Rayon is a soft, supple, manmade fabric. It has a silky appearance and was originally known as artificial silk when it was introduced in the 1890s. Today's rayon comes in a variety of weights, both in 100-percent rayon and in a variety of knit and woven blends. Lightweight rayon is particularly suitable for flowing dresses, skirts and blouses, while medium-weight rayon works well for non-structured pants and jackets.
The specific type of rayon you buy and how it was manufactured will determine how the fabric must be cared for. Check the care label on the fabric bolt when you purchase the rayon to determine whether you can wash it, or whether it must be dry-cleaned. Regardless of the cleaning method, rayon must be preshrunk. Almost all rayon will shrink, typically from 3 to 10 percent. Wash or dry-clean the yardage before cutting out your pattern pieces to ensure the garment remains the same size after its first cleaning.
To make clean, even lines when cutting, ensure your scissors are sharp. Because rayon can be slippery, dull scissors will make rayon hard to work with. To avoid creating snags in your rayon fabric, don’t use pins that are dull.
Use a universal sewing machine needle when sewing with rayon. The size of the needle depends on the weight of the fabric. For a lightweight, 100-percent rayon challis or a rayon/jersey knit blend, use a size 11 needle. If you are sewing a medium-weight rayon/linen blend for pants or jackets, a size 14 needle is appropriate. Replace your needle if it becomes dull.
A good-quality polyester thread works with rayon and all rayon blends.
Certain areas of a garment, such as the neck facing or buttonhole bands, need some stabilizing in order to lie properly and look good when the garment is being worn. If the rayon garment you are sewing calls for interfacing, use a featherweight, sew-in or iron-in interfacing.
Sometimes even featherweight interfacing is too heavy for lightweight rayon. This is particularly true in blouses that feature a buttonhole band down the front. When interfacing is applied, an obvious difference between interfaced and non-interfaced areas will be noticed in the way the garment hangs on your body. Instead of interfacing, opt for using just a second layer of rayon. Baste the two pieces of the garment together and treat it as one.
Deborah H. Schreiben is a freelance writer and an editor with more than 15 years experience in the field of journalism. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Almeda University. Her writing has appeared on various online sites and in Midwest newspapers.