Viscose is a cheaper alternative to natural materials like silk and linens. With summer fast approaching us, this soft, lightweight, and breathable material is a top choice for bedding linens and flowy summer dresses.
Is viscose material stretchy? No, viscose material is not usually stretchy, although viscose blended with other, stretchier materials can have more stretch to it. The lightweight and drapey material tends to hold its shape for a long time.
If you are unfamiliar with viscose and how to sew with viscose, you’re definitely missing out! In this article, we will walk you through the properties of viscose and how you can make beautiful garments from this material.
What is Viscose?
Viscose is a plant-based manufactured fabric that resembles the properties of natural fibers like silk, cotton, or linen. Often considered a type of rayon, viscose is created by treating wood pulp with chemicals before it is spun into fibers, which can then be made into threads for weaving.
This semi-synthetic fabric is a cheaper alternative to silk (and is sometimes called ‘synthetic silk‘) and linen since viscose has a lot of similar properties to these natural materials. This material is beloved by a lot of fashion enthusiasts since it is plant-based and can be a nice substitute for silk, which is often very expensive.
Viscose is often considered to be more eco-friendly than “true” synthetic fibers like polyester, because it comes from a plant source. However the heavy chemical processing makes it a less natural option than linen or wool.
Like cotton, however, viscose is increasingly being made more sustainably, in this case with fewer chemical byproducts. Because of its natural base, viscose is sometimes seen as an encouraging, in-between sustainable option.
What Does Viscose Feel Like?
Viscose feels soft and luxurious against the skin, which is why it is a common material for garments and other fabric items which come into contact with skin.
Viscose is a great substitute for silk or linen since it is very soft and smooth. The material drapes well, and depending on the type of viscose, it can even have a luxurious shine that is similar to that of silk. Since the material is much cheaper than silk, it is a great alternative if you want the same feel without the cost.
The material is also very lightweight and breathable, which is why you often see it in summer dresses and athletic clothing. Viscose also makes great bedding linens, especially during the summer, since it does not trap heat and feels cool against the skin.
Viscose can maintain its shape and form for a long time, so your garment can remain its luxurious look even after some use. On the downside, it can deteriorate when it is exposed to light, so when you hang dry viscose clothing, make sure to keep it away from sunlight.
Is Viscose Stretchy?
Viscose is usually not stretchy. If your fabric is 100 percent viscose, it will not stretch much. Any attempt to stretch it using water or heat could permanently damage the fabric.
If you want the viscose to stretch, you can buy a viscose blend that combines viscose with another, stretchier fabric. A viscose blend will be more likely to stretch well while maintaining the fabric’s properties.
Since viscose is a woven fabric, you can increase its stretchiness somewhat by purchasing one that is loosely woven instead of one that is tightly woven. A loosely woven fabric can stretch a little more without damaging the fabric.
Can You Stretch Viscose?
You can sort of stretch viscose, but only with certain types, especially viscose-blend materials. Viscose also tends to stretch minimally after some wear and tear, since the material can be affected by your body heat.
If you want to stretch viscose, you can try to stretch the fabric when it is still wet. If your viscose has some stretchiness to it, try stretching it out when you first take it out of the wash.
You should try to stretch it in all directions to make sure that the stretch spreads evenly across the woven fabric. The result will be a slightly stretched-out piece of fabric.
Take care when you do this, since some viscose materials don’t stretch very well, and you may risk damaging the fabric. Always read the care instructions first before you start washing and stretching the fabric.
If you are unsure, you can test out a small piece of fabric first before moving on to a bigger piece. This way, you can test the material’s ability to stretch without damaging a big piece of fabric or a whole garment.
Is Viscose Material Body-Hugging?
If you are looking to make a form-fitting piece of clothing from viscose, it is not a good idea.
Viscose drapes really well and does not stretch too much, which means that dresses made from viscose will drape beautifully from your body, or hold its structure well if sewn in small pieces, but it will not hug your body too much if the cut isn’t shaped to your body already.
Depending on the dress’s design, the material can hang beautifully from your body and looks luxurious, but it won’t be form-fitting.
When you make a contouring garment from viscose, make sure to get the cut just right so that it compliments your curves without being too tight or too loose.
How to Care For Viscose Fabric
Viscose fibers can become much weaker when it is wet, so you have to take extra care when cleaning clothing and other items made from viscose. We recommend hand-washing only with cold water and a mild detergent so that it doesn’t damage the fabric.
When you rinse out the water, make sure that you don’t twist the fabric because it may stretch out the fibers.
Instead, squeeze out the water bit by bit, and lay the garment down on top of a towel. Roll up the towel with the garment in it to remove any excess water. Then, you can lay the garment flat to air dry (hanging the garment may stretch it out a little vertically because of gravity pulling the garment downwards).
Since viscose tends to wrinkle easily, if you want to remove the wrinkles, you can use steam iron or iron on a lower heat setting (one that’s designed for silk, specifically). Using a lower heat setting will help you get rid of the wrinkles without damaging the fabric.
If you provide adequate care for this material, it can help you maintain the color and shape of your viscose garment for a long time.
Sewing With Viscose
Since viscose is a really fine fabric, make sure to use a very sharp and fine needle when you sew, both with a sewing machine or by hand.
Using a sharp, small needle will help you avoid large holes in the fabric. If your needle isn’t sharp enough, it may not puncture the fabric correctly, which may affect how your garment will look.
Viscose doesn’t stretch too much, so you should match the fabric with a fine polyester or polyester-blend thread.
When sewing with viscose, make sure that you pin the layers of fabric together before feeding it through the sewing machine since the fabric can slip easily. If you want, using a walking foot will make it a lot easier to sew with this slippery fabric.
Since the material doesn’t stretch, you can use a regular stitch or any other type of non-stretch stitches to get the job done. If you are uncertain about the tension or stitch length, make sure to test it out on a spare piece of fabric first before moving on to the real thing to avoid damaging this delicate material.
When hemming a viscose garment, you can use a single fold. Since this material is so light, you can fold up the hem first, press it with an iron to create a nice and clean fold before sewing with a straight stitch. This method will help you create a clean hem that feels light and compliments your garment well.
Tips For Sewing With Viscose Fabric
Since viscose is so lightweight, sewing with viscose can be a little tricky, especially for beginners who are unfamiliar with this type of fabric.
Below are some tips to help you sew viscose with ease:
1. Pre-Wash Viscose Fabric
Viscose can and will shrink after washing, so pre-washing your fabric before sewing will allow you to achieve the optimal size for your garment. If the fabric obtains some wrinkles after washing, pressing it on a lower heat setting will remove the wrinkles and create a flat surface for you to start drafting your patterns.
2. Take Care When Cutting
Since this material is so lightweight and slippery, cutting the fabric requires taking extra care so that you don’t stray away from the pattern.
We recommend laying your fabric down on a flat surface, holding it down with some weight to maintain its flat shape, and use a rotary cutter to cut out the pattern.
If you are cutting several layers of fabric without a rotary cutter, we recommend pinning the layers together along with the shape of the pattern so that the layers of fabric won’t slip and slide as you cut. Make sure to use a very sharp pair of fabric scissors to get nice, clean lines.
3. Serge Raw Edges
Since viscose is a woven fabric, it tends to fray like crazy. If you don’t clean up the edges, the fraying can eat into your fabric and affect how the final garment will look.
Before you sew, make sure you clean up the raw edges with a serger or overlocker to prevent any further fraying. If you don’t have a serger or overlocker, you can use the zigzag stitch on your sewing machine to stop the fraying.