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Sewing slippery fabric

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Viscose challis is a marvellous fabric: Cool to the touch, floaty and available in amazing prints and colours. It’s often just referred to as “viscose” when referring to it’s 100% form but it can also be mixed with other threads to create different types of fabrics such as viscose jersey or viscose lawn. It loans it’s fantastic drape to these new fabrics but it can also make them a little trickier to handle. Fun fact: In America, Viscose is also known as Rayon. Here’s some tips for handling and sewing viscose challis.

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Viscose is a natural fibre shrinks, you should pre-wash your fabric on a cool wash setting and hang as flat as possible to dry. When you first pull your fabric out of the machine it will be stiff and shrivelled up, but don’t worry, when the fabric dries it will regain its lovely fluid handle. Viscose is also quite delicate so limit the spin speed on your machine to avoid unnecessary stress on the fabric.

Laying out

You will probably need to press your fabric well before you use it as it can easily crease. Lay out the fabric on a large area for cutting out and roll up any excess so it doesn’t hang over the edge of the table and distort the grain. Viscose can seem to have a life of its own and always wants to slink off your sewing table by your machine. This pulling and moving can stretch out the fabric so choosing a simple sewing pattern style with minimal seams helps if you’re short on worktop space.

Stretch on the bias

If you’re not familiar with the bias of fabric, this is the diagonal grain line, running at a 45 degree angle to the selvedges. The bias is stretchy on any fabric, but more so with viscose which is already a very fluid fabric, so if you’re making a dress or skirt with a curved hem let the fabric drop overnight and trim the skirt back into shape before hemming.


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Look sharp!

Use sharp scissors and pins for cutting out or use a rotary cutter with a large self-healing mat underneath. Serrated edge scissors will grip the fabric as they cut helping you avoid choppy cutting action. If you’re really struggling try laying your fabric on a layer of tissue paper as this will stop it from moving around as you cut. Change your sewing machine needle to a finer 70/12 size or a special microtex needle which is sharp and small for delicate fabrics. Viscose will easily snag so don’t be tempted to use an old needle or you may end up with snags and pulls on your garment.

Interfacing and pressing

You can use viscose to make crisp neat details as it presses well under heat. Just be careful not to scorch your fabric with a too high setting on your iron. Use soft and light interfacing so it doesn’t interfere with the fabulous drape of the fabric but still holds the shape you need.


Our top pattern picks for getting started with viscose challis are McCall’s 8085 a charming day dress with ruffled hem, Simplicity 9045 an elegant top with bow shoulder detail and McCall’s 7973 a gorgeous floaty dress with neck ties and elastic cuffed sleeves.

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