Using rayon embroidery thread 

Have you ever had a love-hate relationship with rayon embroidery thread? 

I know how it feels. You adore the luxurious, shimmering appearance rayon gives to your work, but it fights you with every stitch! But don’t worry – there is hope for us all.

It can be frustrating when something doesn’t behave like we expect it to and that was certainly true of my relationship with rayon until I learned how to work with it instead of against it! 

On this page, you too will learn what works and what doesn’t so that next time around you won’t have any trouble at all working with this beautiful fibre! Let me help guide your way through the world of rayon embroidery threads so that they become an integral part of your projects from now on!

Rayon is a man-made, synthetic fibre, which gives the appearance of silk, while being more economical.

It's is ideal for those who want to add that luxurious touch to their work without spending too much money. You'll be able to create beautiful pieces with this thread and save some cash in the process!

The secret to success with rayon embroidery thread

I found myself constantly fighting with rayon. The thread would break, kink up on me or not cooperate at all! To solve this problem, I discovered that keeping a damp sponge beside me while I worked was the key. 

I cut several lengths from the reel or skein and ran each across the sponge before threading the needle. I prepared a number of needle-fulls before I started stitching, and by the time I picked up the first one again it had dried enough to use, but was definitely tamed! No tangles or knots and no breakages. 

Dampening the rayon in this manner will remove any kinks and make it easier to work with.

Using the thread when too wet, can cause the fibers to tangle and break. So thread up a few needles before stitching, giving the rayon time to dry off a little.

What needle do you use for rayon thread?

With regard to needles, pick one that has a large enough eye. If you force the rayon through an eye that is too small, it will "saw" away at the thread and cause it to fray and break. So move up to the next size than the one you would normally use for stranded embroidery floss

Rayon embroidery thread can be slippery and slide out of a needle while stitching.

To solve this, cut the thread to the length you require and fold it in half. Thread both ends into the needle to leave a loop at one end.

Pull the needle through from the back side of the fabric, down through the top and then slip it through the loop of thread to secure.

Is rayon natural or man made?

It is really a bit of both. The following is a simplification of the process involved in it's production.

The raw substance is cellulose which comes from trees. The bark is stripped off first, and then the wood is macerated prior to being boiled under extreme pressure. The resulting pulp is then chemically treated before being washed and dried.

The product is then known as viscose or modal. So although it starts life as a natural substance - wood - so many chemicals are used to break it down that it can no longer be regarded as a natural fibre.

Is rayon thread colourfast?

I had always been told that rayon is colourfast in general use. It is possible that bleach or other harsh chemicals could cause it to discolour or fade.

I wouldn't want to use those dangerous substances close to a piece of embroidery I had spent many hours working on, so I am not going to test this out. However, if you have a garment and the label says it needs dry cleaning I would be hesitant about embellishing it with rayon threads. 

I have used it in small embroidery projects and crazy quilt embroidery with no bad effects so far.

However, I would always recommend checking a small amount of stitching on the same fabric as your project before spending a long time on it. After stitching your sample, try cold and then hot water on your piece to see if the colour bleeds. 


Is rayon as strong as silk?

I would have to answer this with a NO! Rayon is considered a weak fibre, held out by the fact that it can break easily when stitching with it. 

Silk, on the other hand, is a natural fibre that is stronger than steel. Quilted silk fabric has even been used to protect people from arrows in the past. 

Brands of rayon embroidery thread

Anchor Marlitt Embroidery Floss

Perhaps the most easily obtainable rayon embroidery thread, at least here in the UK, is Anchor Marlitt. This comes in skeins and it is a 4 ply yarn. It is divisible and you can use as many strands together as you need.

Brazilian Embroidery Threads

Brazilian Embroidery traditionally uses rayon embroidery threads, of which the best quality are those manufactured by Edmar.

Edmar threads are available in various forms, ranging from fine to chunky. They are all hand-dyed and colourfast. There is no need to separate the strands. Before you stitch, pull the cut length to straighten it out. 

The types available are...

  • Glory, a fine 2 ply with a loose twist
  • Iris, a medium 2 ply with a loose twist
  • Frost, a medium 3 ply with a tight twist
  • Lola, a heavy 3 ply - great for thicker branches and stems
  • Cire, another heavy 3 ply, with a slightly looser twist than Lola
  • Nova, a very heavy 6 ply with a loose twist, which is useful for padding
  • Boucle, a nubbly textured yarn


Madeira Decora rayon floss is sold in tangle free, 5m spiral packs and is available in 80 solid colours and 10 variegated.

Sulky rayon thread

Sulky Rayon Thread - the finer 40 wt. comes in 388 colours and the thicker 30 wt. is available in 102 (solid) and 54 (variegated) - both weights are ideal for machine embroidery or delicate hand embroidery.

In summary

It is not uncommon for stitchers to encounter difficulties when it comes to working with rayon. But, these problems can be solved by using the right tools and materials.

I hope that this page has provided you with some of the best practices for making your stitching experience more enjoyable!

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