the use of this textile has been around for a very long time. By the 1930’s, chenille was commonly used for throws, bedspreads and carpets due to the softness of the textile. Later, around the 1970’s, the soft material became popular in apparel when commercial production began. Today, chenille is commonly used in a similar fashion and is also popular on Letterman jacket patches. Often, designs are made with this textile because chenille looks different in one direction than the other. This is because the light catches differently on each fiber. In addition, because the light catches differently, chenille appears to be iridescent sometimes without actually having iridescent fibers.