A viscose fibre, also called rayon, which falls between two stools: it is neither truly natural nor synthetic. Whilst the fibre is produced from natural plant cellulose, the method used to create useable fibres is chemical. The cellulose is dissolved in cuprammonium, and then extruded to make the filament. The German chemist J.P. Bemberg, came to prominence in 1904 when he managed to produce a rayon which very closely resembled silk. Further development in the mid 1900’s produced long staple fibres, a blessing at a time when natural materials were expensive and in short supply. This is when rayon and viscose fabrics came into their own, especially for clothing.

* Bembergs and rayons do, though, vary hugely in quality and specification,so it’s always worth checking, although price is always a good indicator.

* The process enables imitation, and these fibres can emulate the feel and texture of wool, silk, cotton, linen and bamboo.

* The woven material is soft, comfortable, and highly absorbent; which makes it ideal for use in hot climates as it not an insulator

* Bemberg mixes easily with other fibres, and this is very often the case, as combining the best properties of two or multiple fibres creates very accommodating fabric.

* For furnishings the inherent resistance to fading combined with relatively poor strength and lower costs makes viscose an ideal material for lining, and for lightweight curtaining if the budget is tight.

* Rayon is highly biodegradable, a factor unusual for a synthetic fibre and which makes it even more attractive, especially for short term usage.

Biodegradability of cellulose fabrics by Chung Hee Park, Yun Kyung Kang and Seung Soon Im

(Journal of Applied Polymer Science, Vol 94: pp 248-253, 15/09/2004)


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