April 17, 2011

An Alternative to Silk

I had a very interesting question emailed to me from a reader and I thought it was worthy of a post, especially as I posted about working with silk last week. "What's an alternative to silk?" she asked.  She has her reasons and I think many others might as well for not wanting to work with silk and that's fine. But what's a good alternative? Silk has many, many wonderful properties which make it a great fiber for several different sewing projects, seasons and occasions. So what is a fabric that has some similar qualities, but perhaps isn't as hard to work with, doesn't harm silk worms and is plant derived instead?

georgette rayon from Fashion Fabrics Club

Well.....what about RAYON?! Let's have a chat about rayon. Rayon is a terribly cool fiber and personally for my money, if I was concerned about the above silk related issues rayon is a very good alternative to the queen of fiber herself (silk is queen, in my humble opinion). I've worked with rayon on a few different occasions and worn it on several. It's so soft, has fantastic drape, is usually reasonbly priced (at least the ones they make nowdays, vintage 40's rayon is terribly expensive at the moment) and not too bad to handle, work with and sew up. It's also breathable. This is my biggest beef with synthetic fibers. Wearing a polyester top in the dead of Utah heat, which can be an almost unbearable 100+ degrees, leaves you hotter than ever with a blouse that just ends up sticking to your sweaty skin. It's a dry climate here too, so I can't imagine what polyester does in a humid climate. Ugh!

funkadelic paisley jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics

Rayon is a semi-synthetic. What does that mean? Rayon is produced from cellulose which is a naturally occurring compound found in plants, however the compound undergoes extensive processing to become the fabric rayon.

rayon organza from Fashion Fabrics Club

And rayon comes in many different weaves and types. There's challis, probably the most popular, suiting, jersey, shantung, organza, shirting, etc., etc. The list goes on and on. What's more, it can be rather successfully mixed with other fibers, such as linen, wool, even silk and lend a certain drapability to those fabrics if needed.

Being as its nearing on the rayon season here in the States, this fiber is at a peak too. Perfect timing to start, perhaps getting in the groove with a Shift Dress, don't you think? Speaking of which, tomorrow, I've got a shift dress muslin to show you. I'm terribly excited to have a shift dress. Might even have to make up two, just because I'm thinking now I need a rayon one too!

Happy fabric hunting!


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