Monday, May 1, 2017

What? - Rayon Fabric

Rayon was the first manufactured(regenerated) fiber. In 1855, George Audemars, a swiss chemist, discovered how to make cellulose nitrate. In 1884, Count Hilaire de Chardonnet made the first man made fibers from nitrocellulose. He is referred to as the "father of rayon". Chardonnet got the original French patent, and established the world's first rayon factory. From here other scientists developed more cost effective ways of making other types of rayon.

In 1892 C.F. Cross, E.J. Bevan and Clayton Beadle took out a patent for Viscose which became the basis for the viscose, rayon and cellophane industries. The first patent for "art silk" occurred in 1894 tho it took until 1910 for the first US commercial rayon production to begin. The textile industry switched from calling it "art silk" to rayon in 1924.
The basics of its production are cellulose (often from trees) which is converted into a soluble compound.

An example of a spinneret
A solution of this compound is passed through a spinneret to form soft filaments that are then converted into almost pure cellulose in the final product. Rayon fabrics have different strength and stretch characteristics created by adjusting the drawing process applied in spinning.
Close up of a Rayon fabric

Basic rayon has low wet strength. Thus it can become unstable and may stretch or shrink when wet. Dry cleaning or hand washing was normally recommended to preserve the appearance of regular basic rayon. If machine washed the garment could shrink as much as 10%. Companies over the years have tried to correct this low wet strength and there has been many advancements in rayon development. These advancements have resulted in Modal, lyocell and Tencel to just name a few.

Most rayon in the present day can be machine washed and tumble dried. It wrinkles easily but a light steam can remedy this. It is more absorbant then cotton, soft, comfortable to wear, drapes well and is easily dyed in a multitude of colours.

If you want to learn a bit more about early Rayon production the following movie is approx. 30 minutes.


  1. Where did the name Rayon come from?

  2. The name Rayon was based on its characteristic sheen or referring to the shine as giving on rays of light. At least that is the only reason behind the name I could find.
    I should of also mentioned that "Art Silk" is from articial silk being shortened.