What Is Viscose?In the fashion world, fabrics are usually divided into synthetic fibres and natural fibres. However, fabrics like viscose fall into a category of their own. You may have heard people refer to Viscose and Rayon interchangeably; these are synonymous names for fibres created through a similar process.
Viscose is a cellulosic fibre, meaning that it is made up of fibres that come from plants much like cotton, linen, and hemp. However, viscose is made from wood, which, in its original form, is not flexible enough to be woven into cloth. So how does a woody tree turn into the beautiful, flowing fabric we know as viscose?
The Fabrication of ViscoseViscose is made from cellulose fibres, which make up the cell walls of plants. The fibres from trees or bamboo are broken down using a mix of carbon disulphide and caustic soda, which creates a viscous liquid substance (which is where "viscose" gets it name from). The thick liquid is then deposited into a chemical bath, which regenerates the cellulose fibres into a state from which it can be spun into yarn and used to weave fabric. Because the cellular content of viscose is natural but the fibres themselves are altered in the production process, viscose is considered to be a “semi-synthetic” fibre.
You can see a small-scale version of viscose production in this video:
Viscose was once heralded as an eco-friendly replacement for polyester and other petroleum-based fabrics; however, as society gains a better understanding of the long-term impact of the fashion industry, there are a few concerns that have arisen around the use of viscose. Environmental concerns over the production of viscose tend to focus on chemicals that are used in the production process, and the potential deforestation caused by sourcing enough wood. Focus on these concerns has led to strides being made to lower the waste production and ensure that forests are protected from being over-harvested.
Sustainable and Eco-Friendly ViscoseSome more sustainable viscose options include modal, which is made from a soft wood (typically beechwood), which can be broken down with more mild chemicals.
There are also organizations who offer certification, ensuring the viscose that bears the certification is made within closed loop systems, and source origin fibres ethically.
- Lyocell is a form of tencel that uses amine oxides to break down wood fibres. Amine oxides are found in household cleaners, shampoos, and soaps, and are considered to be safe. The fibres are spun into another chemical, which has been verified to have a minimal toxicity level.
- EcoVero Viscose is one of these certifications, given by Lenzing, and is produced with a method that has up to 50% less water impact.
- Another certification we are excited to provide is FSC, which measures the impact of fibre sourcing. An FSC certification ensures that the original sourced fibre was collected sustainably and does not contribute to deforestation.
Types of ViscoseViscose yarn can be spun in a variety of different ways to create a myriad of different types of fabric including challis, crepe, satin, and twill. Viscose also blends very well with other fibres, lending its drape and softness to the fibre it is paired with, such as our Textured Viscose Linen or our Triangle Print Stretch Cotton Viscose Deadstock.
This versatile fibre is a joy to sew with, and is making great strides in becoming more and more environmentally friendly. We can’t wait to see what the future of viscose holds.