Early sample of woven viscose fabric, c 1908.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Viscose, a kind of rayon, is a man-made cellulosic fibre derived from wood pulp. The pulp is broken down either mechanically or chemically into a viscous liquid, before being reformed into fibres - hence the name. Early rayons, although absorbent, were weakened by moisture and discoloured easily. They were also prone to creasing and did not have the softnes and drape of modern viscose.