Rayon Yarn – Guide To This Yarn Material & Best Uses

By Jodie Morgan

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Looking for a drapey, smooth yarn? Rayon fibers might be the perfect choice. I explore what rayon yarn is, and ways to use it for knitting.


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I reviewed, fact checked and updated this post on May 14, 2023.

Table Of Contents

What Is Rayon Yarn?

It’s a natural/synthetic (biosynthetic) fiber sold at moderate prices. This fiber is popular because it’s shiny, breathable, lightweight, and silky smooth. They have excellent drape and are great for shawls. It’s available in all colors of the rainbow. Here’s a video on what rayon is, by It’s Crochet O’Clock.

It’s an excellent resource about this yarn!

Where It Comes From

Rayon production involves creating an artificially manufactured fiber from cellulosic fibers from plants. The most common plants used are wood pulp or bamboo, though they also use cotton, flax (linen) or hemp. Unlike nylon yarn which is purely synthetic.

At the end of the 19th century, the price of silk rose astronomically, so people created an artificial silk, rayon.(1) It was created in 1885, but didn’t become used widely until the mid-1910s. The name rayon was developed by the Federal Trade Commission, and was used for fiber made from cellulose with the viscose method.

How It’s Made Into Yarn

It’s processed chemically, and some rayon factories use a production method where they dip the yarn in acid.

  • They break down the cellulose, using heat or chemicals
  • They make the broken down matter into sheets of alkali cellulose
  • Then they dry them
  • The sheets are dissolved and turned into sodium cellulose xanthate
  • They’re pushed through a series of machinery
  • Those fibers are spun into yarn

Types Of Rayon

Most normal rayon uses cotton lint (leftover scraps from cotton yarn or fabric production.) However, there are other types, which use a similar process, but often more sustainable and with different materials. It’s not usually a yarn found in self striping colorways.

  • Viscose Yarn – Regular viscose rayon uses wood pulp or wood chips. It’s derived from many wooden scraps, from sugarcane, to bamboo, to soy plants. It’s named after the viscose process used in treating the raw material(4)
  • High Wet Modulus Rayon – It’s a modified viscose rayon that’s stronger and doesn’t warp as much
  • Modal Yarn – Modal is a rayon made from beech trees regenerated cellulose, and is more sustainable than regular rayon production. The chemicals used are reused and never dumped
  • Lyocell – The brand name for this is Tencel, and it’s also derived from wood chips, but always from left over/recycled material. It’s more absorbent than cotton, and keeps its shape
  • Cuprammonium Rayon – It’s processed using copper and ammonia

How To Wash Rayon Fiber

Here are the care instructions for rayon fibers.

  • Some need dry cleaning
  • When they’re blended with acrylic, they’re good for machine washing and drying
  • Most need handwashing
  • Be careful when washing your hand knitting creations, as it may crease or agitate the fiber

Always check the yarn label for instructions specific to the yarn you’re using. Some don’t have colorfast dyes, so be careful when handwashing any type of rayon.

Does It Shrink When Washed?

Yes, it does when exposed to heat. If it can be machine washed or dry cleaned, always use a cold temperature. Avoid putting it in the dryer, try to hang it up or lay flat.

How To Soften Rayon

Here is a quick and easy method to soften it.

  • Fill a sink/bucket with lukewarm water
  • Add a little hair conditioner.
  • Submerge the knitted creation and saturate it
  • Rinse in cold water
  • Press out the excess water
  • Put the rayon on a clean dry towel
  • Stretch it gently back into shape
  • Leave it to dry

Washing it after you’ve finished knitting always helps!

Pin For Later

Rayon Fiber Pin

What Do You Use It For?

It’s often used for projects and things like shawls, blouses, dresses, tops, skirts, shirts, and pants. Keep in mind, this plant cellulose based yarn is sometimes slippery, so it can be tricky to knit with. Be careful when winding this yarn on a ball winder, go a little slower to ensure a neat ball. For more details on skein winders see my post here.

Rayon chenille yarn is fabulous for blankets and any cuddly textile. However it’s not great for hand knitters as it stretches. Though it’s fantastic for fine gauge machine knitters!

Common Blends Using This Fiber

Here is a list of common blends using this yarn, and why they’re created.

  • Acrylic/Rayon – The rayon adds drape and softness, while the acrylic keep its shape and is easy to care for
  • Cotton Fiber/Rayon – This blend gives the project more stability and reduce shrinkage
  • Linen/Rayon – This blend has a smoother drape and feel, and adds strength
  • Hemp/Rayon – The hemp adds strength and durability, while the rayon makes it softer
  • Mohair/Rayon – The mohair adds fuzziness and warmth, while the rayon makes it softer

Ribbon yarn is often made from rayon fiber. Boucle yarn has a bumpy texture because one of its plied strands is spun looser than the others. It often has rayon.

Where To Find It

Here’s where to find this yarn: at a yarn store or craft stores in your area, at big box stores like Michaels, Walmart and Joann, and online brand shops. Here are brands or manufacturers of rayon yarns to try: Lion Brand Truboo, Valley Yarns Goshen, Mirasol Nuna, and Berocco.

What’s The Price Like? The price varies depending on the brand, where you purchase it and the quality. Usually, it’s an affordable yarn.

Interesting Facts

Want to know some fascinating tidbits about this material? Impress your friends with these.

  • It’s the oldest manufactured fiber(3)
  • Cellophane is made with a similar process
  • It used to be processed with nitric acid, but this was an explosive method, so they changed it(2)
  • They used it in WW2 for heavy duty fabric

FAQS About Rayon Yarn

Is Rayon Safe For Babies?

Yes, it’s safe for babies, however I don’t recommend pure rayon for baby items as it stretches too much. An animal or natural fiber blend would be better.

Is Rayon Fiber Ethical & Eco-Friendly?

Biosynthetic fibers are more sustainable than pure synthetic ones, but less so than natural fibers. However, in some developing countries, the chemicals are disposed of illegally.

Always do your research and buy from ethical producers. Be aware of “greenwashing!” Some modern rayon produced, like modal and lyocell, is made in a way that’s more environmentally friendly.

What Can I Make With Leftover Rayon Fiber?

You can make all sorts of things like pompoms, tassels, bunting, hats, scrunchies, trims or edging.

Is Rayon Fiber Itchy?

Sometimes, it’s itchy because some people are sensitive to it, and others aren’t.

Is Rayon Fiber Good For Clothes?

Sometimes, it’s good for clothes because it drapes well, and it’s comfortable to wear. However it loses its shape easily and is hard to block, so don’t make clothes of pure rayon, always use a blend.

Is Rayon Fiber Good For Winter?

No, it’s not good for winter because it doesn’t insulate well, and is better for warmer weather garments.

Is Rayon Fiber Good For Summer?

Yes, it’s good for summer because it’s breathable, cool, smooth on the skin and lightweight. Rayon blends produce wonderful fabrics for summer!

Do Rayon Yarns Pill?

No, they don’t pill.

Can You Dye Rayon Yarns?

Yes, you can.

Is Rayon Yarn Stretchy?

Yes, it has a good amount of stretch to it.

How To Block Rayon Yarn

It’s best to use a spray bottle with water and mist your item, then shape it how you want and let it air dry.

Is Rayon Like Wool?

No, it’s not like wool because it doesn’t have the same properties. Wool is an animal fiber that’s warm and insulating. Rayon is a plant/synthetic fiber that’s cool, smooth and drapes well.

Is Rayon A Filament Yarn?

No, it’s not a filament fiber because it’s made of shorter fibers.

Is Rayon Elastic?

No, it’s not elastic, however some rayon yarns are blended with other elastic fibers like Lycra or spandex.

Is Rayon As Good As Cotton?

They’re both good fibers, but have different properties. Cotton is a natural fiber that’s durable and breathable. Rayon is a plant/synthetic fiber is smooth on the skin.

What’s Tencel Yarn Used For?

Tencel yarn is used for projects like summer garments, lightweight wraps and shawls, and home décor.

What’s The Difference Between Viscose And Rayon?

They’re a similar thing, made with different processes.


Happy crocheting or knitting! Hope you enjoyed this article. Do you have questions? Please leave them below!


  1. Mayhead, Jasmine. 2019. “What Is Rayon and How Does It Break Down?” Ethical Made Easy. August 16, 2019. https://ethicalmadeeasy.com/what-is-rayon-and-how-does-it-break-down/.
  2. Katherine. 2020. “5 Interesting Things about … Rayon.” Courtauld National Partners. April 9, 2020. https://sites.courtauld.ac.uk/nationalpartners/2020/04/09/5-interesting-things-about-rayon/.
  3. “5 Facts about Rayon in Textiles.” n.d. Prezi.com. Accessed October 20, 2022. https://prezi.com/8lp-eugrznlj/5-facts-about-rayon-in-textiles/.
  4. Wikipedia contributors. 2022. “Rayon.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. September 16, 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rayon&oldid=1110636371.

About The Author

Jodie Morgan From Knit Like Granny

Jodie Morgan (Author & Founder)

jodie@knitlikegranny.com | Lives In: Regional Australia

Author: Jodie Morgan is a passionate knitter and blogger with 40+ years of experience currently living in regional Australia. Taught by her mother and wonderful grandmother “Mama”, she fell in love with crafting from a young age. When she’s not knitting, you’ll find her enjoying a cup of coffee with cream, or sharing helpful resources and tips with the online knitting community. Get to know Jodie and the team on our meet the team page.

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