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Rayon Challis vs Viscose Poplin

Rayon Challis vs Viscose Poplin compared by Skirt Fixation

Today I’m exploring the difference between rayon and viscose, and between challis and poplin.  In all the pictures, the rayon challis fabric is on the left and the viscose poplin fabric is on the right.

So what exactly is the difference between rayon challis and viscose poplin?  That was a question in my mind, for quite some time.  But since sewing with and wearing both fabrics, and doing some extra research, I think I have some answers.

First of all, we have to split each of these fabrics into two parts.  Rayon and challis, viscose and poplin.  You see, the first word refers to the material the fabric is made from, and the second word basically refers to the weave of each of them.

Rayon Challis vs Viscose Poplin compared by Skirt Fixation

So what is the difference between rayon and viscose?  For the home sewist, practically nothing.  They are basically the same thing, and since we’re not scientists, the tiny differences don’t really matter.  The only difference I could find is that viscose is usually made from bamboo while rayon can be from a wider variety of “plant matter and wood pulp, usually bamboo” and the two are processed the same way.  For cutting, sewing and wearing, rayon and viscose are essentially the same thing.  In fact I’ve even seen some fabric suppliers use the words interchangeably.  So the answer to the first part of the question is…there is not really any difference.

Rayon Challis vs Viscose Poplin compared by Skirt Fixation

Now what is the difference between challis and poplin?  Here the simple home sewist can differentiate a little bit.  Challis and poplin both refer to the weave of the fabric. Interestingly, challis can be made from wool, rayon, cotton, silk or manufactured blends.  Challis usually has a plain weave (each weft yarn passes alternately over and under each warp thread) but can occasionally be found with a twill (diagonal) weave.  Poplin has a very tight plain weave and originally had silk warm and wool weft threads.  Both challis and poplin should be sewn with a new or fine needle.

Rayon Challis vs Viscose Poplin compared by Skirt Fixation

Technical specifics for rayon challis vs viscose poplin:

Rayon Challis:

weight: 0-3.5 oz per yard

opacity: translucent

care: machine wash, tumble dry

width: 44” – 58”

drape: soft liquid

Viscose Poplin:  

weight: 120 gsm (3.5 oz per yard)

opacity: opaque

care: wash warm, dry flat, or dry clean

width: 58”

drape: very fluid

Rayon Challis vs Viscose Poplin compared by Skirt Fixation

Here you can see challis and poplin held up to the light.

Really you have to wear both of them to be able to feel the difference yourself.  It’s very, very subtle, and both are super nice fabrics!  For me, the rayon challis feels a little lighter with a little more drape.  The viscose poplin feels slightly softer, and doesn’t conform to the body quite as much.

Rayon Challis vs Viscose Poplin compared by Skirt Fixation

Here is a comparison of the plain fabric so you can see the drape side by side.

But there are a few differences, so I thought you might appreciate knowing everything I know!  Leave a comment, did I miss anything in this comparison of rayon challis vs. viscose poplin?

Pattern Used: Phoenix Blouse by Hey June Patterns

Fabrics Used:

Rayon Challis from CaliFabrics (review and thoughts on wearing rayon challis in the fall here)

Viscose Poplin fabric from Blackbird Fabrics.  Sold out, but can be found here.  

Rayon Challis vs Viscose Poplin compared by Skirt Fixation

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