A survival guide to sewing with rayon and viscose
With the aim of making your rayon experience as enjoyable as possible, we’ve put together all our tips and tricks for working with this fibre, from cutting it to taking care of the finished garment.
Before Cutting and Sewing
- Since rayon tends to shrink, it’s very important to wash the fabric before you start the cutting stage of your work. Wash separately in cold water by hand or using the delicate cycle. If the fabric is shaken too vigorously in the washing machine, it could become twisted and deformed, especially if it’s a long length.
- Ideally, you should lay it out flat to dry, but generally speaking, it’s recommended that you treat fabric at this stage in the same way as a finished garment, so you can put it in the dryer at low temperature the first time to make sure it shrinks completely.
- Important: rayon becomes slightly more fragile when it’s wet, so it’s important you don’t twist it too much during washing.
- If you’re unsure, you can test how the fabric will react by washing and drying a sample before you do the full length. This way, you can adjust the cycle based on the condition of the resulting sample.
- Since rayon frays a lot, it’s preferable to finish the edges of the fabric before putting it in the washing machine. You can use a zigzag stitch on your sewing machine or your serger.
- While rayon’s suppleness gives it an aesthetic appeal that’s highly appreciated, it can also cause you a lot of headaches, since the fabric moves a great deal. To make your job easier during cutting, you can use tailor’s scissors for extensible or light fabrics, such as the Kai 7250 SE. One of the blades is micro-serrated and will grip the fabric during the cutting motion. A rotary cutter could also be a useful tool since it lets you cut the fabric without needing to move it up and down like scissors.
- You could also use starch to stiffen the rayon before cutting it. After spraying the product, it’s important to iron it with an up-and-down motion rather than sliding the iron across the fabric, to avoid twisting the threads or forming creases.
- For more precise cutting, we recommend you pin your pattern pieces to both layers of fabric, rather than using weights. This will reduce deviation between the layers and help them retain the shape of the pattern pieces.
- If you have a design with a pattern and want to ensure it’s aligned (for example, to make sure stripes are aligned on both sides of a sweater’s front), you should consider cutting your pattern pieces using one layer of fabric rather than two. This will give you control over the side that would have been on the bottom and was at risk of slipping despite your pins and your best efforts.
- Use new needles only. A worn needle could cause permanent snags in the fabric. To further reduce the risk of damage to your rayon fabric, use thin needles and pins. You could use a 70/10 universal or Microtex needle and silk pins. Try out your needle on a scrap of fabric before starting your garment, then adjust the size and type based on the results.
- Don’t be shy about using pins! You might even want to use more than usual to hold the fabric firmly in place and prevent it from shifting during sewing.
- Despite your best efforts during cutting, it’s possible that the length of the two pieces to be stitched together may differ slightly. Pin your work with the smaller piece on top and the longer piece below. During sewing, your machine’s feed dogs will tuck the fabric and help even it up on both sides. You could also make a tacking stitch on the longer piece and tuck it very slightly so that it’s equal to the other piece.
- You can sew long seams, like those on the sides of a skirt or dress, using a narrow zigzag stitch (with a width of around 0.5 mm and a length of around 2.5 mm). This will allow the seam to slacken and move with the fabric, particularly if it was stretched before sewing.
- Before making hems, leave the garment on a hanger for at least 24 hours. Since rayon has a tendency to stretch, this will allow it to loosen and take on its final shape. It’s possible that one side of your work could become longer than the other; you can fix this before making the hem.
- We can’t say it often enough: before you start ironing your garment, do a trial run first using waste fabric! This is a very important step in ironing because rayon is highly sensitive to heat. An excess temperature could melt threads and leave shiny marks on the fabric.
- We recommend ironing with medium heat. It’s preferable to not use steam, since this could weaken the fabric. You can protect your work from direct contact with the iron by using a pressing cloth.
- After ironing, some types of rayon should be allowed to cool before moving them. Otherwise, there’s a risk that the fabric could stretch and form creases that will never go away.
- Rayon is a fibre that’s somewhat trickier than cotton and requires more attention, although it’s not necessarily more difficult to take care of it. As during the initial wash of your completed work, it’s preferable that you don’t twist the finished garment so it won’t become deformed. You should also avoid rubbing it against other fabrics or itself, which will cause wear.
- Wash your rayon garment in cold water by hand or using a delicate cycle. You can use a mesh bag to minimize friction and twisting in the washing machine. You could also opt for dry cleaning.
- Do not tumble dry the garment; lay it out flat to air dry instead.
- If your rayon garment is crumpled, whether after washing it or wearing it all day, we suggest using Flatter to help you with ironing. This starch-free spray helps to flatten out creases and leave the fabric completely smooth
Click here to check out our selection of rayon and viscose products.
Hopefully, you’re now feeling thoroughly inspired and ready for the fun challenge of sewing with rayon! Click here to check out our selection of rayon and viscose products.
Don’t forget to share your ideas and creations on our social media platforms using the hashtag #thefabricclub
*Please note that the availability of the products presented may differ from one store to another.