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!
//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.
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.
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.
//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.
//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.
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.