Lightweight, plain-weave fabric with a slightly brushed surface texture and a supple hand.
Soft and flowy, challis is a fabric with a fluid drape, lovely for shawls, dresses, skirts and blouses.
It is a fine plain-weave fabric traditionally made of wool or rayon. It has a subtle nap because of its brushed surface.
Wool challis is the finest and softest of the 100% wool wovens. Fine quality wool challis contains single-ply worsted spun yarns in both the warp and the weft.
Rayon challis is abundant and very popular for women's blouses, dresses and skirts, and pants. Often printed in floral or paisley designs, it can also be found in a range of solid colors.
The word challis comes from the Anglo-Indian term shalee, meaning soft.
In French, challis is known as étamine glacé.
Use wool challis for shawls, blouses, skirts and robes. Rayon challis works well for scarves, tops, skirts, dresses, and robes.
Challis was originally produced in Norwich, England, around 1830. With its fiber content of silk and wool, challis was considered a luxury fabric. It was easy to maintain and comfortable to wear.
The print designs that we associate with challis were derived from the patterns on fine Indian cashmere shawls imported to England. A new technique for printing on fabric, developed in the town of Paisley, in Scotland, enabled the printing of these small, curved and colorful motifs, which became known as paisley. Woolen mills in the area produced fine challis on which they printed these intricate designs.
During the Victorian era, wool challis became popular for both women's and men's garments. Women wore challis dresses and shawls. In menswear, challis was used for neckties, vests (waistcoats), and lining in coats.
The designs printed on the fabric were originally block-printed; later, they were screen printed, a technique still used in the finest quality challis.
Rayon, developed in the 20th century, lent itself to the creation of challis. Its drape, hand and ability to take dyes make it a popular fabric for garments and for home décor items. Today, the fiber content of challis may include polyester, nylon, or cotton.
Tips & Tricks
Preshrink wool challis by holding the iron 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) above the fabric and shooting steam through it, or by hand-washing in warm water and laying it flat to dry.
Preshrink rayon challis by washing it 2 or 3 times in warm water and drying it in moderate heat.
Press with steam on a moderate setting (wool or silk), and allow the fabric to rest and cool before you move it.
Use taut sewing to prevent puckering in seams.
Challis is a loosely woven fabric that needs careful handling to keep it on grain.
Store wool challis in a moth-proof environment.
Select the best quality challis that you can, as lesser quality fabrics tend to pill.