Vintage Chenille Fabric: 7 Creative Ways to Upcycle This Texturized Textile

Vintage chenille fabric.

Have you ever tried sewing with it?

If you have, you know it can be maddeningly messy (think: little fluffs & tufts EVERYWHERE) and sometimes not the easiest to sew with (indeed there are a small handful of old chenille fabrics that my Pfaff refuses to look at).

But it’s oh so worth it. Really!

Truth be told, you’ll need a good vacuum and a lint roller too.

But once you start designing with the endless textures and fun colors, you’ll want to incorporate vintage chenille into more of your fabulous creations.

To be clear, the chenille fabric we’re talking about here is cut from original chenille bedspreads – so it’s not upholstery fabric or the new “chenille” that you’ll find for sale at craft supply & fabric stores.

Here are 7 creative ways to upcycle vintage chenille:

1 – Handmade chenille quilts. One of the most popular ways to upcycle vintage chenille? You guessed it: little quilt squares come together to create a cozy patchwork array of beautiful textures and colors. You can cut quilt squares with a simple rotary cutter (just make sure you’re using a quality cutter that can motor through the tufting).

Search just about any online marketplace like Etsy, and you’ll see the many talented designers who incorporate this beloved tufted textile into their quilt designs.

For a classic farmhouse chic look, think about an all-white or antique cream design. Or, infuse some old-fashioned nostalgia with 1940s mauve, minty seafoam, and cottage chic needletuft florals from Cabin Crafts.

2 – Precious stuffed animals. These are SO much fun, and a great project for a beginner to start with. Grab a cute vintage pattern from Etsy or eBay and away you go! Chenille teddy bears have long been popular, but you can make just about any stuffed toy you can think of – make it memorable with a handmade chenille cat, squirrel, bird, or even a fish. 🐟

This one should come with a disclaimer though – once you make one stuffed animal out of chenille, you won’t be able to resist starting an entire family of cuddly tufted treasures.

3 – Cottage chic chenille pillows. Another tried-and-true favorite, handcrafted chenille pillows are an excellent way to bring just an essence of nostalgia into your space. And you’d be surprised…the design possibilities are pretty versatile.

If the whole shabby chic – cottage chic thing doesn’t resonate with you, no worries. Since chenille is available in an array of colors, think about working with burgundy, neutrals, or even (if you can find it) blacks and greys to make a more modern statement.

4 – Trendy totes & purses. This is a more off-the-beaten-path use of vintage chenille fabric. Typically many designers opt for the ultra-luxurious cut velvet chenille fabrics that are sourced from Bates or less commonly Brentwood Originals vintage bedspreads.

“Regular” non-velvet chenille can work great too – if you’re looking for super durable, our recommendation is always Fieldcrest. Cabin Crafts is also a smart choice since the groundcloth tends to be a nice, sturdy cotton.

5 – Anthro-inspired essential oil bags. We loved this very unique way to upcycle chenille so much, we wrote an entire article about it. Tracey of the wildly popular Etsy shop Baggageandco has some fantastic original designs, all made with vintage chenille fabric.

“If you’re looking for something different, functional and adorable….you found it!” reads her shop intro. Indeed, Tracey has done a pretty awesome job re-imagining this tufted textile.

6 – Snuggly pet beds. I lost count how many times one of our customers told us that they were purchasing chenille fabric to make a beloved dog or cat a nice, comfy bed. Interestingly, although acrylic blend chenille tufting tends not to be as popular or valuable as cotton chenille, we’ve repeatedly heard that many pets prefer the texture.

Why that is, I do not know, but I can also affirm that our own tuxedo kitty loves her soft bed that we made from an extra piece of eyepopping aquamarine chenille. It’s one of the boldest colors we’ve ever had and matches … nothing … in our entire house. But she loves it, and that’s all that counts, right?

7 – Cozy chenille robes. Last but not least…maybe our most favorite idea to upcycle a vintage chenille bedspread is to transform it into a living hug – a bathrobe! There’s an old saying that chenille feels like you’re wearing a hug, and we agree!

If you’re the type of creative who bores easily, chenille is a great textile to keep you inspired and motivated. We love cutting out several robes at once so we can work on a few designs simultaneously.

The best part is that you can create anything you can dream of – keep it chic & modern with a spa style robe featuring a luxurious shawl collar and wide facings – or glam it up with an original 1940s design cut from a true vintage pattern.

Vintage Chenille Fabric Has So Many Possibilities!

Really, all the ways you can upcycle old chenille bedspreads are endless. However, it is becoming much harder to source quality vintage chenille in good or better condition now.

Once a staple at yard sales, auction houses and yes, even “rag factories” in big cities, chenille has ever so slowly been vanishing from the market. It isn’t surprising, considering this once-popular textile had its heyday over a half century ago.

Some people believe in preserving the whole bedspread rather than cutting into fabric. As a collector myself, I understand that perspective very well.

In the end, only you can decide what’s best. Far from being a way to destroy a perfectly good chenille bedspread, I see sourcing fabric as a method to preserve it, actually. It’s a way to give it new life, to generate fresh interest, and to honor an iconic piece of American textile history that has largely faded into obscurity…