Faux Chenilleimage

Creating your own faux chenille is a fun and easy way to use up fabric scraps and pieces of fabric you're not too wild about.  The technique can be incorporated into all sorts of sewing projects to add a tactile element.  The Harley rag quilt shown at the right has several faux chenille blocks which made it extra snuggly.

The old loveseatMy old hand-me-down loveseat was too dark and not really fitting into the makeover I've been working on for my living room, so I decided to start giving it a facelift by covering the pillows with faux chenille.  Here's how it was done.

The three large pillows are 23-inches square, so I cut six denim squares 24-inches to give me seam allowance.  I drew a -inch chalk line around First layer of scrap fabricsthe square and began placing my 100% cotton scrap fabrics inside the chalk lines.

The important thing to remember when creating faux chenille is that your cuts will always be done on the bias grain of the fabric to prevent fraying.  Cutting with the grain of the fabric will produce a result like the seams of a rag quilt.  Since I planned to cut my pillow tops diagonally, all the fabrics were laid down with the grain running vertically and horizontally.  It's also important to use only 100% cotton fabrics.

I continued layering my scrap fabrics until I had a total of five layers.  For the sixth (top) layer I cut one solid piece of fabric.  Your top layer is the only fabric that's really going to show up well in the finished design, so choose one that has colors you really like.  The fabric pattern doesn't matter too much.

My fabric stack is now 7 layers--the denim base, 5 layers of scraps, and the solid top piece. 
I then drew a 45 diagonal chalk lineTop chenille layer from corner to corner on the top piece of fabric.  (Click on the thumbnail photo for a larger view to see the chalk line.)  This line is used as a guide for your first row of stitching.

After sewing along the chalk line, I used my presser foot edge as a gauge for the rest of the stitching lines which were 3/8" apart.  The stitching lines can be further apart, or closer together, depending on the look you want for the finished project.  I've found, through trial and error, that 3/8" produces a very pleasing look.  Be sure to back-stitch the beginning and end of each row of stitching to securely lock them down. 

Once all the stitching is done, cut straight lines through the six layers of fabric (not the base fabric!) between the stitching lines.  Cutting between the lines with the Olfa Chenille CutterYou can do this with a small pair of sharp scissors, but I strongly recommend investing in the Olfa Chenille Cutter.  Cutting the layers with scissors is very labor intensive and a major pain.  The Olfa Chenille Cutter zips right through the many layers like they were warm butter.  It's a pricy gadget ($25 to $30), but I found it to be well worth the cost because it's a huge time saver, and if you don't have it you'll probably never want to make chenille again after your first project.  Seriously... cutting with scissors sucks!All cuts finished with the Olfa Chenille Cutter

Once all the cuts were done, I sewed the pillow top to a plain denim back with a long zipper along one edge.  Turn the pillow case right side out and run it through a couple of cycles of washing and drying to get the finished chenille look.  The cut edges become kind of curly and fluffy looking and very soft to the touch, kind of like flannel.  The more you wash it, the nicer it looks. 

The finished pillowsI love the new look of the pillows, but the loveseat is still a bit too dark, so I'll probably slipcover it in a light-colored denim.

You may come across faux chenille instructions elsewhere that tell you to 1) do your cuts, 2) wet the layers completely, and 3) brush them vigorously with a chenille brush (a stiff-bristled brush) before running them through the washer and dryer.  When I first started doing chenille that's how I did it.  But I've done dozens of chenille projects since and found this to be an unnecessary step.  You can't tell the difference if you skip the brushing.