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Choosing Fabric: rayon challis

Choosing fabric for clothes can be an intimidating and confusing process.

This Choosing Fabric series aims to demystify the types of fabric you will likely come across in the shops, and make helpful suggestions on what to use for your intended project.

What is rayon challis?

Rayon challis is a soft, medium to lightweight woven fabric. Rayon is an interesting fibre, because unlike most man-made fibres, it is not synthetic. The fibres are spun from wood pulp.

Plain grey viscose

How does it feel?

Rayon challis drapes beautifully. It is soft to the touch, smooth on the surface and, although not glossy, has a slight sheen.

What is it good for?

Due to rayon's natural, fluid drape, it makes lovely dresses and tops. If you want your garment to have movement, rayon is a good way to go due to its softness.

Garments that look great in rayon challis include summer dresses, semi-fitted tops, blouses with long or short sleeves, kaftans, loose elasticated pants and gathered skirts.

Yellow viscose

What isn't it good for?

Rayon challis is a woven fabric, so it does not stretch. It won't work well for tight-fitting clothes. Anything that doesn't require an elastic, buttons or a zip closure to get into is definitely a no-go.

What is it like to work with?

Due to its more slippery nature, rayon is often more difficult to handle than cotton. Don't be afraid to go slow and use lots of pins to keep it in place.

Rayon challis tends to lose shape, especially when cut on the bias, so handle your fabric gently and stay-stitch where you can to keep the shape of your pattern pieces while you're working.

If you make a skirt or dress with rayon challis that is cut on the bias, you can expect the hemline to become misshapen. Don't fret! Let your garment hang for at least a day before levelling it off and hemming. The fibres will likely have stretched to their limit by this point, and your hem should stay level.

What if I can't find rayon challis?

Rayon challis is a common fabric, but may also be referred to as viscose rayon.

Polka dot rayon challis

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