Here we go! I want to explain a little about the actual fiber make up of this beautiful fabric and its history before I go on to gush about its lovely features, look and feel. While today's post will answer only some of the really good questions that are in yesterday's comments, as the series continues this week I promise that all your questions will get answered. I'm just trying to keep the posts on topic and organized for easy reference later! Check.
As one smart commenter already responded yesterday, Rayon is both natural and man-made, in other words it is what is considered to be semi-synthetic. It's made from a naturally occurring regenerated cellulose fiber often taken from wood pulp or lignin. As with any creation that mankind tinkers with, the methods by which it has been produced have changed very much since the very first attempt in the mid 1800's when the original intent was to imitate silk. One of those methods resulted in the material be called Viscose Rayon because of its process. While Viscose is considered Rayon, it's characteristics and content require a dry-clean only care whereas the particular Rayon that we are printing on (which is a HWM Rayon (high-wet-modulus, meaning it performs better while wet)) can actually be washed and dried. (I'll discuss care more specifically tomorrow.) This high-tenacity method has only been used since the 1940's and has lessened environmental impacts and also lent the fiber to being capable of mercerization (think jersey knit) where it is more often called "Modal".
Rayon overall has the ability to imitate so many materials such as cotton, linen, silk and wool. We use the term Challis with Rayon because it refers to the soft characteristic of the material, and it's barely brushed surface texture. Rayon by nature has a sheen to it, but this particular weave, is not highly glossy, but has an incredibly soft, touchable, non-slick surface.
Let's talk about the weight and therefore drape of these luscious fabrics. Ever since my clothing line days I have always thought of Rayon Challis as the go-to material for making dresses, skirts and blouses. If we were to compare the fluidity of Rayon to my Voiles, since most of us have become familiar with those, Rayon out-wiggles the Voile by far. Rayon moves like water where Voile moves like air. Rayon is swishier where Voile is floatier. Most of that has to do with the fact that the Rayon is a heavier fabric, so the weight forces a drop and drape to happen. For this reason, Rayon is what I consider a perfect "bottom-weight" material- such as perfect for dresses, skirts, wide legged trousers, etc. Voile on the other hand only really suits a few categories of skirt and dress shapes, but of course several blouse shapes, etc.
Notice the Evening Empire Dress that I made above. Those of you that are familiar with that pattern know that there is a lot of fabric gathered into the empire waistline, however you can see what a drop there is straight to the ground on the model. The material doesn't even think about standing out at all (as the voile does a bit on the pattern's cover). Same goes for ruching, pleating, elastic channels, etc. that you might be able to see in the 2nd photo from the top.
You can also see how naturally the material drapes the body as evidenced by the infinity scarf relaxing across Anna Michelle's back. I made this infinity scarf with three different sections of material all joined by some crochet details in between. I'll show you a closer look of that scarf soon! But that reminds me to mention that I really consider this material to be very multi-seasonal. It is not so lightweight that it wouldn't be suitable as a blouse or dress year round and it really does not retain much heat so that is is very comfortable in warmer seasons. It is not sheer like the Voile is, you really have to hold it up directly to the light to see anything through it. If you were to line it, I would really just go with that standard garment lining material, that is sorta slick and swishy and usually synthetic and machine washable.
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I can't wait for you to try these! I think you'll love them. The above is a slideshow of all ten fabrics in the collection. The only scale change that happened in the prints is that the Specimen (raah01) print got smaller by 50% compared to the quilting cotton print.
I hope you enjoyed today's lesson! If this brings up any more questions, just ask away. Tomorrow I will share my washing and drying and pressing experiments with you and we'll start talking about working them into your sewing!