What is Challis? Fabric Guide and Explanation

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What is challis? Challis is a lightweight woven fabric that was originally made by blending silk and wool, but there were also cases where a single fabric such as silk, cotton, or wool was used in creating it. Rayon, which is known to be a synthetic fiber, is now the most commonly used material in making challis because it is easier to obtain and more durable than the others.

What is ChallisPinWhat is Challis


What is Challis Fabric?What is Challis – Origin?What is Challis Used For?What is Challis – Stretching Property?What is Challis – Is it good for the environment?What is Challis – Is Challis Vegan?What is Challis – Challis vs CrepeWhat is Challis – Rayon vs ViscoseWhat is Challis – Is it Durable?What is Challis – Sewing TipsWhat is Challis – Ironing TipsWhat is Challis – In ConclusionMORE FABRIC TYPES

What is Challis Fabric?

Challis is a fabric that is loved by many, especially during summer when the heat of the sun is a little bit unbearable. Although challis was initially made by combining silk and cotton, nowadays, the fabric is being manufactured using rayon as the main material.

Challis is a very smooth fabric that is quite cool to the touch, the main reason why this fabric is popular during the summer season. Since this type of fabric is made using cellulosic fiber, it will no doubt be breathable during hot weather.

What is Challis – Origin?

The origin of the word Challis is actually from the Anglo-Indian word “shallee” which means ‘soft’. According to history, Challis was first produced in Norwich, England during the early 1830s. 

This type of fabric has been specifically designed to be soft and thin, much like the Norwich crepe, but rather than having a glossy texture, the Challis fabric has a matte texture and has been known to be more pliable. The traditional design for Challis comes with a paisley and floral patterns.  

What is Challis Used For?

Challis was once extremely popular and has been casually used as a fabric for making dirndls, shawls, bed jackets, and even babushkas.

Most challis nowadays is made by using the synthetic fiber called rayon, and thus its availability has been significantly increased compared to the earlier years. Due to the high popularity of challis, most fashion designers would use this fabric in making their clothing line. These ranges can be from loose-fitting tops to dresses, to skirts and even pants.

Other known uses for challis today include pajamas, kimonos, sportswear and so much more.

What is Challis – Stretching Property?

Since challis is a woven fabric, it won’t be as stretchy as other clothes, so it won’t be a good match if you are planning to use this for tight-fitting clothes. Any type of clothes that won’t be using a button or zipper will usually be a bad match for this type of fabric.

What is Challis – Is it good for the environment?

Since Challis is typically made by using natural and organic materials, it is deemed to be environmentally friendly. Depending on the type of material that was used to making the challis, it should degrade in about one to five years. There are some instances though in which non-organic cotton is used in making challis. Usually, non-organic cotton is treated with harmful chemicals and pesticides which are quite dangerous for the environment.

So, unless your challis is made by using non-organic materials or has been chemically treated, it won’t affect the environment that much. It would usually decompose in just about a few years, so you shouldn’t need to worry.

What is Challis – Is Challis Vegan?

If silk was used in the making of this fabric, then it is not considered vegan. Silkworms would have been used and killed for obtaining the silk. To harvest silk from the silkworms, silk producers would usually boil the silkworms while inside their cocoons, killing the worms in the process. Just like most animals, silkworms also feel pain.

Using wool in making challis isn’t also animal-friendly because there are times that wool harvesters would hurt the woolen animals during the harvesting process. During the harvesting of their wools, the animals would sometimes get cuts or scratches in their skin, tails, ears, teats, and some other parts of the body.

The only time that this type of fabric will be considered animal-friendly or vegan is if it was made using only cotton.

What is Challis – Challis vs Crepe

These two fabrics may have some similarities, but there are cases that you may want to use challis over a crepe or vice versa depending on the type of clothes you will be making.

If you are planning to design soft and lightweight clothes, you may want to use the challis. However, crepe is best used if you want to have a sort of crispy and a little bit crinkly texture for your clothes. 

What is Challis – Rayon vs Viscose

There isn’t that much of a difference between these two types of challis except, however, for the source of the material. While viscose is usually made by using bamboo only, the rayon challis can be made with different plants. That will sometimes even include bamboo as well.

What is Challis – Is it Durable?

Most fabrics that have been made using silk, cotton, wool, and rayon are all known to be quite durable but only if it has been well-taken care of. To ensure that your fabric or clothes won’t just be another garbage in a landfill somewhere, it would be best that you know how to take better care of it.

If you going to buy some challis, always make sure that your source is trustworthy. It should only offer the highest quality to ensure the durability of your product.

What is Challis – Sewing Tips

Challis is undoubtedly a fabric that is hard to work with. Because of its delicate nature, which is why you need to know how to properly care for the fabric.


The Rayon Challis fabric has been known to be quite slippery and shifty when it comes to sewing. You should use a rotary cutter to cut and sew challis easily, without any mistakes. A rotary cutter will ensure that the challis will be cut evenly, smoothly and will help in avoiding snags.

Using Pins, Mats, and Pattern Weights

In some cases, you may also need to have a mat, some pattern weights, and some pins, especially if you are dealing with a French Challis which is glossy and extra slippery. To make sewing a lot easier always use pins.


When you are going to use a needle, make sure that you will be using one that has been precisely made for thin and lightweight fabrics. 70/10 HM or HJ needles are always recommended for this sort of fabric.

Always make sure to use new needles, dull ones could create a snag on your challis fabric or may even puncture a large hole on your challis.


To ensure that you don’t damage the fabric, you should use a very sharp scissor when cutting it, otherwise, you may ruin the quality of the fabric and even cause the material to snag.

Prewash before anything else

Since rayon can shrink by a whole lot if washed, it is advisable that you first prewash the fabric before you start doing anything with it. You may have to expect some shrinking if you weren’t able to prewash it before you started with cutting and sewing.

Because challis is very expensive, it is important to know how to take better care of this fabric. In addition, you should know how to properly handle it – from cutting, sewing, and even aftercare.

What is Challis – Ironing Tips

When pressing the fabric, make sure to put the iron on medium heat and with plenty of steam. When ironing the fabric, make sure that you don’t drag the iron across because this may do significant damage to the fabric. Press and lift it across each section of the fabric, instead of dragging the iron across.

Over-pressing the fabric may cause the fabric to shine and lose its matte texture. One thing that may make ironing this fabric a lot easier is by using a press cloth.

Once you are done pressing your fabric, leave it as is for a few minutes to help keep the pressing stay in shape, otherwise, you may have to do it again.

What is Challis – In Conclusion

All in all, challis is one of the best and most advisable fabrics to use during the summery season because of its lightweight and breathable properties. Even though it may prove to be a little challenging on the sewing part, the challis is still a great fabric to deal with because of its availability. This fabric is so popular that even the most well-known fashion designers, use this type of fabric in some of their clothing lines.

Although challis may not be that friendly for the animals, overall, it is still a great fabric because it is durable, versatile and most importantly, it is eco-friendly.


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