Rayon Challis is seriously my dream fabric! There’s something about it that feels so special and luxurious to me! So, when dreaming up my latest summer maxi, I knew it would be made from this wonderful fabric!
Rayon Challis is 100% rayon. It’s super lightweight with wonderful drape, and even though it’s man-made, it’s done so with natural fibers making it perfect for a summer dress! But, because of these wonderful qualities, it can also be a little tricky to sew with.
So, here are my top tips for sewing with Rayon Challis which from here on out will be referred to as RC. (Fun to say, not fun to type.)
In my opinion, RC is best suited for drapey garments rather than fitted ones. Garments with soft details like the flounce in my dress, a flutter sleeve, and a gathered or circle skirt would all be suited for RC.
You should avoid patterns with too much structure or too many seam lines. RC doesn’t really want to work that hard. It is sort of like a lazy day at the beach…just laid back and easy.
As always you should pre-wash your fabric. RC can be washed in the washer on cold, but can fray pretty badly. So, I like to serge the raw edges of mine together (like a big tube) before I wash. This will keep the cut edges from fraying and help keep the fabric from stretching too much on the bias.
For the most part, you’ll want to air dry your RC. Some of them can be tumble dried, but I tend not to live life on the wild side when it come to fabric! Better safe than sorry, I say.
Final though on prepping…if you have the time, wash and dry twice. This will ensure the shrinkage is all gone and your garment won’t make any more adjustments after you’ve sewn it all up.
Because RC is so lightweight and delicate, you have to be really careful when cutting out your pattern pieces. I like to use a rotary cutter with a cutting mat and pattern weights. The rotary cutter should cut nicely around the fabric with out shifting it at all under your pattern pieces. Even the pen/marker/chalk dragging across the fabric can shift things around a bit.
Another “if you have the time” tip: check out this video that Threads did on evening out the bias. RC likes to “grow” along the bias and this process with ensure you’re working with a straight grain.
This might surprise you, but RC presses really, really well. It must have to do with the natural fibers. You really don’t need a lot of heat and even steam is unnecessary. This is great news, because you’ll probably be sewing a ton of tiny hems (ahem, flounce, ahem, 50+ inch hem, ahem!).
When transporting your fabric be sure to pick up the entire piece and cup it in your hands rather than picking up from one raw edge or another. You have to be super careful to ensure RC does not stretch along the bias. And, believe it or not, even picking it up the wrong way can stretch it out.
For RC, you’ll need a universal needle. I used a 90, but you could go down to an 80 if you wanted.
You’ll want to use a lot of pins. Like a lot! RC wants to stretch on the bias, as I’ve mentioned and the more pins you use the more accuracy you’ll have with your seams.
Finish your seams with an overlocker if you want, but I think RC was made for French Seams. If you don’t know how to make them, read this.
Sew all your seams in the same direction. Meaning, if you’re bodice as two side seams, sew from the armscye to waist on both sides. Maybe you already do this, I don’t know, but it’s important you do that here so that if there is any stretching on the bias, it’s stretched in the same direction and can be trued up before you continue.
To prevent as much stretching as possible, staystitch all of the curves. So, your neckline, waistlines, and armscye. To staystitch just sew at your longest stitch length within the seam allowance. I usually do a 5.0 stitch at 1/2″ from the raw edge.
Finally – and this is not a “if you have time” tip – it’s an absolute MUST do: let your hems hang. Because RC stretches on the bias so easily, even gravity will stretch it out. For perspective, my hems grew by **four inches** after letting them hang for 24 hours. Imagine if I would have made that 50+ inch tiny hem only to have it stretch out the next day! I’d most certainly have to re-hem it which means it would just end up in my WIP pile and maybe I’d get to it next summer. Save yourself the frustration and just let your project hang for the next day or so. It will be more than worth it.
And, when you’ve followed all these tips, you’ll have a wonderful garment that will flutter in the breeze, keep you cool, feel amazing, and look expensive! To see RC in action, check out my video featuring my new maxi dress!
I hope you’ll give Rayon Challis a try! Once you do, you could be hooked!
Lindsey vlogs with her sewing bestie, Abbey, at Inside The Hem.