Origami Curve Tunic Black color

Viscose and elastane fabric

Fabric Focus - ViscoseViscose (or rayon to my US readers) – source of many a heated debate. Some Sewists hate it. I remember back in the Eighties and early Nineties, any clothes shopping involved careful inspection of labels. If any item was made of viscose, it went back on the rack. Believe me, there were many, many clothes made out of this stuff. I can see why – it barely creases, heaven for stocking a shop. But boy, back then did it shrink. So many clothes became ruined in their first wash, so I learnt to give viscose a wide berth.

Fortunately for us all, standards seem to have improved – a lot. Though I would still strongly advise pre-washing viscose before a make, as I’d advise pre-washing any fabric!

Viscose is made from wood – did you know that? I didn’t! For a mind-bending explanation of the chemical process, you can go here. (There’s a nice little Burda item on viscose here, too.) It was invented to be an ‘artificial silk’. Hmmm, I wouldn’t go that far! But I think the days when ‘viscose’ roughly translated as ‘cheap and nasty’ are behind us. Some readers might disagree.

Viscose is often used in blends. On the bottom left of my photo we have a linen/viscose blend – perfect for anyone who hates creases. On the bottom right, there’s a viscose/jersey blend. I confess I don’t know what the benefits of combining viscose and jersey are. Can anyone help?

What are the viscose pros? It is readily available and often at a very reasonable price. It has really fantastic drape, which makes it perfect for the Mathilde blouse. My red version is made from a printed viscose.

The cons? That drape. It can be challenging for beginners to cut out and sew with. Pins slip out the moment you so much as look at the fabric. If you’re using interfacing, it will need to be really lightweight. An item that needs structure won’t work with viscose, or will need underlining.

When I first taught my Pyjama Party class I had four students. Two worked with cotton; two purchased viscose. The students who brought viscose to the class really struggled because good drape equals excellent slipperiness. Since then, I pretty much insist that beginner students work with cotton.

So, be warned. You’ll have great finished items with viscose, but the sewing experience is going to be slightly more challenging.

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