Hi, I’m Susan from Sewfeet.com and today’s post is about creating texture with your sewing machine. There are so many things that I love about sewing. I see beauty in the fabric, the colors, the stitches, but one thing I am especially drawn to is texture. Heavy stitching, raised pintucks, free-motion stitching, gathered edges, pleated panels – there are so many ways to create texture with fabric, needle, and thread. When I was in college, I went to my first textile art exhibit. My favorite display was a variety of art pieces created with a technique called “stitch and slash”. It was a simple technique of stacking several layers of fabric, and then sewing a series of straight stitched lines through all of the layers. Next, the fabric was cut between the lines of stitching, through all of the fabrics except the lowest layer. Today we know this technique as “chenille”. The rough edges of the cut fabric ravel and fray to create a soft, random pile of texture. This technique can be used on pillows, art quilts, jackets, tote bags, zippered pouches, and really just about anywhere you want some beautiful texture. The supplies I used are listed below – continue reading for additional info on the supplies.
3-6 layers of fabric – I cut 8” squares but it totally depends on how you plan to use it
40-wt or 50-wt thread – color of your choice
All-purpose presser foot
Firm toothbrush or wire brush
The first thing to do for the chenille technique is to select your fabrics. It works best when using soft cotton fabrics, lightweight fabrics, cotton flannel, and/or loosely woven fabrics. Do not use synthetics or knit fabrics as they do not ravel well. I usually use 3-6 layers, including the base layer. The fabrics I used here are all quilting cottons except for the base layer. It is a lightweight denim. Stack them all right side up for stitching. You may want to use clips to hold the layers in place as you begin to sew. A size 90/14 Universal needle works well for this type of sewing. Do a stitch test to make sure the needle works well with your layered fabric. Use a typical 40-wt or 50-wt thread. Polyester, cotton, or a blend of the two are all good choices. The color doesn’t really matter because it usually does not show in the finished technique.
Set your machine for a straight stitch and attach your favorite all-purpose presser foot. The spacing between the lines of stitching is up to you. The base of the Embellish Comfort-Grip Chenille Cutter is about ¼” so I would suggest you space the stitching at least 3/8” apart. I almost always use the side of my presser foot as a spacing guide, but I move my needle all the way over to the right. This gives me a space that is a bit wider than ½”, making it easier to insert the guide of the cutter into the channel between the stitching lines.
Once you have finished the stitching, it is time to cut, which is where the magic starts. When I first learned this technique, the cutting was done with a pair of scissors. To be truthful, it was a bit tedious and not much fun. However, today we have more choices for cutting. I use Embellish Comfort-Grip Chenille Cutter. It makes it so easy and quick to slice through all those layers and there are two interchangeable guides – one for straight lines and one for curves. You want to slice through all of the layers except the bottom one (base). This cutter is designed to protect the lower layer, so you don’t accidentally cut through it. Use the following steps to slash the fabrics with the cutter.
Hold one hand firmly on the fabric.
With your other hand, insert the guide of the cutter between the base fabric and the upper layers.
Push down and advance the cutter forward using a lot of force to start cutting. If you have trouble starting the cut, use scissors to cut into the fabric layers about ½”-1” at the beginning.
Here’s where the real magic happens. Using a firm toothbrush or a wire brush, scour over the cut edges in all directions, making the fabrics stand up. Brushing in a circular motion is a gray way to help create the chenille look. This frays the edges, creating more texture. If you spray the fabric surface before you brush, it helps create more texture. Washing the chenille piece will also create more texture.