The 3 C's of Buying Vintage Chenille

Chances are, if you’re new to buying vintage chenille, you have some questions. We find that most questions fall into what we call the 3 C’s: Condition, Color, and Care.

Condition

Key takeaway: Nothing vintage or antique is ever “perfect.”

Condition of Chenille & Vintage Fabrics:

Chenille – and anything vintage/antique – is practically guaranteed to have at least some blemishes or other “imperfections” that speak to the authenticity of its age and previous life. We often say that you can look at a piece of chenille and completely miss something; then in a different lighting atmosphere, you’ll spot a flaw and say “How could I have missed that?!”

This isn’t to discourage you – but we do want to avoid your disappointment. We personally love chenille – “imperfections” and all – but for some people, it’s not the best choice. This is especially true if you’re looking for something new, like new, or factory perfect – that almost never happens with anything vintage.

What type of blemishes might you expect when purchasing a vintage textile, like a chenille bedspread or fabric piece? Some common ones include:

  • Color variations
  • Inconsistently sized puffs or tufting
  • Small areas of missing or skipped tufts
  • Age speckling or other discolorations
  • Pinholes, tears/rips or general wear to fabric
  • Old repairs, or areas in need of repair
  • Fraying or loose threads, often near upper hemlines

Additionally, you may notice odors such as from having been in storage, from perfume or smoke, or from scented detergents, dryer sheets or fabric softeners. If you suffer from sensitivities of any kind, we do not recommend purchasing vintage chenille. Not to mention, some chenille is very prone to shedding and as it sheds, it releases dust particles into the air which can be an irritant to those with allergies.

Again, this isn’t meant to discourage you, but to help you make the most informed decision before you purchase.

Color

Key takeaway: Color perception is a very individual experience that be influenced by many factors.

Vintage Chenille Fabric Color:

The interpretation of color is a deeply personal experience. What one person sees as “green,” another might perceive as “blue.” In addition, there are many other factors that affect color perception, including:

  • Ambient lighting – color can look drastically different from one room to another, or even in one part of a room versus another area.
  • Mother Nature – time of day, different seasons, or weather circumstances play a major role in the color you perceive.
  • Monitors & phone screens – what may appear as a bold bubblegum pink on your screen might really be more of a berry plum in person, or look quite different when compared on two monitors.
  • Fabric texture – with some chenille, even the way the fabric tufts are “brushed” will cause the color to appear differently – both in photos and in person.

Last but not least, even camera settings may alter the true color. For example, we’ve experimented by cutting identical pieces of fabric from a single vintage spread, then using two different cameras – the results are always astounding to see how different the colors appear. In some instances, if you didn’t know any better, you would think it’s not even the same fabric.

Care

Key takeaway: Using appropriate products, most chenille is easy to care for and maintain. 

How to Care for Vintage Chenille Bedspreads & More:

In general, caring for vintage chenille is easy. Consider that this beloved textile has lasted for generations – from the hot and humid South to the dry heat of the American Southwest, stored in dark closets, tucked lovingly in a chest or tossed carelessly in an attic – chenille has stood the test of time.

That said, here are a few helpful tips:

1. We don’t recommend the older, agitator style washing machines as any fabric, delicate or otherwise, can easily get caught in the lower part of agitator and sustain damage.

2. Wash any reds, vivid pinks, or deep blues SEPARATE in COLD water to preserve color depth and prevent excessive color shedding. Most of these vintage colors will bleed somewhat. Try using Shout Color Catchers.

3. Always use a high quality, gentle detergent. Baby detergent can be a good choice. We use Mrs. Meyer’s Baby Blossom to wash a lot of our textiles. Some detergents as well as the brightening powders can be excessively harsh and strip color.

Explore the resources below to learn more tips and tricks: