A Fabric Guide To: Viscose

Viscose, also commonly known as Rayon or Rayon Viscose, is one of the most commonly used fibres in the world!

You’ll find it in your local high street stores sewn up into flowy summer dresses and blouses. 

It can even be used to make household items like bedding and carpets! 

In this guide, we won’t be advising how to run up a new rug (we’re not quite clued up on upholstery!) but we’ll be giving you tips on how to use this popular tree pulp-based rayon material, which is known for its silk-like properties! 

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What is Viscose Material?

It’s commonly used in the industry as a more ‘sustainable’ alternative to Cotton or Polyester and a cheaper, more durable alternative to silk fabrics. 

Originally it was developed as a textile fibre in the 1800s to emulate all of the properties and look of silk as viscose production cost significantly less. 

However, the end product contained toxic chemicals causing it to be flammable so it wasn’t safe to be sold. It wasn’t until the 1900’s that it became commercially available. 

How is Viscose manufactured?

Viscose rayon fabric is made from the cellulose (wood pulp) of trees and plants that are quick to grow and regenerate after use! Some trees and plants used in the production include; beech, pine, eucalyptus, bamboo, soy and sugar cane. 

Because of its many sources, viscose blend fibres often have different ‘brand’ names depending on the pulp’s origin. 

Once extracted, the cellulose is dissolved in a chemical mix (usually sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide) which makes a pulpy cellulose solution. 

The solution is then the right consistency to be spun into regular rayon fibres that are made into threads.

They can then be used to make a textile as a filament fibre, or the filament may be chopped into short lengths and spun with other fibres to create textiles with different desirable properties. 

For example, it can be made to look like silk, cotton, and even linen viscose fabric if blended with different fibres. 

We stock a variety of Viscose fabrics blended with Cotton, Linen, and even stretch fibres perfect for various dressmaking uses! All in a mix of beautiful coordinating prints. We also stock viscose rayon fabric by the yard!

Preparing and Cutting Viscose

One of the most commonly asked questions… is Viscose fabric stretchy?

It actually not stretchy… however, it’s very slippery to handle!

Firstly as with most other materials, it’s recommended to pre-wash cotton Viscose fabric. 

It has a tendency to shrink considerably when washed for the first time, so follow the manufacturer’s washing instructions prior to cutting and constructing your garment. This will help avoid shrinkage after you’ve spent time lovingly sewing your project! 

Make sure you hang it to dry after and avoid wringing it out as this will cause it to lose its shape even more.

It’s most easily cut using a rotary cutter and self-healing mat as it can be fairly slippery and stretchy to work with! However, a nice sharp pair of fabric shears are fine when dealing with this material… if you are patient.

For the most accurate cutting, tape some tissue to your cutting surface and pin your Viscose, double thickness on top, followed by your pattern pinned through both. 

Cut all of the layers including the tissue. For a full tutorial on this method, check out our blog post here.

If your seams do move around when cutting and no longer match up accurately, make sure that you pin the ‘shorter’ side on top when sewing. This allows your machine to ease in the longer side on the bottom.

If you need to press a viscose dress, for example, do it on the reverse ideally with a pressing cloth, but check your manufacturer’s instructions prior to pressing. If in doubt check a sample with a cool iron and a pressing cloth, you don’t want to ruin your iron and fabric. 

However, overpressing causes a shine on the fabric, so if your fabric goes shiny rub the shiny surface with self-fabric and it should go matte again. If it doesn’t, then the iron was too hot and your Viscose dress fabric has melted.


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Sewing and Handling Tips

Handling TipS:

  • Needle – Viscose fabric can be incredibly slippery and depending on the composition, different machine needles work best. As a general rule, a Universal machine needle would be fine, especially for woven Viscose fabrics. But for knit and stretch Viscose use a ballpoint needle as it slides between fibres rather than piercing them. Always ensure your needle is sharp and fresh as Viscose snags badly if the needle is dull.
  • Thread – A cotton all-purpose thread works best with Viscose as Polyester threads can cause shedding within the textile, this makes the seams rip or break easily.

Sewing Tips:

  • Adjust your stitch length based on the weight of the Viscose you are using – For lightweight Viscose 1.5-1.75mm, for mediumweight Viscose 2-2.5mm, for heavyweight Viscose 2.5-3mm and for very heavyweight Viscose use 3-4mm
  • When sewing long side seams, use a 0.5mm zig-zag stitch or lightening stitch, as this allows your seams to relax when the fabric moves and stretches, and prevents your seams from popping.
  • Testing (is it Viscose?) – Viscose burns rapidly with an afterglow. It creates a light, fluffy ash and smells of paper.

Seam Finishes

The best way to finish seams on Viscose is with a standard overlocking stitch. If you don’t have an overlocker, use a narrow zig-zag stitch along the seams or simply pink the seams using pinking shears

You could also finish with bias binding for a very neat finish.

Check out our seam finishes blog post here for some tips on finishing seams without an overlocker.

Edge Finishes

As with seams, any edges may be finished with bias binding, to create a neat, fully enclosed edge. 

You could also use ribbon or any trim, and bias binding comes in infinite prints and colours. Ideally, hand hem where possible for a clean finish, or use hem tape if sewing on a machine. Topstitch hems with a double needle to avoid puckering and stretching.

Project Ideas

  • Dresses 
  • Skirts and trousers
  • Lingerie and other underwear
  • Blouses and shirts
  • Thermals
  • Sleepwear
  • Linings
  • Curtains
  • Jackets
  • Sportswear

Now you’re equipped with some extra knowledge on Viscose fabric, why not get your mitts on some of this fabric and sew up a project?!

Have a look at our full range of eco-friendly viscose here.

We hope you enjoyed this fabric guide! 

Come back to it anytime you need some sewing tips when it comes to this slippery fabric!


Did you find this fabric guide helpful?

Let us know in the comments below and tag us @PlushAddict – we’d love to see if you give any of the project ideas a go!


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