Our “tour” of spring fabrics continues with a look at rayon (or viscose) wovens, another outstanding category and must-have for the warmer months. Like linen, this group of fabrics is also primarily referred to by its content rather than a specific characteristic. The fabrics included are typically lighter weight and very fluid in nature, making them stellar choices for blouses, dresses, and skirts. And while some find sewing with rayons a bit of a challenge, the results are well worth time and effort!
Rayon wovens are often considered a natural fiber since they are formed using renewable plant materials and are biodegradable, like linen or cotton. But since they are manufactured using various chemical processes in a factory, they are actually an artificial or man-made fiber. You will often see various “brand” names for different rayons—lyocell, Tencel, EcoVero, Modal, bamboo, etc—telling you the specific plant material used and/or the manufacturer that created it. This industry is constantly changing, with new growing practices and manufacturing procedures, in efforts to make it more sustainable and environmentally friendly than other natural fibers.
But why rayon? What makes it so unique? Initially created as “artificial silk”, rayon wovens are incredibly soft and have a lovely fluid movement, allowing them to drape beautifully. These fabrics are also inherently cool to the touch, very absorbent, and do not insulate the way others will. All of these characteristics make rayon a fantastic choice for warmer weather garments. Beautiful fabric that doesn’t hold heat—win, win!
One disadvantage of rayon wovens is that they tend to shrink more than other fibers. That shouldn’t deter you, but it is something to keep in mind. We recommend ordering a bit of extra fabric and planning on garments shortening a little bit in the first couple of washes.
As a light to medium weight woven fabric, rayons are suitable for any number of garments, but they truly shine when the design accentuates the fabric’s soft drape and movement thru layers, folds, or volume. Favorite spring garments or features include; twirl-worthy skirts and dresses, statement sleeves, and ruffles or tiers. But if a simple silhouette is more your style, a rayon will give your garment a bit more softness and movement when compared to a more structured shirting or other woven.
Often thought of as temperamental or difficult, rayon wovens are typically favorited by experienced sewists, but these amazing fabrics should not be avoided! To help elimnate some of the fear and give a bit of spring sewing inspiration, Lori (@girlsinthegarden.sews) and Kiera (butimadeit_) are joining us to share two looks created using rayons from our spring collection. They will also share some of their thoughts about sewing with rayon and a few tips to make the process a bit easier!
Details about Lori’s Outfit—Fabrics: Floral Patchwork Rayon Crepe and Mid Weight Bleached Denim, Patterns: True Bias’s Roscoe Blouse and Lander Pants (For her blouse, she lengthened the sleeves by 8 in (rather than her normal 1 in) to add shirring at the wrist and a bit of flounce at the end. Learn more in Lori’s blog post HERE.)
An avid fan of rayons, Lori shared, “I love the drape and feel of a rayon fabric. [It] is perfect for spring and summer.” She also notes it is “so cool and easy to wear,” ideal for her busy schedule and mid-western climate. We love her more feminine-style blouse paired with classic jeans for an easy put-together look—exactly what she needs for balancing life on her flower farm and chasing after the grandkids!
While the Roscoe Blouse is one of Lori’s tried-n-true patterns (she’s made 6+ versions!), one of her other favorites to feature rayon wovens is the Allie Olson Coram Top. It is a simple woven tee that shows the fabric off beautifully. Lori mentioned, “I have used cotton with this pattern, but the drape of a rayon is perfect.”
Details about Kiera’s Outfit—Fabric: Brushstroke Floral Rayon Crepe, Pattern: Chalk & Notch’s Marcel Dress (Kiera sewed up a size 8 here, but will likely size down to a size 6 and do a broad back adjustment for another version.)
Like Lori, Kiera finds the unique characteristics of rayon a must-have. She commented, “I really love wearing rayons because they are typically so light and breathable. Living in Texas where it is hot 80% of the time, light and breathable is what I want to live in!” She also shared that sewing with rayons gives her the added bonus of a sense of accomplishment. She says, “I enjoy sewing with rayons because I think they present a little bit more of a challenge than other fabrics, such as cottons or other stable wovens.”
When selecting a pattern, Kiera mentioned, ” I love to sew anything flowy with rayons…Give me a flowy top, a dress with some body, culottes, [or] skirts.” Some of her favorite patterns include True Bias’s Ogden Cami (hacked into a dress), Named’s Ninni Culottes, and Fibr & Cloth’s Photinia Top.
Rayon wovens tend to be rather shifty and can move around on you while cutting and sewing. Here are a few of Lori and Kiera’s favorite tips to help alleviate some of the issues!
First, to keep pieces from stretching out or from moving as you cut, always make sure ALL of your fabric is on the same flat surface—no yardage hanging off the end of the table or pieces dangling over the side. Kiera recommends using extra pattern weights or pins to further secure the fabric and pattern pieces in place.
Next, if you continue to have trouble cutting or working with rayon, try using a bit of spray starch to help stabilize the fabric. Lori mentions this is especially helpful when working with small pieces, like the binding and thin ties on her Roscoe, and the starch disappears during your garment’s first trip in the wash.
Lori also suggests always changing your sewing machine needle before beginning a new rayon project. You can often get away with a small universal needle (80/12), but you may find you want a micro-tex or sharp needle in a smaller size if your fabric is very tightly woven or lighter weight.
Hopefully, these tips will help you tackle an issue you have had when working with rayon in the past and set you up for success on future projects!
As you explore the different rayon fabrics available, you’ll find they come in an endless array of colors and prints. You may also discover some variation in the texture and/or weave—flat, crepe, or twill—but the overall look and feel will be very similar. The most common rayon wovens are rayon challis, which has a flat surface, and rayon crepe, which is slightly textured. We recommend trying a few different types or ordering a couple of swatches to see what look and feel you like best. Each fabric is a little bit different, but this will help guide your selection process in the future.
For our spring season, rayon crepe florals definitely reign supreme! With so many different styles and colors to choose from, there something to suit any handmade wardrobe available now in the shop. Not sure what to make? Try one of the indie patterns suggested in this post, or check out all of our woven patterns HERE. Find your own perfect match to enjoy this spring and summer!
See you later this week for our post on layering knits—the perfect compliment to rayon wovens! You never know when you might need a cardigan for a chilly summer night!