Working with pattern and print can be great fun when creating clothing at home. There can be some challenges with pattern matching, but a strong pattern can bring more visual interest and color to a garment. You can also find something flattering to suit friends and family. Common types of patterns include stripes, spots, and checks. However, there are different items as to what a checkered pattern is. Some of you may be visualizing the pattern of a chessboard, while others see the different tones on gingham. Then, what about plaid and tartan? Do they count? Let’s look at some of the fun patterns typically associated with checks.
What are some of the best-known types of checkered patterns?
Different materials could be classed as checkered, it all depends on how literal you want to be. There are some checkered materials where you get a very simple pattern of alternating squares, others that are related but have a different aesthetic, and then those that are more complex with various lines and squares in a repeating pattern. Typically, we think of gingham when we think of checkered material. But, there is also a lot of love for specific prints within plaid and flannel material. Of course, we can’t forget about tartan if we talk about plaid. Once you start looking, you find that there are lots of options for fans of repeating patterns. So, let’s break these down into categories and learn a little more.
Basic repeated squares in checkered grids.
If you want to work with checks in their most literal form, you need a material with equal squared of different tones. It should look like a chessboard. Often it will be a black and white material but you can have checks in all kinds of color schemes. Grid patterns are similar in their use of small squares. But, you don’t get the alternating colors. This can still look interesting on shirts.
Where is the windowpane check commonly used?
The windowpane check isn’t the best example of a true check, as there isn’t the same use of a repeated block of color. But, many designers add it to this category. These big squares with thin lines are often used for creating suits when wearers are bored of plain materials or pinstripes. It can make a statement without being too dramatic.
More interesting repeating patterns.
Beyond the more basic grids and two-tone checks, you get some interesting repeating patterns such as Gingham, houndstooth, and buffalo check. Gingham is perhaps the most common and the material that comes to mind when we think of checks. You may be familiar with it as the material Dorothy wore in The Wizard of Oz, as well as in similar dresses from the era. It’s also likely that you’ve seen it in a tablecloth somewhere. It has the same squares as a two-tone check but there is a third tone. It is a softer look that is understandably appealing.
Where does the houndstooth pattern originate from?
The houndstooth pattern is really interesting because it is such a classic piece of design. It has gone in and out of fashion for decades. Some say it goes back to a similar design in Scotland. But, there is also evidence for its use in Sweden before 100BC. Although the abstract shapes used aren’t squares, there is an optical illusion of a checkerboard with repeating black and white elements. This is more noticeable on smaller prints, although you may see this design advertised as dogstooth instead. The design is great for formal wear and still popular today. The traditional black and white form is common but you can also get it in other colors.
Why is buffalo check so popular in flannel shirts?
There are lots of different patterns that you can find when picking up a flannel shirt. This material is a great way to wear plaid more informally. But, one of the most popular prints is the buffalo check. The pattern comes from its founder who is said to have kept buffalo and actually copied the Scottish Rob Roy pattern. Whatever the details of the origin, the pattern became well-known as the pattern of choice for lumberjacks and others working the land. This was largely down to marketing rather than reality, but it stuck. The connection to the Northwest continued with the grunge scene, where buffalo check and other flannel patterns became popular
More complex patterns of plaid and tartan.
Finally, we have prints that are far more intricate with different lines and colors creating blocks and patterns in beautiful designs. In the US, the term plaid is very common and often used interchangeably with tartan. Tartan is a material that originates from the Celtic regions and is most associated with Scotland. You see tartan a lot in traditional dress and kilts. Generally speaking modern plaid replicates the ideas of traditional tartan.
Why are tartan patterns so significant?
If you like the idea of using tartan, be aware of the significance of some of the patterns. Many tartan prints are related to families and clans. This common in Scotland, but also in other Celtic nations. There are Welsh family tartans, Irish tartans for different regions, and also a Cornish tartan. So, if you have a link to these regions, and can trace your heritage back to one of these families, you might want to get hold of some fabric and make something to honor that connection.
There are so many styles to choose from that you will never get bored.
We can debate the true meaning of checks and the placement of some patterns in this category. However, if you think of checks as the use of squares in repetition, these patterns all work. So, there is a broad range of styles out there to work with. You could stay classic with two-tone checks or a gingham dress or tap into your heritage with plaid and tartan. The deeper you go into the history and specific patterns, the more fun you can have.
I’m a stay at home mom with our two kids. I really enjoy doing crafts with my toddler however, that is typically a challenge with her limited attention span, messiness, and desire to always have clean hands. So, I’m always looking for ways to make crafting an enjoyable experience and fond memory for the both of us.