Working with Lightweight Fabrics

Jul 03 2019 0 Comments Tags: how to sew with viscose, rayon, Sewing tips, viscose

I love viscose and rayon. So much so, that I would happily become Mrs Philippa Rayon given half the chance. If you’ve never worked with them out of sheer fear or you’ve had bad experiences, then you will think I’m crazy, but I do not care one jot; they are amazing! Some of the prints you can get are awesome and the result you can achieve is so professional looking. I don’t want you to be fearful of them, I want you to love them as much as I do…or just tolerate them enough to make yourself a top or two! So here are my tips for working with them, and many other lightweight fabrics which just need a bit of love and attention:


  • I admit, I am one for cutting corners and sometimes my enthusiasm for starting a project knows no bounds and if I can get away with it, I won’t prewash my fabric. (I know, I will get thrown out of the Sewing Circle of Trust for admitting this!) However, I will ALWAYS prewash a viscose or rayon. It’s very prone to shrinking and too much time and effort goes into making a garment with it for it to just shrink afterwards. I don’t go mad with my prewash; I tend to use a 40oC wash for an hour or so, as this is how I tend to wash the majority of my clothes and it means I can just throw the finished article in with my regular washing.

Cutting Out

  • When cutting out your pattern pieces, make sure everything is as flat as possible. It is so easy to cut out a misshapen piece because your fabric isn’t absolutely flat. If you have the space, think about cutting out your pattern on a single layer as some really weird shizz can happen if your fabric layers aren’t perfectly lined up together!
  • Pin, pin, pin and pin again! When you think you’ve got enough pins on a pattern piece, you probably haven’t so pin some more! This fabric is a slippery little devil and it will take every opportunity it can to slip and slide and cause uber-frustration. If I’m not cutting out on a single layer, I have been known to pin the selvedges together to reduce movement.
  • Try and use lightweight pins if you can find them and make sure they’re sharp! I like to use Merchant & Mills Glass Headed, Dressmaking or even the really fine Entomology pins if I’m feeling fancy. If your pins are too thick or blunt, you will find it difficult to keep your fabric flat when you’re inserting them, and they can even cause a run in the fabric.
  • When cutting out, I never move the pattern pieces round. If they are settled, I leave them as they are and then I move round the table to cut them out.
  • If you like using a rotary cutter, you might find it particularly helpful for cutting out viscose and rayon, however I’ve never really got on with one myself, so I stick with scissors.
  • Please do not be under any impression that I am accurate with my cutting. “Heavy-handed” really isn’t a strong enough term to describe how I do anything! I do the best I can, but I will never be a professional cutter-outter. A little trick I do (which might be frowned upon by the sewing brethren but has never failed me before) is when I’ve cut out a piece, I turn it over so the fabric is on top and then I check for any weird happenings; wrinkles, gathers, anything. If there’s anything untoward which could cause the garment to go skewiff, then I unpin one edge, smooth the fabric out to that edge and re-pin and then I do the same for the other edges. Once re-pinned, I find I could have another 5mm of excess fabric to trim off, which doesn’t sound much but we all know how easy it is to make a garment that doesn’t fit properly, don’t we!


  • So, we’ve washed, we’ve pinned like our lives depended on it and we’ve cut out something that sort of resembles the paper pattern pieces. Let’s get cracking with our sewing! Some people like to use an overlocker for neatening the raw edges, which I have done if I’m in a rush, but more often than not I sew my favourite; FRENCH SEAMS!!! To be honest, this is probably the main reason why I like working with viscose! The result is so lovely and neat, it really is worth the extra time spent sewing them. Don’t be frightened of them; they’re easier than you think. Head over here to find our blog post on how to sew them.

If you were thinking you can just use the zig zag stitch on your sewing machine to finish off the raw edges, then think again! All that will happen here is your machine will use your seam allowance as a chewy snack!!

  • Like with your cutting, make sure you use a lot of pins when pinning your seams together. If there is too wide a gap between pins, you will find your fabric layers don’t stay together.
  • Make sure you use a sharp needle. Sometimes if my needle has been a bit blunt, it has caused a snag in the fabric, like a ladder in a pair of tights. Also, you might need to use a finer needle than normal, such as a Hemline Universal 70/10. Try a few out on a piece of scrap before you get going.
  • Don’t push or pull the fabric through the machine. Pretend you’re working with stretch; go slow and just let it do its thang. Believe it or not, it is possible to stretch viscose and rayon out of shape even though it is a woven!
  • Don’t skimp on the pressing and press well, but go up and down with your iron, rather than backwards and forwards so you don’t press anything out of shape. If you can, use a sleeve board so you can just drape the area you need to press over it and don’t press in any creases anywhere else on the garment. I’ve also found a sleeve roll and tailor’s ham useful, depending on what I’m pressing.

So there you go. This is basically what I do whenever I’m sewing with viscose or rayon and my garments tend to look alright when they’re done. Don’t be scared, give it a go, but start off with something small. A True Bias Ogden Cami is a nice first project as it doesn't use much fabric so if it doesn’t go as well as planned, then it’s not the end of the world!

Check out our current range of viscose/rayon here.

Let me know if you need any further help with it!

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