Let’s face it, chenille is a hugely popular type of yarn and won’t be going away anytime soon. People love crocheting with it, and they love the plush look of it. You probably do, too, since you’ve joined us here!
Perhaps you’re just now delving into the world of crocheting or chenille yarn, or maybe you’ve been in this world for a little while. With so many people in the world crocheting, new and rediscovered techniques are coming out of the woodwork, which is great for all of us!
Regardless of your ability level or why you’ve come here, welcome in, take your shoes off (if you want to), and let’s jump into my guide of crocheting with chenille yarn!
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In French, chenille means caterpillar. It is not hard to see why this novelty yarn is named after a fuzzy caterpillar, thanks to its short and soft fuzz twisted around a small thread.
Almost all chenille yarns I have come across are a larger yarn – ranging from bulky (5) to jumbo (7). Due to its fuzzy nature, it can’t really be sized down to anything less than bulky without losing what makes it that fuzzy chenille.
It is made up completely of polyester, a man-made fiber. Because polyester is a type of plastic, you cannot iron it or expose it to high heat. It will melt.
Weird, right? Something this soft is, at its simplistic descriptor, a type of plastic. While it is durable due to this, some chenilles are not machine washable.
Depending on the brand and type of chenille yarn you choose, some are able to be machine washed and dried while others aren’t. You will need to check the label for caring instructions if you want your items to last.
For example, Bernat Blanket is a super bulky (6) chenille yarn (although it runs closer to a bulky (5) weight). It does not have the same softness as you would expect from a chenille yarn, but it doesn’t make it anything less than chenille.
It is able to be washed and dried, which is great! It is one of those durable, easy to care for yarns.
However, on the same side of the yarn world, there is Sweet Snuggles by Loops & Threads. It definitely has that soft and squishy chenille feel and look to it.
It can be machine washed, but it is recommended to lay flat to dry. As I said before, it depends on the brand and type of chenille!
I have found that most ‘blanket’ style yarns (sturdy and squishy, but less soft) tend to be more durable while your typical chenille yarns tend to be on the softer side, but need a gentler hand.
If a yarn is specifically labeled for babies, e.g. Bernat Baby Blanket, usually that means it can take more handling than your typical chenille. It is not always the case, so always keep an eye out for that label!
Chenille vs Velvet
When out there in the yarn market, you will most likely come across another yarn labeled as ‘velvet.’ At first glance, it might look like a sleeker chenille yarn, and while that’s close to the truth, it is a little bit more than that.
Velvet is a silkier type of chenille yarn. It is more delicate and usually needs to be hand washed and laid flat to dry.
Velvet’s shedding abilities puts chenille’s to shame. Any sort of friction, like frogging or sewing, can rub the fibers off the thin core thread and leave you with an unusable piece of string.
Not only that, more often than not, you will either end up with this type of monstrosity (or the yarn will do it for you):
Due to its silkiness, it does not hold the weaved-in yarn ends as well as other yarns. You would need to knot it or leave a substantial end to weave in to keep it from slipping out over time.
Velvet tends to be smaller than a ‘chenille’ yarn, so, if you’re looking for a less bulky and soft yarn, you could choose velvet instead. But, because of this, it is also not as squishy.
As a general rule, do not start with chenille yarn unless you have made an item or two with acrylic, cotton, or any unfuzzy yarn. It is not a beginner yarn and will end up leaving you frustrated if you’re not practiced!
I would even recommend waiting until you feel completely confident in your crocheting to start with chenille. It may be calling your name, but save yourself the headache and start with an easier yarn first.
Better yet, complete the pattern first in unfuzzy yarn first then try it out in your chunkier yarn. It will give you a feel for the pattern and let you see parts that may be confusing before having to frog the endlessly shedding chenille yarn.
Of course, you can also bypass all of that and continue with any chenille yarn of your choice! I would recommend something less on the fuzzy side, so you can at least get the feel of this yarn before leveling up to something furrier.
If I still can’t persuade you to try anything else before chenille yarn, let me redirect you towards Feels Like Butta by Lion Brand. It has the same feel as chenille yarn, yet it doesn’t have any of that fuzz I keep warning you about.
Take a look at my review for Feels Like Butta for more information!
Working with stitches you can’t see (yet)
As you get more practiced, you will find you can see the stitches just like any other acrylic yarn. At first, though, don’t be surprised if you find yourself unsure of where to start or end!
The best advice I can offer is be patient and go slow. Besides that, use stitches markers as much as you need to.
You can put them in every other stitch to help teach your eyes what to look for. Everyone starts out somewhere, and it is okay if your beginning involves a lot of stitch markers!
You can also pinch the yarn between your fingers to feel for the stitches. If you reach a hole, that’s the middle of the stitch and where you need to insert your hook.
Once you find your rhythm and teach your eyes what to look for, you’ll discover that it is actually quite easy to spot chenille stitches. It simply takes time. it is okay if you’re not used to fuzzy yarn when you first start out.
This is a fragile yarn! With chenille yarn, since it is just a thin thread twisted around tufts of soft yarn, it breaks easily. You cannot be rough with it or force it to do your bidding because it will snap.
The tighter your stitches are, the less soft your item will be. If you keep your stitches loose, your item will be softer since it gives the fluff more breathing space.
If you’re a tight crocheter, you might want to play around with a bigger hook than you would normally use or try out looser stitches like a treble or double crochet.
Shedding is unavoidable
All chenille yarn shed. Some shed less than others, but I have never come across one that stays completely intact. If shedding gets on your nerves, feel free to put it down and try again another day (or avoid it entirely).
When it snaps (and I do mean when), it will shed even more, so it is in your best interest to treat this yarn kindly. Even then, sometimes it will snap anyway. Take a breather and try again!
Your work area will get messy and fuzzy with the extra fluff floating around. It would be in your best interest to work in a space that is clear, or at least manageable, and easy to clean up.
Lint rolls and vacuums are amazing accessories with this yarn. You can also roll up tape with the sticky side out around your fingers. Sometimes you might be able to just use your fingers to slowly push the fibers into a manageable ball to toss.
To make shedding more manageable, avoid having too many pieces and color changes in patterns. The more ends there are, the more shedding there will be.
Avoid sewing (if you can)
While you can sew with chenille yarn, I wouldn’t recommend it. The friction caused by threading it into the eye of a needle as well as the weaving in and out of the stitches causes shedding at best.
At worst, it will snap if you try to pull on it if it gets tangled. At the middleground, all the fluff will be rubbed off and you’ll be left with a thin, unworkable piece of thread.
If you can find an acrylic or non-shedding yarn that’s almost the same color, you can use that for sewing instead. If you want to sew with it, it will work, but it is best for small pieces.
The best type of patterns for chenille yarn are no- or low-sew. While you can get away with other patterns, if you want to lessen the possibility of shedding or breaking, you will want to avoid patterns with sewing.
As I’ve mentioned before, the more ends you have, the more shedding you will have and the possibility of the yarn breaking starts to become more likely.
While you can make anything with chenille yarn, one of the most popular items to make is amigurumi. I mean, who doesn’t love a soft, fuzzy friend to hug?
As mentioned above, chenille yarns are fragile. You can’t be rough with them, especially when it comes to working with magic rings.
Try to start your magic ring as small as possible. Don’t make it so small that you can’t work with it!
Once you’ve worked two or three stitches into it, immediately pull the magic ring smaller, then complete the rest of your stitches. You can also slowly tighten it as you do each stitch.
For any chenille yarn that’s smaller than jumbo, you won’t have to worry about any resizing issues. Of course, if the pattern is based on acrylic yarn, its measurements will be different from your chenille item.
If you’re looking for a specific sized item, it’s always best to do a quick swatch of the yarn you want to use and compare it to the measurements of the pattern. A well-written pattern will always have measurements.
If you are using jumbo yarn, some sizing issues may occur when it comes to translating a worsted weight pattern to a jumbo pattern. The most common is that your magic ring may appear too pointy.
The easiest solution is to only use patterns made for jumbo velvet yarn. It was all the craze a couple years back (evidenced by my own Jumbo Turkey and Jumbo Narwhal), so I am sure you can find plenty of patterns just for it!
If you find a pattern you love and just must create in jumbo chenille yarn, that’s okay! If you find the magic ring too pointy, you can switch the beginning magic ring from 6sc to 8sc to make it flatter.
If you decide to do that, I would only recommend doing that on patterns that don’t involve a lot of shaping. If they are just round and squishy, then you can get away with it.
It might change the shape of your item a little bit, so keep that in mind if you decide to up it to 8sc into a round. You will want to make sure you increase by multiples of 8 instead of 6 when you do this.