Fabric 101 – Regenerated Fibers

Fabric 101 – Regenerated Fibers

Regenerated fibers are derived from naturally occurring resources, however, the final fiber has been so heavily processed, it is no longer considered natural.

Rayon is the most known regenerated fiber in the market. Known as art silk, rayon is a great alternative to silk. It has a bright shiny texture and is more durable than silk. Rayon will wrinkle and may stretch if not cleaned and maintained properly. Similar to linen, in the summer, rayon absorbs humidity and shrinks upward, letting back down in lower-humidity months.

Viscose, a type of rayon, is an extremely common fiber found in home textiles, including fabrics and area rugs. The name ‘viscose’ is derived from the way this specific fiber is manufactured, using viscous liquid. Viscose is made from wood pulp, making it a cellulosic fiber, like linen or cotton, and is often regarded as only partially manmade, hence the regenerated classification.

A common question I get asked is if viscose is considered environmentally friendly and sustainable since it is made from renewable plants. In order for viscose to stand up to regular wear and tear, it must be chemically treated. The recycled wood pulp is treated with chemicals, so although it comes from a natural and sustainable source, it is still made with chemicals.

Chemically, viscose resembles cotton but can take on various qualities depending on how it is manufactured. It is an extremely versatile fiber, blending very easily with others. It is extremely strong, has a luxurious look and feel, and is very inexpensive to manufacture with.

  • Versatile, it blends well with other fibers, typically to increase the tensile strength
  • Breathable
  • Drapes well
  • Excellent color retention
  • Highly absorbent
  • Very smooth
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Inexpensive

With all of these great qualities, Viscose has still been a hot topic recently within the industry. There are a few limitations, and many designers are now avoiding anything and everything that has viscose in it. Why is that?

While cotton gets stronger when wet, viscose and rayon lose strength. In fact, these regenerated fibers can lose up to 50% of their tensile strength when wet. Over time, the fabric may weaken and discolor, resulting in pressure marking or crushing. Spot cleaning is very problematic with viscose fabrics.

Crushing can also occur due to poor crease recovery. A high pile velvet or chenille can easily flatten or bruise due to pressure being placed on the fabric, and it not being able to fully recover. It is common to hear stories of clients seeing a shade variation on their velvet sofa in the spot they always sit. Viscose performs much better in woven fabrics.


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