Sunday, 4 June 2017

Cotton Fabric Chenilling

Like many UK stitchers of my generation, early sewing classes instilled an absolute rule that raw fabric edges must always be hidden or neatened!  My love of softness in fabric, however, will forever lead to me to experiment to the contrary - like creating chenille with cotton fabric which I'm having great fun with this summer.  It is a simple technique and with a little planning, costs can be kept to a minimum.  The outer fabric for this cushion was an fabric remnant I picked up by New York designer Paula Nadlestern - a child Spirograph fanatic, I adore her kaleidoscopic designs.
Any cotton fabric can be used for this chenille technique and many favour the use of brushed cotton.  Personally I favour standard cotton, as this is hugely cheaper.  I also tend towards plain fabrics in the layers as these look more vibrant when cut than patterned fabrics which often have large amounts of white in the weave.  For this project I used a teal base layer and lighter layers in to contrast with the black in the top fabric.  I layered the equal size pieces directly on top of each other and drew chalk lines half an inch apart around my central design.  It is vital that all stitch and cut lines are diagonal to the fabric weave on all layers - cuts with the weave or weft will unravel in a most unattractive way.
On this occasion I stitched between all the chalk lines - for a lighter fabric I would have marked the lines with a Frixion pen and stitched on these and removed afterwards with a hot iron.  The back of the piece looked like this once all the stitching was complete.
Then down to some serious cutting along the chalk lines with my favorite super sharp Tilda scissors - through all layers other that the base layer.  There are specific chenille cutters on the market, however, they can be fiddly to use and I think are an unnecessary additional expense. 
Then comes the business of 'blooming' the cut lines - those with a background of 'raw edge avoidance' need to hold their nerve at this point.  The simplest way to 'bloom' is to finger rub the cuts - which I promise will produce a pleasing result.  In fact, I personally find this a very satisfying task, particularly for a cushion where 'blooming' can be continued long after it is made up!
I am loving teaching this technique again this summer and seeing the fabulous fabric designs and colours that others choose to work with.  Here is a new piece of work that stitcher Loraine has yet to fully bloom.  There is a school of thought that blooming can be increased by washing the fabric, however, I prefer to retain the fabric finish and do the job by hand.
And here is a constructed piece which has been made up into a new summer project for my Open Workshops.   This is just one of many possibilities for how the chenille fabric can be used and I'm looking forward to exploring new project ideas at a specific chenille workshop I'm running on Friday 11th August 2017 at Threads in Minehead.
I highly recommend this creative fabric technique and exploring how to use at minimal cost.  Remnant baskets will often offer up striking exterior fabric pieces and cotton sheeting is a very cost effective option for the layers.  I would love to see photos of any experimentations and please do email me these.

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