Following are the very basic instructions on how to make your own Chenille using the Olfa Chenille Cutter. Are there other options for making your own chenille? Yes, but I much prefer the Olfa cutter for it’s simplicity and ease of use.
If you would like more detail on the Chenille cutter, please check out this post.
Fabrics – I find that homespun cottons, flannels, and denim all work very well when making chenille. These fabrics are loosely woven and tend to “bloom” very nicely. I also use challis (rayon) and cotton calicos, for these fabrics I make my channel stitching closer together because it doesn’t “bloom” quite as thick as the other fabrics. Another fabric that is fun to chenille is fleece – when you are working with fleece you only use two layers of fabric, the channels are cut only into the top fabric.
Layers of Fabric — the number of layers used to make the chenille depends on the final project. If both sides of the project will be visible when finished, I leave two fabrics not cut through. The number of layers that I cut through varies based on use of the project, and the fabrics thickness. Some examples are:
- Flannel Baby Blanket – 5 layers, cut through 3
- Homespun fabric if rug, hot pads, place mats, etc – 6 layers, cut through 4.
- Homespun pillow – 5 layers, cut through 4 (because the back of the chenille would be inside the pillow and no one would see)
- You will need to make variations depending on your projects.
Suggestion – If working with different colors of fabrics, or a patterned fabric to make your chenille, I suggest taking some 6” squares of the fabric you are planning to use. Stitch your channels, cut the top layers, wash, and dry completely – this will give you a test sample of what the finished fabric will look like. It’s always nicer to make adjustments in the test sample then to spend time making a full project and then be disappointed in the final look.
Layering – When layering fabrics, you lay the first fabric facing down and the rest facing up. If the fabric has a pattern you want to be able to notice when the project is chenilled that you will have to layer the fabrics you will cut through so that pattern in the fabric lay exactly on top of each other. If you don’t care about that than you can layer the fabrics at random (but then the sample piece suggested above is almost a must before creating chenille for the entire project).
Stitiching – Channels are stitched on the bias. It doesn’t need to be a true bias but it should be close (see image on the right – channels are shown with dotted lines). What I do is draw a line from one corner to the opposite corner and stitch that line. From that point, I usually move my needle on my machine all the way to the left and just use my right edge of my presser foot as a guide to sew the next channel. Continue all the way across the whole project till the whole thing is channel stitched.
Cutting – Find the foot on the Chenille cutter that fits the best (tightest) in the channels you have sewn. Put the foot over the one or two bottom layers you don’t want to cut through. Slide the Chenille cutter through the channel cutting the fabrics above the foot. Continue across your whole project.
Note: Sometimes I find it helpful to take a scissor and snip in 1” through the top layers I will chenille – then when I use the Chenille tool it is easy to get the foot between the right layers. Better safe than sorry!
Squaring the Project – After I cut through the layers to chenille I usually square up or trim up the edges. If the project is going to be cut to a shape such as a oval or a jacket front, this is the time to do that.
Binding - If the project is going to have binding I add that at this point. It is much easier to add when the project is still flat. If I am making a jacket, I would now sew it together, again it is easier to work with before you wash and dry to “bloom” the chenille.
“Blooming” – This is where your project comes to life! If you have sewn your channels on the bias you should simply just need to wash and dry your project. I have found that some fabrics need you to do this step twice depending on how tight the weave of the fabric is. When it come out of the dryer your project is ready to enjoy!
Please check out my next post for a free pattern for a Chenille Baby Blanket.
Sheila Reinke, Heart of Sewing