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15 Tips on Sewing with Rayon

Hello Design Diary readers! It’s Sarah with Lace & Pine Designs. In my last post for Meg, I made a rayon version of the Mini Briar. Rayon has become one of my favorite fabrics to work with and probably my favorite to wear. I love fabrics with a lot of drape and that move well. I also like fabrics that don’t need a lining and can be washed at home. I do have 3 young kids and I swear they manage to spill more on me than themselves some days. There are some rayons that run a bit on the thinner side and may need a lining, but most can be sewn without. I’ve been really wanting a fun bright rayon maxi skirt for some time. So, I’ve sewn up the Brumby skirt in a bright patterned rayon and added extra length for a maxi.

Sometimes, the prep work for a project involving rayon takes longer than the actual sewing, but it’s a very important part to being successful with the fabric.  I’ve come up with 15 Tips to help you be more successful when working with rayon or other delicate slippery fabrics. These are all things I do to aid in my success, so I hope you find them helpful!

15 Tips on Sewing with Rayon 2

//Choosing Your Project//

Tip #1: Work Small First

The first time I tried working with rayon it was a bit frustrating to be honest. I attempted making a maxi skirt for myself. I’ve since learned if I’m working with a tricky material for the first time, I always make something small for one of my kids first. A simple women’s tank would be a great first project as well. Gain confidence with the material before going too big. That way it’s easier to deal with the sliding around and if something goes terribly wrong, you’re out a yard of fabric instead of several yards. I used 5 yards to make this skirt; I certainly did not want to make a mistake!

Tip #2: Choose a quality rayon

I’ve worked with quite a few different rayons. Some were thicker with a very smooth hand and others super thin and easily snagged, while others had a texture that made cutting a bit more challenging. I find rayon challis to be the easiest to work with. Joel Dewberry and Anna Maria Horner have designed some great rayon challis prints for Free Spirit that are almost as easy to work with as cotton. The bird print rayon I used for my Woven Mini Briar was a Free Spirit print. Cotton & Steele also have some great quality rayons in my opinion. The price is a bit more spendy on these designer rayons, but so worth it! Here are some online shops I have used to purchase rayon:

Fabric.com I don’t order from here too often because it often takes a couple weeks before I get my order. They’re located on the east coast and I’m on the west coast. I’m just a bit impatient I suppose. But, they do have a decent selection of rayon. I’ve been happy with their solid rayon challis and sometimes it can be difficult to find a simple solid, so I’m happy to wait a couple weeks.

HartsFabric.com This is where I buy probably 80% of my fabric. They have a great selection of rayon. They seem to stock more quality rayon and they’re always getting something new. They’ll also send you an email if something is currently out of stock as soon at it gets back in stock, so you don’t have to constantly be checking. I live just a few hours from their shop, and I receive my fabric 2-3 days after ordering it. They get it out fast, which I really appreciate.

LaFinchFabrics.com I’ve just recently started ordering from LA Finch Fabrics. I love how they give you little samples of some of their other fabrics with your order. Sometimes a print may not be anything too exciting, but once you feel the fabric you know you have to have it! A lot of their fabric is leftovers from the fashion industry, so it’s always fun to see what’s new in their shop.

15 Tips on Sewing with Rayon 3

//Gathering Materials//

Tip #3: Fine Tipped Pins

Make sure you have fine tipped pins. Some rayons can snag easily and larger pins can leave holes in your delicate fabric. I use super-fine sharp pins size 20. Sometimes, they may be smaller than you really need, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. Plus, I like how I can easily iron right over these pins.

Tip #4: Small Sewing Needles

Stock up on smaller sewing needles. Again, larger needles may leave holes in your rayon. Old needles will do the same, so replace your needle with each new project. I prefer to use a size 65/9 when sewing with rayon.

Tip #5: Cutting Board and Rotary Cutter

I personally use a cutting board and rotary cutter for all my pattern cutting, but it’s especially useful with rayon and other slippery fabrics. Make sure the blade in your rotary cutter is sharp.

15 Tips on Sewing with Rayon 4

//Prepping Material//

Tip #6: Prewash and Dry Fabric, Twice

Most rayon can be machine washed and even thrown in the dryer, it’s one of the reasons I love the fabric! But, rayon does shrink. Quite a bit actually; so make sure to prewash and dry your material. Once my garment is made, I wash on cold and air dry. However, when prepping the material I wash on warm and dry on medium heat, making sure the fabric gets completely dry (if not a little extra dry). I like to do this process twice, especially if I’m going to be combining the rayon with a different fabric. If you don’t already know about color catcher sheets, these are wonderful to use when prepping new fabrics. The fabric for this particular skirt is a colorful print on white. I used a color catcher sheet in my wash and the sheet turned out blue, while my white fabric remained white. They work great. If you don’t already have them in your laundry room, you need to get them. Once your fabric is dry, take it out of the dryer immediately and fold. Rayon can get stretched out, so you want to minimize that as much as possible.

15 Tips on Sewing with Rayon 5

//Cutting out Pattern//

Tip #7: Use the floor

If you are doing a smaller project, you can certainly use a large table, but I find it extremely helpful to have all material on the same level. You don’t want any material hanging over a table, that will likely cause your pattern to get cut uneven and not on the grain. When preparing the fabric for cutting for this project, I had all 5 yards lying flat on the floor, with my cutting board underneath the part I would be cutting next.

Tip #8: Line up selvedge to the edge of the cutting board

I do this with all types of fabric, but I pay special attention when working with rayon. When I have a print, I measure from the selvedge edge (the edge of the cutting board as well) to a specific point on the print and then find that point further down the fabric, measuring again. The distance should be the same. You won’t be able to do this with a solid, but if something was pulled slightly in one direction it won’t be as obvious with a solid as it will with a print. If your material was pulled in one direction while cutting, your garment might not lie as nicely and may pull funny in certain areas, so take the time on this step!

Tip #9: Roll up pattern piece

When you are done cutting out a pattern piece with your rotary cutter and cutting board, roll it up and gently set it aside until you are ready to work with it again. This will help minimize any stretching or pulling.

15 Tips on Sewing with Rayon 6

//Sewing your Garment//

Tip #10  Use the graph lines on your cutting board

Have a straight edge on your pattern piece? Line it up to a graph line on your cutting board and make sure your pattern piece is lying evenly and not pulling in any one direction. Place the other pattern piece on top and then pin with fine tip pins.  You want your seams to lie smoothly as well, so pay extra attention to make sure there is no pulling of the fabric before pinning pieces together.

Tip #11 Use a slightly smaller stitch

When sewing with rayon, I use a 2mm stitch as opposed to the automatic 2.5mm on my machine. I find my seams to lie nicer and because rayon can fray easily, the smaller stitch will help prevent any fraying going beyond the seam line. Plus, I just think it looks nicer. A more delicate fabric needs a more delicate stitch, right?

Tip #12 No pushing or pulling

This is important when sewing just about any fabric, but especially important with rayon, since rayon can stretch out. Your seams will not lie nicely if you push or pull your fabric while sewing. Take your time. Stop your machine and adjust your fabric if you need to.

Tip #13 French seams

This tip isn’t a necessity by any means, but french seams look beautiful on rayon and they completely enclose those seams that want to fray.

Tip #14 Lift & Press

When ironing the seams, hems or any other part of your garment, lift and press your iron. Try to avoid going back and forth over the fabric, this can cause the fabric to stretch out. This tip is especially important when finishing hems. If you go back and forth with your iron over the hem before sewing, you’ll end up with wavy hems.

Tip #15 Give the garment a day before hemming

Because rayon can pull and stretch out so easily, it’s not a bad idea to allow the garment to hang for 24 hours before hemming. You may find you need to make some adjustments before hemming. Honestly, since following all the tips I’ve suggested above when cutting and sewing my garment, I’ve never needed to make any adjustments to my hems, other than all over length. However, I still let the garment sit for a day just in case.

Pattern: Brumby Skirt (Version 2, extended for maxi length)

Fabric: Medina Crepe Rayon purchased from LA Finch Fabrics

Zipper: Navy Zipper with Brass Teeth

I hope you find these tips helpful! For those of you who have not worked with rayon before out of fear, I hope these suggestions have given you some confidence to give it a try. You may find it to be your favorite fabric to work with like myself! Do you use any of these already? What are some tips I didn’t mention that you find helpful? Let us know in the comments. Come say hi anytime over on my blog at Lace & Pine Designs or on Instagram. I love meeting new sewers and finding inspiration amongst our great little community.

About Author

Sarah Beth writes part time for the Megan Nielsen Patterns blog, working hard to create fantastic tutorials, tips and features. Sarah is more than a little obsessed with sewing, and also has her own blog Lace and Pine Designs where she shares gorgeous makes for herself and her girls. She appreciates the feminine and traditional life while also enjoying the country life and the great outdoors.

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lindarees
5 years ago

These are brilliant tips and great to have all in one place! I’ve saved them to use- thank you so much.

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[…] Megan gives us tips on sewing with Rayon. […]

Laura (@petitepassions)

Thanks for the tips. I discovered a few of these the hard way, looking forward to being able to work with these fabrics a bit better now!

PsychicKathleen
PsychicKathleen
5 years ago

Thank you for these helpful hints! I’ve worked with rayon and have discovered (the hard way!) much of what you describe here. It is a lovely fabric to work with as long as you follow these few simple rules. It does stretch and can slip around much like silk. I’ve found doing lots of machine basting and then serging the seams produces the best results. Good pressing and it does press like a dream!

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[…] visited a second blog, and one of this bloggist’s tips was to make sure to wash the fabric twice. Now, growing up […]

Kelly
Kelly
3 years ago

Thank you sooooo much for publishing this article. I just finished a dress using your suggestions, and it made all the difference. I’m so thankful for your advice — made the whole project much easier than otherwise…

Jeanne
Jeanne
3 years ago

I loved this fabric but cutting it I used many pins & weights. PI T A
Cut one piece at a time also.
When it was interfaced the “iron on ” needed a lot of heat to stick.
Also remeasured the neckband facings to the original pattern because it grew.
Again , a learning experience. Thanks for this blog.

Jane Johnston
Jane Johnston
3 years ago

Thank you for all of your tips on sewing rayon. I do have one question about thread. Do you use polyester or cotton thread.

Caroline
Caroline
2 years ago
Reply to  Jane Johnston

Polyester thread

Leslie
Leslie
3 years ago

Thank you thank you! I have a *favorite* rayon flowy tunic that is about to bite the dust- so I’m going to try to replicate it. I just stocked up on some beautiful rayon from Hart’s Fabric (I’m so lucky to live in Santa Cruz where their brick and mortar location is- i practically get heart palpitations when I walk in there I get so excited!!) I’ve never worked with rayon before so this is incredibly helpful. That skirt you made is absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful work!!

Patti
Patti
2 years ago

Do you ever use a serger? Which stitch do you suggest? What type of thread?

Caroline
Caroline
2 years ago

I just love the feel and flow of rayon, I was so worried about sewing with with it. This is my first time, but, after reading your tips, I feel much more secure. Thanks so much! Pinning and cutting was so much fun….Ha ha! Used a thin slab of granite to hold material straight. Tomorrow I start the sewing part.

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[…] to be my first attempt at sewing rayon and I quickly gathered information from sites such as 15 tips on sewing with rayon and Sewing with Rayon Challis on how to handle […]

Shayne O'Connor
Shayne O'Connor
1 year ago

Hi, just wanted to ask – when pre-washing do you use detergent? And after washing and drying do I need to iron the fabric before cutting? If so, do I still need to use the press and lift method or can i iron it normally? I’m about to embark on my first sewing project and I want to be prepared!

Tracey
Tracey
1 year ago

Hello! Do you happen to know how to repair a tear in rayon fabric? I have a yellow dress that has a horizontal tear in the chest area, and was wondering how to repair it… I’d appreciate any help!

Jenny
Jenny
1 year ago

Any tips on making buttonholes in rayon challis?

julia
julia
10 months ago

Thanks so much! Just about to sew some crepe rayon. I got from the fabric store. Hopefully its alright

Terri L. Kiplinger
Terri L. Kiplinger
5 months ago

I have starched my rayon to make it easier to handle while sewing. Is this a good idea or will it cause problems?

Meg
Admin
Meg
5 months ago

I’ve never tried that before, but it sounds like a really smart idea. I can’t imagine it would cause issues – but would love to hear how it turns out when you’re done!

Michelle Freudiger
Michelle Freudiger
2 months ago

I am about to make my second Floreat dress out of Rayon twill. My first one made from Rayon Challis stretched out at the back neck slit where the rouleau hoop is.
I have read so many tips including this helpful list but I am still so anxious about this project.
The dress is for my very first IRL Frocktails event so I want it to work out really well.
One of my biggest concerns is stay stitching because opinion seems to be so divided on this topic. I was wondering if it’s not better to stay stitch necklines etc by hand. Other suggestions I have heard are to use stabilizer tape instead but I can’t find any.
Then my other concern is how do you prevent your fabric hanging over the edge of your table if you’re sewing a particularly long pattern piece? I guess I would have to position my sewing machine away from the edge of the table a bit to allow space for the fabric on the table

Naomi
Editor
2 months ago

Hi Michelle, that’s so exciting you’re making a Floreat for your first IRL Frocktails!! I totally understand the anxiety though, slippery fabrics like rayon can be a bit tricky. In my experience, my favourite way to stabilise an edge without putting it under the sewing machine or hand stitching (I find that the extra handling of the fabric you have to do when hand stitching would give it more opportunity to stretch out before you’ve finished) is to make my own stabilising tape!

You can do this by cutting a strip, approx. 1″ wide of normal fusible interfacing and for each strip, cut out two 1″ strips of tissue paper. If you are stabilising a curve, you can cut the interfacing on the bias to help it ease around the curves. Once you have the 3 strips, you can sandwich the interfacing between the two tissue paper pieces and sew down the centre of them with a normal straight stitch. Once you’ve done that, you can trim back the long edges of the strip so it’s the width that you’d like, with the row of stitching staying central to the piece. If I’m doing 1/4″ (6mm) seams, then i’ll trim it down to that width, but if you’re wanting more stability, you can trim it to be a little wider.

After you’ve trimmed, you can tear the paper away and use the interfacing as tape, ironing it in place so the line of stitching in the interfacing is running along where the stitching line of the garment piece will be (usually 5/8″ or 1.5cm from the raw edge). And that’s it! This technique also works really well with the necklines of bias cut garments :) In terms of the fabric hanging over the edge, positioning yourself to the middle of the table is a good way to go, as well as having your pattern piece rolled so it’s on the table in front or behind the machine. That might mean pausing while you sew to roll what has been sewn, but taking the time will pay off!

So, I hope that helps! Please let us know if you have any other questions! Happy sewing! :)