What Should I Consider When Buying Chenille Upholstery?

Miranda Fine

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.

Chenille can be used to cover furniture and for draperies.
Chenille can be used to cover furniture and for draperies.

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.

Cotton chenille may be hand or machine washed, but should be dried flat.
Cotton chenille may be hand or machine washed, but should be dried flat.

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.

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Discussion Comments


Is piping recommended for chenille upholstery?


A good way to keep your chenille upholstery looking nice on sofas and cushions is to make sure thy get regularly rotated.

If you leave the cushions in one place too long, the wear will become very obvious and detract from the look of your furniture.

A good rule of thumb is that when a piece is originally upholstered the nap should run from top to bottom so that contact with it doesn't automatically brush back against the fabric.

Chenille can be a really beautiful fabric, but it does take a bit of preplanning to make sure that it looks great for the longest time possible.


When you are considering buying chenille upholstery you should be aware that it does require a little extra upkeep to make sure it continues to look soft and clean.

You should try and vacuum or gently brush your chenille fabric at least once a week to loosen any dust or dirt that may have gotten trapped in the fabric.

If you get anything heavy or sticky stuck to the chenille, like candle wax, do not try to clean it immediately, it could damage the fabric. Just wait until it dries and pick it off.

In the case of liquids, making sure your fabric is pretreated against water damage is a great idea.

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