Knitting with Rayon Yarn: Properties & Patterns

what is rayon yarn used for

The process of producing rayon for fabrics, such as yarn, has undergone significant evolution since its initial creation in the late 19th century. Nowadays, we have bio-based yarns, which are awesome for knitting and come with lots of benefits. Let’s explore rayon and its different names, such as modal, tencel, and viscose, and figure out when it’s a good idea to try knitting with rayon.

We’ll look at:

Now, let’s examine each of these aspects more closely. This way, you’ll be able to figure out the perfect times to pick a rayon yarn for your upcoming knitting project.


The Manufacturing Process of Rayon and Biosynthetic Yarns

Yarn-making materials can be split into four main groups.

  • Animal fibers, like wool, silk, and alpaca, come from animals.
  • Plant fibers, such as cotton and linen, come from plants.
  • Biosynthetic fibers, like rayon and bamboo, are made from plant materials, but they need a lot of processing to become yarn.
  • Synthetic fibers, like acrylic and nylon, are created in a lab.

Rayon, modal, tencel, and viscose belong to the biosynthetic category. They start from plant stuff but need heavy processing to become yarn.

Rayon, which includes materials like modal, tencel, and viscose, is in a special category between natural plant fibers (like cotton and linen) and man-made synthetic fibers. Unlike cotton or linen, it can’t be processed easily. To turn it into usable fibers, we have to treat it more like a synthetic material. This involves breaking down the plant material using heat, chemicals, or both, then turning it into big sheets that are dried. After that, the sheets are dissolved again and forced through special machines to create fibers that can be spun into yarn for various uses.

The cool thing about this process is that at every step, you can make changes to create a fiber with different qualities. Even after making the filaments, you can cut them into different lengths, like how natural fibers are, and spin them in various ways to create different kinds of yarn.

Rayon is a type of fabric that comes from natural sources, even though it needs some processing to turn into usable threads. It’s made from things found in nature, and it can break down naturally when you don’t need it anymore, which is even better for the environment than cotton. Some newer types of rayon, like modal and lyocell, are made in more eco-friendly ways. So, if you care about how your choices and shopping affect the environment, rayon can be a good option for you.


What is Rayon?

Rayon, a type of fabric, has been around for a long time. It was first created in 1885 but wasn’t widely used until 1910. People made it as a more affordable replacement for silk. However, it’s not completely natural. They take stuff from trees and cotton, like wood chips and cotton lint, and use chemicals to turn it into rayon fabric.

After making the first rayon, people found ways to create different types of rayon using various plants. In the beginning, they used chemicals, but nowadays, we have more eco-friendly methods.

Yarn labels might have other names besides ‘rayon.’ These names represent various types of rayon made using a similar process but with different plant materials. They’ve improved the process to make it better for the environment.

  • Viscose Rayon

Viscose rayon is an older type of rayon that’s still used today. People often use the words rayon, viscose, and viscose rayon interchangeably. So, when you see “rayon” on a yarn label today, it’s probably viscose rayon. It comes from the pulp of trees like beech, pine, spruce, and others, including eucalyptus, bamboo, soy, or sugarcane. It’s made using a similar chemical process as mentioned before.

  • Tencel (Lyocell) Rayon

Tencel, also known as lyocell, is a type of fabric made from wood fibers, just like rayon. But the good thing is, it’s made in a more eco-friendly way. They get the wood to make Tencel from trees that are cut down carefully to make sure the forests stay healthy. When they process the wood into fibers, they use chemicals that they can recycle to make more fibers. The cool thing about Tencel is that it can soak up ten times more water than cotton, and it stays strong even when it’s wet.

  • Modal Rayon

Modal rayon is a newer and eco-friendly type of rayon. It’s made from cellulose fibers found in beech trees. These fibers are pulled and stretched, making them thinner and lighter compared to other types of rayon. Just like lyocell, modal rayon uses a better way to make it that’s kinder to the environment. The chemicals used in making the fibers are recycled and used again for the same process, which helps reduce waste.


Properties of Rayon, Modal, Tencel & Viscose Yarns

Different types of rayon yarns have both good and bad qualities in common. However, it’s important to know that how they are made can make a big difference. For example, some rayon yarns can feel soft and shiny, like silk. Others might feel sturdy and have a texture like cotton. Even though they’re all called rayon yarns, the way they’re created and spun can change how they turn out in the end.

I’ll list the good and not-so-good things about these yarns below. Keep in mind that each of these qualities can change depending on how the yarn is made, and it may be different for different yarn brands. These are just general ideas because how the fibers are handled and turned into yarn can affect these qualities.


Benefits of Using Rayon Yarns

Rayon yarns are a fantastic choice for knitting, and here’s why. Originally, people wanted something cheaper than silk, so they came up with rayon. It has a lot of qualities that are just like silk. Other advantages include:

  • Smooth
  • Silk-like sheen
  • Fluid drape
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Takes dye well
  • Easy care

Disadvantages of Rayon Yarns

There are lots of good things about using rayon yarn for your projects. But it’s important to know about some of the not-so-good things too. These include:

  • Can be slippery to knit with
  • Little to no resilience
  • Prone to stretching
  • Delicate when wet
  • Susceptible to mildew

Now that you know the good and not-so-good things about using rayon yarns, let’s talk about what it’s like to knit with them and the kinds of projects where these yarns work well.

Crafting with Rayon Yarn: A Guide to Knitting

Most of the time, when you knit with rayon yarns, they feel really nice in your hands. However, it’s important to remember that this feeling depends on how they are made. Rayon yarns are quite flexible and can be made to feel really smooth, like silk, or a bit tougher, like cotton. But when you’re working with yarns like these, there are some things to keep in mind.

If the yarn is super slippery, using metal needles might not be the best idea. This is especially true if you find it tough to control your stitches or if your knitting isn’t coming out even. In such cases, it’s a good idea to use bamboo, wood, or plastic needles instead. These kinds of needles can help your stitches stay in place better because they provide a bit more friction and grip.

Rayon yarns don’t have much bounce or memory, and they can stretch easily. To make your project keep its shape, it’s a good idea to knit a bit tighter (similar to how you would with superwash wool). It’s best to steer clear of making highly textured or ribbed fabrics because rayon can’t hold its shape well and these kinds of patterns may end up looking droopy.

Some materials are not very stretchy, which can make them tough to work with and might even strain your hands. Wool, on the other hand, is great for knitting because it has a bit of natural stretch, so it’s gentler on your hands. If you’ve ever tried knitting with wool and then switched to cotton, you likely noticed that cotton doesn’t stretch much. This can make it more tiring for your hands when you’re knitting.

Selecting Knitting Patterns Suited for Rayon Yarns

  • Rayon is mixed with plant fibers to make them lighter. This is good for making clothes for hot weather, like tank tops and T-shirts. They become light and comfy to wear in the summer, letting your skin breathe and having a nice flow.
  • Bamboo fabric is perfect for making light summer shawls. It’s soft and flows nicely, just like silk. So, it’s a great choice for shawls that you want to wear in the summertime.
  • Mixing rayon and cotton is a good idea for kids’ clothes because it makes them soft and easy to take care of.
  • It’s best to avoid clothes with bumpy or all-over rib patterns because they’re not great options unless the fabric contains a mix of rayon and wool, which makes the clothing more durable and flexible.

Caring for Finished Projects

  • Most types of rayon are usually simple to take care of, but it’s a good idea to check the labels on the yarn just to be sure. You can often wash them in a washing machine, and if the fabric is blended with certain materials, you might even be able to machine dry it.
  • Bamboo fabric is perfect for making summer clothes and stuff for kids. You know, the things that tend to get washed a lot.
  • Just toss it in your washing machine, and if it’s something delicate like a hand-knit item, use the gentle cycle. Afterward, lay it flat to dry. If it’s okay for your fabric, you can also use a low-heat setting in the dryer. Always remember to read the label on the yarn to know how to take care of it.

Enhancing Rayon Knits: Tips for Improved Blocking

When you make stuff with rayon or rayon blends, like knitted projects, you usually don’t need to do anything special to shape them. It’s like taking care of your handmade clothes. If regular washing and drying or following the care instructions for the yarn don’t make your project look how you want, or if it has some lacy bits you want to make as open as possible, using steam is a good idea. However, if the yarn mix has acrylic or nylon, don’t use steam. Instead, wet it and shape it.

To steam block rayon: Place the clothing on a blocking mat in its desired shape and size. Be gentle when stretching any lace or openwork patterns to make them look nice. Use a handheld steamer or iron to let out some steam on the clothing, but don’t touch the iron to the clothing directly.


  • Soft and comfortable
  • Drapes well
  • Highly absorbent
  • Dyes and prints well
  • No static, no pilling problems
  • Fabric can shrink appreciably if washing dry-clean-only rayon
  • Washable or dry cleanable. Read the label!

Major end uses:

  • Apparel: Blouses, dresses, jackets, lingerie, linings, millinery, slacks, sport shirts, sportswear, suits, ties, work clothes
  • Home Fashions: Bedspreads, blankets, curtains, draperies, bedsheets, slipcovers, tablecloths, and upholstery.


1. What is rayon made of?
Rayon is a special kind of fabric that comes from wood pulp, usually from trees like beech or pine. To make it, they soak the wood pulp in chemicals to turn it into sheets, which are then dried. These dried sheets are crumbled up, dissolved again, and pushed through machines that turn them into thin fibers. These fibers can be spun into yarn that’s used to make things like clothing.

2. What is viscose in yarn?
Viscose rayon is a kind of material made from wood pulp, which can come from trees like beech, pine, spruce, hemlock, eucalyptus, bamboo, soy, or sugarcane. People often use the terms rayon, viscose, and viscose rayon interchangeably. So, when you see “rayon” on a yarn label, it’s usually referring to viscose rayon. To make this material, they use a special process to turn plant matter into fibers that can be used to make yarn. This process involves some synthetic steps.

3. Is cotton better than viscose?
Cotton and viscose both come from plants, but cotton is easier to make into usable fiber because it doesn’t need as much processing as viscose. Cotton doesn’t need any synthetic steps to turn it into fiber, unlike viscose.

4. Is viscose a good choice for hot weather, like summer?
Viscose is a fantastic material for knitting summer clothing. It’s light and breathable, and it drapes nicely, which means it hangs well. You can use it to make summer tanks, tops, and tees. Sometimes, it’s mixed with linen and cotton, which are also great materials for making summer knits.

5. What do people use Tencel yarn for?
Tencel is a special kind of fabric that’s light, lets your skin breathe, and is simple to look after. It’s a great pick for making summer shirts, shawls, and clothes for children.

6. What is modal yarn?
Modal rayon is a newer and eco-friendly type of rayon. It’s made from cellulose fibers taken from beech trees. These fibers are stretched and made thinner and lighter than regular rayon. The way it’s made is improved, and they recycle the chemicals used to make it, so it’s better for the environment.

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Rose Frank

Rose Frank is a young enthusiastic girl who loves everything about fashion. She believes in expressing her passion in a language that everyone can connect with. She is part of the LooksGud team, which loves to reach out to maximum people and inspire them to express themselves through fashion.