Viyella is a blend of wool and cotton first woven in 1893 in England, and soon to be the "first branded fabric in the world". It was made of 55 % merino wool and 45 % cotton in a twill weave, developed by James and Robert Sissons of William Hollins & Co, spinners and hosiers. The brand name, first registered as a trademark in 1894, and registered in the United States in 1907, soon covered not only the original fabric, to be sold by the yard, but also clothing. At first this was made by separate businesses, but it was not long before Hollins started producing their own clothes and offering franchises to manufacturers who would use the Viyella label. Following increasing emphasis on garment manufacture over the years, Viyella is now a fashion brand for clothes and home furnishings made of a variety of fabrics. The original wool/cotton blend is no longer on sale.
Viyella was a soft dress-weight fabric that was more resistant to shrinkage than any comparable pure wool alternative (challis, for example). In its early years it was marketed as a fabric which combined lightness and fashion with warmth and durability. One 1920s advertisement called it a "guaranteed unshrinkable fine wool flannel" for women who wanted both "daintiness" and "protectiveness".
By the early 20th century it came in various weights and widths, some rather narrow by today's standards, and in both plain colours and woven or printed patterns, and was exported from the United Kingdom to other English-speaking countries. Towards the end of the 20th century it was woven in 150cm wide lengths suitable for modern garment design and production.
The first ready-made garments using Viyella were shirts and nightgowns, and soon came dresses, slips and other clothing, much of it produced under franchise arrangements using the Viyella trademark. It was also made into sheets, and at one time Viyella yarn was available for home knitting.
In the mid-20th century the fabric was popular for children's clothes - from babies' nightgowns to winter shirts for British schoolchildren - and for pyjamas, shirts and dresses; it became associated with sensible, cosy clothing. Officers in the British and other Commonwealth armies purchased their own uniforms during the Second World War, and Viyella shirts were a desirable option for them. In the late 20th century it was 're-invented' as fashionable fabric. In 1987 The Times said it was used by designers interested in "vintage" style, like Laura Ashley, and creators of "modern classics".
Clydella was a cheaper, less soft alternative made with 81% cotton, produced at factories in the Clydeside area, including Glasgow and Hamilton, where many yards of Viyella were also woven. Hollins also produced the related Dayella cloth used especially for babies' clothes.
in 1970, ICI acquired Viyella and, later in the year, Carrington and Dewhurst, forming Carrington Viyella of which ICI owned 80%. After a few years as Carrington Viyella and then Vantona Viyella, in 1986 the company owning the Viyella brand became Coats Viyella. In the 1890's a new mill was built to produce the Viyella cloth in Barrowford, Lancashire, but this was demolished in 1999.
It is no longer possible to buy Viyella Fabric.