Rayon: The Love of my Life

Rayon, aka poor man’s silk, aka my favorite fabric.

It’s technically synthetic, but it doesn’t act like it. It dyes like a natural fiber. Drapes beautifully. Lightweight. Easy to sew. All around, it’s just a great fabric and today I’m going to gush about my love affair with rayon.

So what exactly is it?

Not going to lie, even though it’s my favorite I just googled how it was produced so I could tell you more than just “they make it in a lab”, but it’s actually pretty cool. They take cellulose (like plant fibers or wood pulp) and then add chemicals and the reaction creates the rayon filament. Then all the chemicals are washed off, the filament is stretched into threads, and then it’s woven or knit or felted into whatever rayon material your heart desires. Like I said, pretty cool. This unique mix of being derived from plants, but made synthetically is what makes the fiber so versatile. I always tell customers it’s a synthetic who’s playing dress up as a natural fiber.


Not just for tacky shirts

Now a lot of you are probably thinking of your dad’s Hawaiian shirt when I say rayon, but have you felt those things? They flow, they’re soft, they breathe and they are festive for any occasion. I know my father loves a good Hawaiian shirt, probably because he loves the feel of rayon so much. It’s called the poor man’s silk, but that name is extremely deceptive and has a negative connotation. Honestly, rayon is easier to sew and more cost-effective. With that being said, you’d think they’d call it the “smart man’s silk.” You can paint on it just as you would any silk painting. It works wonders with batik prints (a wax resist style dye method that leads to fun prints like this one we used to have). In fact, it’s known for its dyeability. Even our customers always rave about how well our Bamboo Rayon takes dye and how vivid the colors can be.




My very first fashion project at SCAD was made of this prepared for dying bamboo rayon and the professor told me it looked like a wedding dress. If that’s not proof enough that it’s beautiful and elegant just like silk, I don’t know what is. We usually have some fun rayon prints as well – my favorite being the vegetable one I made a skirt out of. That is sadly sold out now, but what a treat it was. 

But all sorts of fun things can turn up – southwestern prints, plaids, flamingos, oh my! Despite my reluctance to actually eat vegetables, I was very excited to sew them, and the skirt took me a couple of hours.  It’s so soft and breezy and I love how vibrant the colors can be on rayons. Nothing stands out more than a bright red chili pepper on a skirt and I am totally in love with that fact.


rayon hawaiian shirt

Maria in her favorite Rayon Hawaiian shirt – so colorful!











Final Thoughts

Now, do y’all have any questions or concerns about rayon? Have you used it on any fun projects? I know I love it, but I want to spread the love. If you haven’t used it yet, I SO encourage you to go find one you love, chili peppers on it or not, and just play around! From the prepared for dying bamboo rayon to our bold crepe print, or even just the fun plaid twill, I promise you’ll find one you like and fall in love with the poor man’s silk.

Check out this link for some amazing Hawaiian shirts. https://www.tommybahama.com/

With love (of rayon),


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