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Everything You Didn’t Know About These 7 Fabrics


Plaid

Definition

While plaid is typically considered a pattern in and of itself, the Scottish Gaelic term plaid actually refers to a tartan blanket traditionally worn slung over the shoulder.

Today, plaid has become a catch all phrase for horizontally and vertically striped patterns containing two or more colors. The main distinguishing factor is that plaid horizontal and vertical stripes do not necessarily have to match whereas in tartan patterns they do match.

History

Technically plaid isn’t the name of the horizontal and vertical criss-cross pattern we know it as– it is actually the application of tartan fabric, and therefore has the same history as tartan. It first became known as plaid in the US and Britain.

How To Use It in a Space

Plaid works equally as well as Tartan in spaces such a traditional style den in classic colors on a sofa. For more unique applications of plaid, it could be stretched over a wooden canvas frame to create a bold piece of artwork.

An unusual way to bring plaid into a home is with tile: try it on the bathroom floor or a kitchen backsplash.

Color Scheme

To create a warm and traditional look for the holidays, you can’t go wrong with the classic red, green, black and white. For a more contemporary feel, use large scale black and white plaid. My personal favorite is the timeless burberry plaid.

Dos & Don’ts

Do use large scale plaid to bring a more modern look to plaid. Try this in an area rug to make a statement in a room.


Checks

Definition

Check is a pattern of crossed horizontal and vertical stripes. Most of us think of the classic buffalo check, made popular by lumberjacks in Pennsylvania.

History 

Check was originally derived from the alternating black and white square pattern of a chess board. While this classic pattern is seen again and again throughout history, it became popularized in the 1850’s when a Woolrich designer in Pennsylvania (who happened to own a herd of buffalo) introduced the “buffalo check”, in red and black, to their middle weight fabric line. Nearby lumberjacks became frequent buyers of these comfortable and warm woolen shirts. It was introduced into mainstream fashion in the United States in the 90s.

How To Use It in a Space

Check is usually associated with traditional or country style, however it can be modernized by adding a splash of color. This distinct pattern is pleasing in a living room on a pillow or an upholstered ottoman. It should be used sparingly, as too much check in one space can be overwhelming to the eye.

Color Schemes

Simple black and white check is very versatile and can complement traditional or contemporary spaces. It’s often seen in soft neutrals such as cream and beige to complete a modern farmhouse look. For a french provincial look, a combinations of blues and yellows is a great choice.

Dos & Don’ts

Do use check as an accent pattern in your space. When pattern mixing with check, use at least one neutral in the mix. Don’t use too many scales of check within the same space as it can look off balance and busy.

 

Gingham

Definition

Gingham is a light to medium weight plain woven cotton or linen fabric. It is similar to check but is smaller in scale, usually under 1”.

History

The exact history of the word gingham is unknown. Some think the name originated from the Malay word genggang meaning ‘ajar’. Others believe it was named after the town of Guingamp in Brittany, France where it was made.

In the 1960’s, Dorothy’s iconic blue and white gingham dress in the Wizard of Oz made this delicate fabric famous. This gingham style dress was seen again in Gilligan’s Island, worn by the popular character, Mary Ann.

How To Use It in a Space

Gingham is typically seen in traditional spaces and more recently, in modern farmhouse design. This fabric is often used as an accent within a space, such as cafe curtains, hand towels, table linens, pillows or duvet covers. This fabric works exceptionally well for sheer draperies since it has the same appearance on both sides, due to the fact that the fibers are dyed prior to being woven.

Color Scheme

While most people will think of the classic light blue and white gingham seen on Dorothy’s dress, it also works well in black and white, or really any color with white such as red and white or green and white.

Dos & Don’ts

Don’t mix two colors in the warp and weft of a gingham weave as it can be overwhelming. Instead, use white as one of the stripes. Do avoid small scale gingham patterns on large scale pieces of furniture, such as a large sofa. Don’t use gingham in a high-traffic or heavy-use area, as it is typically a lightweight low double-rub fabric.


Flannel

Definition

Flannel is traditionally a woven wool or cotton fabric made from finer and smoother woollen yarns. A flannel can be brushed to create an extra soft hand. Despite the common use of plaid patterns on flannels, not all flannels are plaid.

History

In Scotland/Wales, technological advances in weaving in the 1700’s and the abundance of wool made flannel a popular fabric that was easy to produce, durable and warm. Flannel gained popularity in America during the industrial revolution.

Throughout time, flannel has transitioned from being associated with the working class in the 60’s and 70’s to the grunge scene in the 90s. The 90’s grunge scene brought flannel to the forefront of fashion with plaid flannel shirts worn by popular bands such as Pearl Jam and Nirvana. The uni-sex nature of flannel also fit the fashion of the time.

How To Use It in a Space

Flannel’s durability and versatility allows it to be used anywhere from upholstery to wall coverings. A solid charcoal gray flannel can make a gorgeous sofa, and for colder climates it can make great bedding. For a more contemporary look, some designers have applied flannel to wall paneling to add texture and warmth to a space – try it on an accent wall!

Flannel can be rustic or sophisticated contemporary depending on the application.

Color Scheme

A neutral gray flannel can create a beautiful and sophisticated look for any style of space.

Dos & Don’ts

Don’t use flannel as draperies since it is a heavy-weight fabric.


Tartan

Definition

Tartan is woven from pre-dyed threads with multiple colors in criss-crossing horizontal and vertical bands. The use of multiple colors and stripe widths in both the warp and weft of the weave is tartans’ main distinction from other plaids. Traditional colors are blue, black, green, red and yellow

History

Tartan originated in Scotland and is regarded as their national fabric and a cultural icon. Similar to family crests, each Scottish family/tribe has a unique colorway and tartan that represents their family line. The cultural pride of Scotland made this fabric famous.

How To Use It in a Space

Tartan could be used in a traditional den in classic colors on a sofa, or applied in a contemporary fashion as wall covering paired with a contemporary sofa and sophisticated solids. The durability of this fabric makes it a great choice for pillows, blankets, an upholstered ottoman or dining room chair seats.

Color Scheme

For a traditional tartan look, use rich reds, blues and greens. For a more modern take on tartan, try a tonal variation such as varying shades of gray.

Dos & Don’ts

The most common mistake is the overuse of tartan in a space. Do use it sparingly in accents like pillows, throws blankets, etc. If using multiple times within a space, vary the scale to create balance. Do modernize tartan by applying it to a bold rug or in a large scale print on a sofa or armchair.


Jacquard

Definition

Jacquard is a type of fabric woven on a Jacquard loom. Jacquard fabrics are characteristically complex woven-in designs, often with large repeats and tapestry effects

Common fabrics made by this method include:

  • Brocade: Heavy jacquard-type fabric with an allover raised pattern or floral design.
  • Damask: A glossy jacquard-type fabric, the patterns are flat and reversible. Unlike jacquards, the fabric is all one color. Suitable for draperies, bedding and table linens.
  • Brocatelle: Heavy fabric similar to a damask.

History

The jacquard loom was invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1804. It was the first “computerized loom” and manipulates each thread of a warp individually, based on a pattern punched into a series of cards. The individual manipulation of the threads is what allows for such complex patterns.

When designing a jacquard fabric the weaver first plots the pattern on paper and then translate the pattern to punched cards that the loom “reads” and lifts individual warps accordingly.

Modern imitations of jacquard fabric utilize digital printing to emulate the woven texture and patterns of jacquard weaving. Digital Jacquard looms use computers to digital program the weave structure and can create a photorealistic effect in a woven cloth.  

How To Use It in a Space

Jacquard fabrics are great for upholstery because the weave structure tends to be thicker and more durable than other methods.

Due to the versatility of the weave structure and variety of patterns available, we see jacquards on almost every textile/soft good surface, from furniture to drapery to pillows.  

Color Scheme

The intricacy of Jacquard patterns allows for the use of multiple colors in one fabric. This can create bold tapestry like fabrics.

Alternatively, muted neutrals can create beautiful tone on tone patterns rich in texture.

The fine details of jacquard weaves also allows for blending effect in colors. You can create ombre effects. Fashion house Missoni has a line of striped ombre-esque patterns we love on a sofa or a drapery.

Dos & Don’ts

Due to the complex nature of jacquard patterns, these fabrics pairs well with solids or solid textures.

Jacquard also has a versatility of applications and weights so don’t be afraid to try it on everything from bedding to upholstery, just be sure to select the appropriate weight and fiber content.


Houndstooth

Definition

Houndstooth got its name from the appearance of dog teeth within the two-toned pattern of small, broken or jagged checks. It was traditionally seen in black and white. Houndstooth is also referred to as four-in-four check, guncheck or sometimes dogstooth. The french word for houndstooth is, pied de poule.

History

Research shows that houndstooth may have been founded as long ago as 360 and 100 BC! However in the 1920’s we see houndstooth applied on the traditional cloaks worn by Scottish shepherds, know as a Gerum Cloak.

In the 1960’s, fashion designers such Christian Dior and Burberry where some of the first to popularize houndstooth in apparel. Chanel and Louis Vuitton also adopted houndstooth a signature look in the early 2000’s and fashion designer and icon Alexander McQueen considers houndstooth one of his favorite patterns.

How To Use It in a Space

As with many of these patterns, a little goes a long way. Use houndstooth on an accent walls, on throw pillows and blankets, or other small accessories.

We also see a successful use of this pattern in tile. Try a large scale houndstooth on the floor in a commercial lobby.

Color Scheme

The traditional houndstooth is woven with black and white wool yarns. Therefore black and white will always be a classic.

We also love houndstooth in tonal greens such as teal and forest green. Pink and white houndstooth is a playful look that could be applied to a nursery.

Dos & Don’ts

We’ve said it before: don’t overuse these bold and busy patterns.

Do use a large scale version of a houndstooth. An enlarged houndstooth applied in a wallpaper is a fun modern take.

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