There are several things to consider when buying chenille upholstery, such as what the fabric will be used for, how it will be used, and fabric care. Before discussing these issues, it is useful to know what it is and how it is manufactured.
The word “chenille” refers to the process by which the fabric is made. Short lengths of fabric are wrapped around a core of yarn, which gives the fabric its characteristic pile or tufted look. Originally from France, chenille fabrics have been produced since the 18th century. Chenille upholstery is often patterned with designs that alternate smooth and tufted surfaces, and may incorporate multiple colors.
Chenille is used to cover furniture and for draperies. It is perhaps most widely known as a material for quilts and bedspreads. Patterned chenille bedspreads were very popular in the mid-20th century and retain some of this popularity today. The upholstery is made of a variety of textiles including cotton, rayon, polyester and olefin. Most chenille upholstery fabrics are made from a blend of cotton, rayon and polyester fibers and require dry cleaning. Cotton chenille may be hand or machine washed, but should be dried flat.
When buying chenille fabric to upholster furniture, it is important to match the properties and aesthetics of the fabric with the piece of furniture to be covered. One needs to think about how the furniture will be used, and whether chenille fabric is appropriate for the piece. For example, some fabrics feature large, symmetrical patterns. While these are ideal for bedspreads and quilts, the pattern may be lost when these fabrics are used to cover a small chair. Some chenille fabrics may be more durable than others as well. For example, chairs that are heavily used wear unevenly in the front and rear of the seating area and a upholstery fabric that features a heavily tufted design may show this more readily than another fabric.
Using chenille upholstery for draperies can add an element of coziness and be a textural accent for a room. Possible downsides are that the pile attracts and holds dust, and cotton chenille fabrics are likely to fade unevenly when used in sunny locations. When thinking about chenille fabric for draperies, it is important to consider how easy they will be to clean, and whether they will enhance or reduce the amount of natural light entering a room.