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- Viscose is a type of semi-synthetic fabric made from wood pulp. Sometimes referred to as rayon, it’s a common type of rayon.
- While viscose fabrics aren't naturally stretchy, there are various ways to make viscose stretch.
- The elasticity of viscose material may vary depending on factors like the viscose blend, weight, and the treatments used to enhance the fabric.
Viscose fabric has long been coveted for its smooth texture, lightness, and versatility, making it a popular garment option. However, while viscose has several excellent properties, it's often perceived as a rigid and non-elastic material. But is viscose stretchy or not?
In this article, we'll explore whether or not viscose is stretchable. We'll shed light on how much viscose can actually stretch, how to enhance its stretchiness, and more.
Whether you’re a fashionista, designer, or just curious about the inner workings of viscose, this article will walk you through all the essentials you need to know about the elasticity of viscose fabric.
What Is Viscose Fabric?
Viscose fabric is a popular semi-synthetic of rayon fabric used in clothes, upholstery, and other textiles. It's derived from the wood pulp of trees such as beech, pine, eucalyptus, hemlock, and spruce. The manufacturing process involves converting these raw materials into a soluble compound called viscose, hence the fabric's name.
How Is Viscose Made?
Viscose is made from natural cellulose fibers that are chemically processed and treated to modify their properties and characteristics. Here are the steps involved in making viscose fibers:
Harvesting and Processing the Raw Material
Viscose is mainly made from wood pulp or other cellulose-rich plants like sugarcane. The chosen raw material is harvested and processed to extract the cellulose. For instance, wood pulp is chemically treated to eliminate impurities and break down the fibers into a pulp.
Creation of Viscose Solution
The processed cellulose is then dissolved in a chemical solvent, typically a sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide mixture. This combination yields a viscose solution that has a thick, syrup-like consistency. The solution is carefully monitored and adjusted to achieve the desired chemical composition and consistency.
Extrusion and Filament Formation
The viscous solution is then put through small holes or slits, ''spinnerets,'' to create slender, continuous filaments. These filaments are immersed in a sulfuric acid bath, which solidifies and regenerates the cellulose into a solid. The filaments are washed, neutralized, and dried to remove any remaining chemicals.
Spinning Into Yarns
The solidified filaments are spun into yarns through various spinning techniques, such as ring or open-end spinning. The resulting yarns can be spun into different textures and thicknesses depending on the desired end product.
Weaving or Knitting the Fabric
The yarn is then woven or knitted into the fabric using conventional textile production techniques. The fabric may also undergo treatment to transform its properties, such as softness.
Finally, the viscose fibers may undergo additional processes, such as dyeing, printing, or finishing to enhance its appearance.
What Are the Properties of Viscose Fabric?
Viscose fabric has various properties that make it a popular fabric among consumers. Here are some of its notable properties:
Viscose fabric has a soft and smooth texture, similar to natural silk, making it incredibly comfortable to wear against the skin. Viscose is also allergen-friendly, making it an excellent fabric for sensitive skin.
Viscose is a type of highly breathable fabric that allows air to circulate freely through its fibers. This property enables heat and moisture to escape, keeping the wearer cool and comfortable even in warm regions. As a result, viscose is an excellent choice for summer clothing and activewear.
Viscose fabric has great absorbent properties, enabling it to absorb and keep away moisture. This quality helps keep the wearer dry and comfortable, even during rigorous physical activities or scorching summer days. This quality also aids in dyeing and printing, allowing for a variety of vibrant and rich colors.
Viscose fabric exhibits excellent drape, meaning it gracefully falls and flows when draped over the body. Its flowy nature allows it to accentuate the body's natural contours and movements, creating an elegant silhouette. Viscose is also an incredibly lightweight fabric, making it an easy-to-pack garment when traveling.
Viscose is highly versatile. It can be crafted into lightweight, breathable fabrics for summer wear or heavier apparel for colder seasons. It also blends well with other fabrics, like spandex, that enhance its properties.
Is Viscose a Stretchy Fabric?
While viscose has many exceptional properties, it isn't as stretchy as materials like spandex. Unlike spandex, which can stretch up to 400% of its size, viscose can only stretch up to 2%.
However, the elasticity of viscose can vary depending on the following factors:
Lightweight viscose fabrics typically offer better elasticity than heavier fabrics, as lighter fabrics allow for more freedom of movement and flexibility.
Weave or Knit Structure
The weave or knit pattern used in crafting woven or knitted viscose fabric can influence its elasticity. For instance, a jersey knit pattern offers better stretchability than tightly woven fabrics.
Specific finishing treatments can modify the stretchiness of viscose fabric. Depending on the desired result, treatments can increase or decrease the fabric's elasticity.
Certain fibers, such as elastane or polyester, can be added to viscose to improve its elasticity. For instance, adding elastane, also known as spandex or Lycra, significantly improves the elasticity of viscose.
What Types of Viscose Blends Are Stretchy?
While viscose itself isn't an inherently stretchy fabric, there are various materials that can make viscose fabric stretchy. Here are some common types of viscose fabric blends known for their stretchiness:
Elastane is an incredibly elastic synthetic fabric. The addition of elastane to viscose fabric enhances its stretchability. Viscose-elastane blends are commonly used to make garments like activewear, leggings, and close-fitting clothing.
Pure nylon is another relatively stretchy synthetic fiber. It can stretch up to 30% of its original size (Tania, 2021). Blending viscose with nylon fibers can create a fabric that blends the softness and breathability of viscose with the elasticity, toughness, and durability of nylon. Viscose-nylon blends are often used to make seamless garments that require a comfortable and stretchy fit, like lingerie and hosiery.
Viscose can be blended with bamboo fibers to create a stretchy bamboo viscose blend. Although bamboo isn't as elastic as other fibers like elastane and nylon, it’s a relatively stretchy material that can enhance the softness and elasticity of viscose.
How to Make Viscose Fabric Stretchy
While synthetic fibers like nylon and spandex can make viscose fabric stretchy, there are other ways to enhance its stretchability and make it more flexible. Here are some methods to stretch viscose.
Soak the Viscose Fabric
Soaking the viscose fabric in water can relax the fibers and make them more elastic. Water can allow the fabric to stretch in a particular direction while maintaining its shape. However, when stretching out the fabric after soaking it in water, don't force it. Instead, smooth the fabric and lay it flat to dry to preserve its stretched form.
Wash the Viscose Fabric
Washing viscose fabric can make it more stretchable. However, like many other fabrics, viscose is a delicate fabric that requires special care to prevent shrinkage or damage. Here are some key tips to remember when washing viscose fabric:
- Wash the fabric in cold or lukewarm water: Avoid washing viscose fabric in hot water, as it could damage or shrink the fabric.
- Use a mild detergent: Harsh detergents and chemicals can damage viscose fabric. Use mild detergents to wash the fabric, preferably detergents tailored for delicate fabrics.
- Avoid wringing or twisting: Viscose is prone to damage when wet. So, don't wring or twist the fabric after washing it.
- Check the care label: Before washing the viscose clothing, check its care label. Care labels provide helpful information on how to take care of the fabric to prevent damage and promote longevity.
- Avoid direct sunlight or excessive heat: Viscose fabric is susceptible to damage at high temperatures. Avoid hanging the fabric in direct sunlight or using a hot iron to straighten it out, as doing so could cause the fabric to fade, shrink, or get damaged.
Heat the Viscose Fabric
Applying heat to the viscose fabric can relax its fibers, making them more pliable and stretchy. Heat can also help the fabric to maintain its shape. Use a steam iron or hair dryer set to the lowest heat setting to warm the fabric. After applying heat to the fabric, stretch it out and lay it flat in the stretched position until it cools.
Use Fabric Softener
Fabric softeners or conditioning treatments can stretch viscose fabric and make it feel softer, allowing for better stretch and movement.
Hand Stretch the Fabric
Lay the viscose fabric on a flat surface and gently stretch the corners or edges. When stretching out the fabric by hand, stretch the fabric carefully. Be careful not to exert too much force, as doing so could tear the fabric or alter its shape.
Tumble Dry the Viscose Fabric
Place the viscose fabric in a dryer and run it for a prolonged period. Tumble drying can make the fabric soft and pliable and easier to stretch.
Wear the Viscose Clothing
While it may seem like a no-brainer, viscose garments can actually stretch over time if worn. This method comes in especially handy for clothes worn frequently.
Purchase a Blend
Combining viscose with a more stretchy synthetic material like elastane is undoubtedly the most effective way to stretch it. Elastane fibers offer the necessary elasticity, allowing the fabric to stretch and retain its shape.
Look for manufacturer's labels or product descriptions like ''4% spandex 96% viscose,'' or something equivalent. However, bear in mind that while some synthetic materials like spandex can enhance elasticity, they aren't sustainable. They're derived from non-renewable resources and these mixes of materials can be really hard to recycle.
How Does the Elasticity of Viscose Fabric Compare to Other Materials?
The elasticity of viscose fabric varies depending on the specific composition and blend of the fabric. Here's how the elasticity of viscose compares with other synthetic and natural materials:
Viscose vs. Elastane (Spandex or Lycra)
Elastane is renowned for its remarkable stretch and recovery properties. Fabrics containing elastane can stretch significantly, often stretching up to 4-ways. They can also retain their original shape, making them perfect for garments that require a high degree of flexibility like stretchy jeans. This quality makes elastane a great material for enhancing the stretchiness of viscose. However, it is worth noting that elastane isn't a sustainable fabric. While it can make viscose stretchy, it isn't eco-friendly. It's derived from non-renewable resources like petroleum and doesn't decompose.
Viscose vs. Polyester
While polyester isn't renowned for its elasticity, it's slightly more stretchy than viscose. Unlike viscose, which can only stretch up to 2% of its original length, polyester can stretch up to 15% (Jessica, 2023). This quality makes polyester and viscose blended fabrics ideal for garments that require a moderate degree of stretch. However, polyester blends won't match the elasticity of elastane-rich blends. Similarly, like elastane, polyester isn’t sustainable because it’s derived from petroleum.
Viscose vs. Nylon
Nylon offers better elasticity than viscose. Unlike viscose, which can only stretch up to 2% of its original length, nylon can stretch up to 30% over time. This quality makes nylon and viscose blended fabrics perfect for garments that require slightly more stretch than polyester blends. However, like elastane and polyester, nylon isn’t sustainable. It’s made from a non-renewable resource.
Viscose vs. Cotton
While cotton is a non stretchy fabric, it offers slightly more elasticity than viscose but not as much as elastane, polyester, or nylon.
Is viscose the same as rayon fabric?
Viscose and rayon are essentially the same material. The term ''rayon'' is an umbrella term that includes various types of regenerated cellulose fibers, including viscose rayon, modal, and Tencel. Viscose is a specific type of rayon, and it's the most commonly produced and used form of the material.
Viscose is named after the viscous solution used in viscose production. Sometimes, it's also referred to as viscose rayon. As a result, the terms ''viscose'' and ''rayon'' are often used interchangeably. So, when people refer to viscose, rayon, or viscose rayon fabric, they are generally referring to the same thing.
Is viscose itchy?
Viscose fabric isn't inherently itchy. In fact, it's coveted for its soft, smooth, and silky feel. This quality makes it a comfortable and breathable alternative to natural fabrics like cotton or wool.
However, while viscose is generally allergy friendly, some people may experience itchiness or skin irritation when wearing viscose fabric. This can be due to factors such as fabric quality and detergents used to wash the fabric.
Is viscose breathable?
Viscose is a breathable semi-synthetic material. It allows air to pass through the viscose fabric, promoting ventilation and helping to keep the body cool.
However, the breathability of viscose can vary depending on factors such as the specific weave, weight, and the type of blended fabric. Viscose fabrics with looser weaves, weights, and materials may offer better breathability than tightly woven or heavier variants.
Does viscose feel like cotton?
Like cotton, viscose fabric is known for its soft and smooth texture. It's gentle to the touch and comfortable against the skin, making it pleasant to wear.
Is viscose better than polyester?
Viscose and polyester are different fabrics, each with unique properties. So, the better fabric between the two will depend on individual preferences, specific needs, and the fabric's intended use. While viscose may offer better comfort and breathability, polyester offers better wrinkle resistance and durability.
Is viscose hot to wear in summer?
Viscose fabric isn't as lightweight as natural fibers like cotton or linen. However, it can be ideal for summer wear due to its soft and smooth texture, breathability, and moisture absorption properties.
Nonetheless, when purchasing viscose clothing for summer, opt for lightweight garments, as they generally offer better breathability than heavy ones. Also, choose light-colored fabrics, as they reflect more heat and sunlight compared to dark-colored fabrics.
What is the most expensive fabric?
The most expensive fabric is often considered to be vicuña wool. It comes from the fleece of the vicuña, a rare and protected animal found in the Andes Mountains of South America.
The high cost of vicuña wool is primarily due to its scarcity and difficulty obtaining it. Vicuñas are wild animals that cannot be domesticated or sheared like other wool-producing animals. Instead, they are captured, gently sheared, and then released unharmed into the wild. This labor-intensive process of gathering vicuña wool contributes to its high price.
Vicuna wool is also incredibly costly because of its exceptional quality. It's extremely soft, lightweight, and warm, with exceptional insulating properties. These qualities and its rarity make vicuña wool highly sought after by luxury fashion houses and fashionistas looking for premium fabrics.
Viscose offers various properties that make it a desirable fabric among textile manufacturers and fashion consumers. While it isn't inherently stretchy, its softness, breathability, lightness, and versatility make it a great fabric option for certain garments, such as summer wear.
Plus, despite not offering much elasticity, the stretchiness of viscose can be improved by blending it with other stretchy fabrics like nylon and spandex. So, when looking for a viscose garment that offers excellent elasticity, check the care label to assess the garment's stretchiness.