I love rayon challis. It's softness and the way it drapes. It always feels cool against my skin.
I hate picking favorites, but rayon challis might just be my #1 dressmaking fabric (shh...don't tell the others 🤫).
Here are my pro tips for working with 100% rayon challis. I hope these help you sew some beautiful rayon garments.
If you've got some pro tips of your own, I'd love to know! Share your tips in the comments below.
Before working with any fabric, be sure to check the manufacturer's care instructions. And I always find it helpful to test every new fabric before working with it.
1. Pre-shrink Rayon
Rayon shrinks in the dryer, so if you plan to wash and dry your final garment with the rest of your laundry, consider shrinking your rayon before you start cutting your garment. To do this, I wash my rayon in the washing machine on cold and dry it in the dryer on high. After my garment is all sewn up, I continue to wash it on cold—but I switch the dryer to low. I keep it in the dryer until it's mostly dry, then I hang it to air-dry the rest of the way. Taking it out of the dryer early helps the fabric wrinkles fall out naturally.
2. Be Careful Working with Wet Rayon
Wet rayon is weak and can be prone to damage.
When pre-shrinking a cut of rayon, I wash it alone in a washing machine without an agitator. I dry it alone in the dryer too. When washing my final rayon garment (or your yardage if your washing machine has an agitator), I always throw the item into a mesh bag for both washing and drying. The mesh bag keeps your garment safe from rubbing against other items or getting caught on another garment.
I almost always use a steam iron when sewing with rayon. After steaming a seam, you can use a clapper to absorb extra moisture from your fabric. I also like to let the just-pressed fabric cool before moving it. This helps prevent the rayon from stretching out as I handle it during the sewing process.
And don't forget to use a press cloth to protect your fabric from the iron.
3. Finish the Raw Edges of Rayon Challis
Rayon is both a strong and delicate fabric. Because of its hardiness, sometimes sewists skip finishing the raw edges of their seams. After washing and wearing a rayon garment with unfinished seams, those raw edges will start to unravel and your seams will come undone. If you don't have a serger at home, consider using a French seam finish, a bound seam finish, or a turned-and-stitched seam finish on raw edges. While pinking the raw edges of a crisp cotton might withstand wash and wear, pinked seams will not stop rayon from unraveling.
4. Use Lightweight Fusible Interfacing with Rayon Challis
Using interfacing correctly will elevate any garment you sew. Use fusible interfacing on key areas of your rayon project like collars, cuffs, facings, hems, and plackets—but don't use just any fusible interfacing.
Find a woven fusible interfacing that matches the weight and drape of your rayon challis. You want to add a little crispness and structure to those areas of your garment, but you don't want to lose the beautiful drape of the rayon. Not sure what kind of fusible is best? I sourced our Lightweight Woven Fashion Fusible Interfacing to complement our exclusive line of rayon challis, and I know it will work well with any rayon challis you have at home. I hope you'll give it a try!