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Yarns Spun Here: La Chenille, Oui!

Dry clean chenille on fragile cycle, or use a tiny towel

CHICAGO — That beautiful caterpillar is known by its french name, “Chenille de grand porte queue.”

What does this ever have to do with the fabric chenille, you ask?

Chenille actually means caterpillar. And that one’s french name means Caterpillar of the Old World Swallowtail.

But chenille is “rather unstable” as a fabric, as Norman Oehlke describes in American Drycleaner’s Spotting Guide. He writes: “The yarns are not anchored well or secured to one another, and allow distortion, snags, pulls, and broken and unraveled yarns during wear and care.”

Chenille is definitely a “novelty”- type yarn, Oehlke further discusses. It has soft, fuzzy yarns on the surface, like a caterpillar.

He notes that, “probably the first time many of us heard the word chenille, it was in reference to a chenille bedspread or other household item years ago. Today, chenille is used in apparel — usually sweaters, two-piece suits, dresses and home furnishings. And it’s usually a knit construction, open or loose, that often warrants concern.”

It should be noted that some surface ends of chenille are cut and then brushed or napped to give a unique, soft, luxurious appearance — as well as limited serviceability.

He writes that the fabricare specialist, “must know the peculiarities of chenille, learn how to identify it, check for possible damage from wear and know how to care for it in their operations.”

In the Spotting Guide, it says when dry cleaning chenille, to run on a delicate or fragile cycle for two to three minutes, using a net bag for cleaning and deodorizing.

If you decide you’d rather go out in your garden and clean “la chenille” individually, remember they squirm around and don’t like to be handled too much. Use a very tiny towel and please, PLEASE, take a video of your efforts and share it with us. We promise not to laugh in your presence. Oui!