As a dressmaking material everyone loves, rayon is quite popular in fashion. We all have a top or dress in rayon which is very drapey, soft, and nice to look at. But do you know what rayon is and How it differs from all the other textiles you get in a textile showroom? Read on to find out more.
In this article I will cover:
- What is Rayon – a definition
- Rayon as a man made fabric
- Different types of Rayon
- What is Rayon made of? How is rayon made?
- History of Rayon
- What are the qualities of Rayon fabric as a clothing material?
- Why is Rayon also called Articial silk?
- Name the first commercial version of Rayon fiber
- How is Rayon better than Cotton?
- Is rayon a natural fiber or a synthetic fiber?
- Does Rayon stretch?
- How to identify Rayon fabric?
- Is Rayon hypoallergenic?
- Which countries produce rayon?
What is Rayon – a definition
Rayon is a soft fabric made from regenerated cellulose fibers of wood or cotton. Other names of this fabric are Viscose, Art Silk, Tencel, Cupro, and Modal. Rayon is the generic name for these fabrics.
Rayon as a man made fabric
You get a little confused at classifying rayon because it is neither a fully natural fabric like cotton nor a fully synthetic one like Nylon. It falls somewhere in between. You can call it a Man-made fabric.Another oft used moniker is “semi synthetic”
Rayon is one of the oldest manufactured fibers made from natural resources. By the 1920s, this fabric was fully acquired by Dupont company, and people fell in love with this silk-look-like versatile and inexpensive fabric.
Different types of Rayon
Rayon is available in knit as well as woven. Tencel, (Lyocell) Cupro, and Polynosic Rayon are different kinds of Rayon fabrics. Bamboo rayon, Rayon challis are very popular types of rayon fabrics used in dressmaking.
The different Viscose Fabrics available for dressmaking are Viscose Georgette, Viscose Chiffon, Viscose Crepe, Viscose Gauze, Viscose Habotai, Viscose – Bemberg, Viscose Linen blend, Viscose Velvet, Viscose satin, Viscose Mesh, Viscose Taffeta, Viscose Twill.
What is Rayon made of? How is rayon made?
Rayon fibers are made from regenerated cellulosic fibers. They are derived from cellulose extracted from wood pulp from bamboo, sugarcane, beech trees, pine trees, etc. Cellulose undergoes many chemical processes to become what you know as rayon.
Rayon is produced by dissolving cellulose fibers in a chemical solution and then extruding or spinning the solution into fibers. These fibers are then solidified, resulting in rayon.
There are three main methods of making rayon fabric – one is the initial method of the cuprammonium process. Then the one of making viscose rayon. And finally, the method of making acetate rayon.
You can read more on acetate fabric here.
Nowadays, many fashion designers prefer to make their signature clothes in rayon.
History of Rayon
Cupramonium Rayon fibers were used to make textiles commercially by the late 1800.
Hilaire de Chardonnet, played a significant role in the development and popularization of Rayon. The first practical commercial production of rayon fabric began in 1884, by him. He called his new fabric “Chardonnet silk” because it had a similar appearance and feel to silk. Chardonnet’s process for making rayon involved dissolving cellulose in a chemical solution and then spinning the solution into fibers.
In 1904, Charles Federick Cross developed a modern method to make very soft fabric with these fibers.
In 1920, a patent was given to Dupont Chemicals for a process of creating this manufactured fiber which was inexpensive but at the same time had a lustrous sheen. This type of fabric was named rayon, referring to the rays of the sun. From that time to now, the quality of rayon has improved by leaps and bounds, and the fabric is now almost deserving of its name which means ‘reflecting the sun’s rays’. It is said to be the first major commercial synthetic fiber.
What are the qualities of Rayon fabric as a clothing material?
First, let me start with the bad
- Rayon fades progressively.
- It shrinks progressively.
- The fibers are weaker than cotton or silk, especially when wet.
- It wrinkles fast.
- You cannot use very hot temperatures on it.
- It changes shape /dimension with abrasion and washings.
- Colour of the fabric may bleed or run.
- It is susceptible to mildew.
- You may need to dry clean it to maintain its original look. Washing with over-abrasion may even cause it to lose its softness and draping quality.
- It does not breathe as much as other natural fabrics, and you may sweat a lot in it.
- It is slightly inflammable ( more so than natural fibers).
- It does not have natural elasticity and do not stretch to accommodate wearing ease.
- It develops rough textures after some use.
Look at the seams of a new rayon dress I bought. Agreed it is not top-quality rayon clothing – still, I bought it with love. I cannot imagine this one lasting many wash cycles. The seams are already fraying.
Do not be fazed by all these demerits. Ryon has its share of merits as well. There are top-quality varieties of rayon that do not have any faults and are dream fabrics for a sewist.
- Viscose Rayon is soft, absorbent and non-static
- It is lustrous and has a beautiful sheen, and looks vibrant.
- You can dye it very easily.
- You can bleach it as well (with care) or provide a number of finishes.
- It is a relatively inexpensive fabric.
- It drapes beautifully and is one of the most preferred wedding dress materials
- It is heavier than silk.
- It blends well with other fibers.When Rayon is blended with other fibers like polyester, wool, linen, Georgette it takes on many of the qualities of those fibers.
- Rayon can be made stretchy by blending it with Lycra, and this blend is lightweight.
- It is breathable.
- Some rayon can be as fine as any fabric and see-through.
So many things to love. Some of my most loved dresses and night dresses are made of Rayon. They are very soft to touch and comfortable to wear.
Buy good quality Rayon without compromising on cost and you will not regret buying Rayon (Viscose as it is called in some places) – the beautiful dresses you can make with it will make it worth the price.
Related posts : Different types of fabrics – names
Why is Rayon also called Articial silk?
The fact that Rayon is called Artificial Silk (faux silk for some) tells you a lot about the feel of Rayon. It is a fabric made with a semi-synthetic fiber made from cellulose that is very similar to silk – its drape, softness all similar to silk. After all, it was manufactured during the 1880s, as a cheap alternative to silk.
Name the first commercial version of Rayon fiber
Nitro rayon or Chardonnet rayon. This is also the first man-made fibre; it was made from cotton waste.
How is Rayon better than Cotton?
Rayon is a more drapey fabric than cotton. Most varieties of cotton are thicker than rayon fabric and may not drape nicely on the body as rayon does. Rayon also has a fine lustre which may not be there in a lot of cotton fabrics. But there are more disavantages to rayon when compared to a natural fabric like cotton than advantages. Rayon is not as sturdy or durable as cotton, nor is it as skin friendly. After all it is a man made fabric.
Is rayon a natural fiber or a synthetic fiber?
Though plant fibers are involved in its production, Rayon is not considered a natural fiber; But neither is it considered a synthetic fiber. It is called a semi-synthetic fiber because it is made from natural materials, but it has been chemically processed to create a new fabric with different properties. Rayon is also sometimes called a “man-made” fiber because it is not found naturally in the environment.
Does Rayon stretch?
Rayon as such does not have much stretch, but it can stretch depending on whether or not the fabric has been blended with other materials like spandex or knitted.
How to identify Rayon fabric?
Usually garments made of Rayon will have the care label stating “Made of Rayon” or “Made of Viscose”. You can identify rayon by the feel and drape of the fabric – it has a slightly loose weave with thin fibers and very soft feel. If you burn a small piece of the fabric, it will burn like paper, and will have the smell of paper burning.
Is Rayon hypoallergenic?
Rayon is generally unlikely to cause allergic reactions, so it can be considered hypoallergenic. Rayon fabric is soft, breathable and moisture-wicking so it is comfortable to wear.
Which countries produce rayon?
Rayon fabric is produced all over the world, but some of the largest producers were China, India, and Indonesia. Other countries that also produce rayon are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Turkey, Brazil, United States.