Rayon yarn is a type of yarn that includes some rayon fiber, a type of man-made fiber produced from natural plant cellulose. This type of fiber is cool, soft, and lightweight like bamboo or linen fiber. Most rayon yarn is not spun from rayon alone, but instead from a blend of rayon and other fibers, such as acrylic, linen, or mohair, all of which lend different properties to the blend. Some rayon yarns are novelty yarns that have a unique texture, while others have a more traditional texture. As with most types of yarn, the best choice of rayon yarn often depends on what type of project will be made with the yarn.
By itself, rayon is a versatile fiber that can mimic the shine, softness, and drape of silk or bamboo fiber, or the cool comfort of cotton or linen. However, rayon is not insulating, so the wearer of a rayon garment will not be kept very warm by it, so rayon is a good choice for making garments meant for warm weather wear. All-rayon yarn is also relatively weak and prone to breakage, especially when it gets wet. For this reason, garments that require heavy blocking, a process that uses water or steam to stretch and shape a knitted garment, should probably be crafted from a rayon blend rather than pure rayon fiber.
Yarns made from acrylic blended with rayon often take on a slight sheen similar to that of silk from the rayon content. Though rayon often needs to be dry-cleaned, blending it with acrylic often results in a type of yarn that can be machine washed instead. The rayon also adds to the softness of the acrylic, eliminating a somewhat common complaint among fiber artists that acrylic yarns are scratchy and rough on the hands. Since this type of rayon yarn is both soft and easier to care for than other blends, it is a good choice for making baby blankets and clothing.
Another type of fiber often found blended with rayon is linen. Linen is very durable, and unlike most other types of fiber, it actually gets stronger and more elastic when it is wet, but when it is spun by itself the resulting yarn can be very stiff and rough. Therefore, a rayon and linen blend is much more durable than rayon by itself, and much softer than linen alone. This type of yarn is a good choice for making almost any variety of summery garment or accessory.
Mohair may also be blended with rayon, often with the rayon as a central thread that binds the fuzzy, flyaway pieces of mohair fiber together. These yarns create garments that have a very fluffy texture, often described as a "halo." Mohair and rayon blends are well suited for making lightweight, airy garments, such as a loosely knit pullover or a lacy shawl.
Rayon is also often used to make novelty yarns, which are yarns that have a different texture from a traditional plied yarn. Ribbon yarn, a wide, flat novelty yarn that resembles a piece of ribbon, is often made using some rayon fiber. Boucle yarn, a type of yarn with a nubby, bumpy texture that comes from spinning one of its plied strands looser than the others, also frequently includes some rayon. These novelty yarns are good choices for making scarves and other simple projects that will showcase their unique textures.