Velvet vs Chenille — What's the Difference?

Item # X-HT-300420

Whether you’re planning to upholster your couch, favorite chair or maybe a headboard, you’ll want a fabric that’s soft and supple. Lucky for you, Sailrite® has an incredible selection of quality upholstery fabrics that are perfectly suited for the job. Two of these are chenille and velvet fabrics — but what’s the difference? We’ll explain the ins and outs of chenille and velvet so you can better tell them apart and make the best choice for your next project.

Velvet fabrics (left) and chenille fabrics (right).

What is Chenille?

Chenille is a raised, soft, feathery fabric. It was thought to have originated in France during the 18th century — in fact, chenille is French for the word “caterpillar.” During this time it was created using the leno method where two warp threads are twisted around a weft thread, then the material is cut into strips. Chenille can be made from cotton, rayon, silk, viscose or a blend of various materials, both natural and synthetic. It can oftentimes feel silky and appear more dimensional when compared to velvet.

Today, chenille is crafted by taking short lengths of yarn between two core yarns, twisting them together and then cutting them to achieve a pile effect. These yarn edges stand at right angles to the yarn core, resulting in a super soft, sleek fabric. To prevent patches of the pile from coming apart, low-melt nylon is added to the yarn core. Afterward, the yarn is steamed to make sure the pile stays put and only after that can the yarn be woven into chenille. One unique aspect of chenille is that the fibers have a somewhat iridescent effect in the right light thanks to the angle at which they’re cut. 

Richloom Velvets

Common Chenille Uses:

  • Sweaters and clothing items

  • Shawls and blankets

  • Upholstery and accents

  • Pillows and home décor

Advantages of Chenille:

  • Soft, thick and durable

  • Abrasion resistant

  • Retains heat for added warmth

Disadvantages of Chenille:

  • Can be prone to stretching, shrinking or distortion.

  • Unless properly treated, some chenille can be delicate and absorb water/stains quickly.

What Is Velvet?

A soft, dense fabric, velvet is often made from silk, cotton, polyester or viscose. According to our in-depth blog, “A Guide to Velvet Fabric” (300208XHT), “Velvet is woven as a double cloth on a special loom and the pile yarns are made from an extra set of warp yarns. The cut ends of the pile form tufts on the surface, which give a plush texture when evenly sheared.” This is one of the major discrepancies between velvet and chenille. Velvet often appears much denser and smooth compared to chenille, which can possess a slightly ropey appearance. For even more information on velvet’s unique characteristics, we recommend you check out the blog mentioned above.

Observe the difference in fibers between the velvet (right) and chenille (left).

Common Velvet Uses:

  • Pillows and accents

  • Furniture

  • Headboards

  • Curtains

  • Certain clothing items

Advantages of Velvet:

  • Soft, textured feel

  • Silk velvets drape nicely

  • Cotton and synthetic velvets are the most durable

Disadvantages of Velvet:

  • Silk velvets can be delicate

  • Not always easy to clean. Important to check care instructions before selecting one for your home.


Our Sailrite Selection

Chenille is widely known for its versatility and durability, and the chenille fabrics we offer at Sailrite are no different. If you browse brands such as P/Kaufmann and Crypton®, you’ll stumble upon several stunning chenille fabrics. If you’re searching for a dependable, worry-free fabric for interior upholstery, we recommend Crypton Home Fabrics. Several of their lines are chenille, and all are intelligently designed to better resist everyday messes and offer superior durability. Because of its thick pile, standard chenille absorbs water quickly but not Crypton chenille fabrics — most water- and oil-based stains simply wipe away!

In terms of velvet, you’ll be happy to know that we offer several brands such as P/Kaufmann, P/K Lifestyles®, Richloom, Hamilton, Waverly®, Covington and more! And to make the fabric selection process even easier for you, you’ll notice that you have the ability to sort by both velvet and chenille in the “Fabric Design” section on the left side of our website when you’re searching for fabric. That way you’ll have no doubt what you’re looking at when you make your next fabric purchase.

Do you prefer velvet or chenille? Let us know in the comments below!