A plain weave fabric, with equal width stripes of white plus one other colour in both warp and weft threads that produces blocks of checks; these  will be one dark, one light and one mixed – half tone. Gingham and Vichy are the same weave.

The word gingham usually refers to a fresh summery cotton fabric in a smallish check. The size of check is usually somewhere between 0.5 cm to 5 cm but can either be even smaller or over scaled. The clarity of  one colour with white is soften by the half tone, and this is what makes it so attractive, keeps it from becoming brash, and a really pleasant, fun fabric to have around.   The element of white keeps it sharp and summery. The many colours include lime green, bright pink, red, black, blue, yellow, mauve can all be used together for summer garden cushions, table cloths and slip covers and mixed with other simple stripe and floral patterns.Small windows in cottagey rooms, kitchens, children’s bedrooms and slipcovers can look good in cotton gingham.

When woven with off white, or other soft neutrals gingham  changes it’s character slightly –  the softer, more muted tones extend the suitability of it, opening  up new venues and functions.

Gingham, though is no shrinking violet. However well this technically simple check blends and complements everything else –  and it does – it never disappears into the background. It is always maintains it’s presence.  It was, and is,  used  on the backs of chairs, partially any French, Louis style of  side chair, dining chair and armchair and bergere,  primarily as a less expense and less obtrusive  material to that used on the front. However,  instead  of disappearing, as a plain fabric might, it creates it’s own, different narrative – one that country styles – particular French and Swedish have endorsed and exported to great effect and acclaim.

Gingham checks can be added to any other fabric whether plain or pattern, in one scale or another, in tone or another , and in one fibre or another – I can’t think of anything that would reject it as a partner. Indeed many of the best fabrics and high minded schemes can be grounded and brought back to earth with a bit of gingham check.  Or saved by it.

The weave though can be in anything from cotton to linen, union, silk, wool or a cotton/ acrylic mix. As gingham checks,  there are many and varied sizes and fibre mixes for furnishings fabrics to use for curtains, loose covers and upholstery. A really large, overscaled gingham can be stunning on a sofa or at a large window, on the floor or bedhead.

Gingham checks are as useful, pleasing, vital, when they are selected to take centre stage as when they are chosen to work with others –  whether that’s the single  other fabric in a white room or just one more, among many.

Not quite  sure  how we’d mange without gingham in one form or another!

Vichy, checks, plaids

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