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.
Table Of Contents
- What Is It?
- What Do You Use It For?
- Common Blends Using This Fiber
- Where To Find It
- Interesting Facts
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.
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 usually used for fiber made with pure cellulose, processed 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.
- 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!
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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.
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
- Online brand shops
Here are brands or manufacturers of rayon yarns to try.
- Lion Brand Truboo
- Valley Yarns Goshen
- Mirasol Nuna
- High Desert Worsted
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.
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!
- 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/.
- 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/.
- “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/.
- Wikipedia contributors. 2022. “Rayon.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. September 16, 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rayon&oldid=1110636371.