What is gingham fabric?

Written by emily weller
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What is gingham fabric?
(Gingham fabric by flickr user Memyni)

Gingham fabric is made with a plain weave; the warp and weft crisscross over each individual strand. The fabric usually has a checkered pattern. However, striped and plaid ginghams are also available. In fact, striped gingham was originally more popular than the checked form common today. It is traditionally made of medium-weight cotton.

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History of Gingham

Gingham fabric was first produced in the 17th century in England and shipped to the colonies. It was originally striped, but gradually came to be a checkered fabric. A popular colour combination for gingham was blue and white. There is some disagreement about where the word gingham came from. Some argue that it is from the Italian "ging-gang," while others cite the Malaysian word "genggang." Still others argue that it stems from an Indonesian word. What all the possible roots have in common is that they all mean "striped."

Uses for Gingham Fabric

Gingham is commonly used to make children's textiles and clothing. This may be because it is a durable fabric, suitable for running or playing in, or because the checkered patterns are cute and young looking. Gingham is also commonly used to make curtains, tablecloths, clothing for women, and handkerchiefs. If made of cotton, it is lightweight, making it ideal for clothing during warmer months.

Fibres Used to Make Gingham

While traditionally made of cotton, gingham fabric is made from a variety of fibres. A cotton and polyester blend has become more common than the traditional 100 per cent cotton, possibly because it is cheaper to manufacture. Gingham can be made using wool, silk, or linen or any synthetic fibre as well. It is also possible to find "gingham" printed on oilcloth or vinyl for use as tablecloths.

Different Types of Gingham Fabric

There are several varieties of gingham fabric aside from the common checkered pattern. Chambray fabric uses white yarn in the weft direction and a dyed yarn in the warp direction and the fabric appears to be one colour. Shagbark is a type of gingham fabric where the warp yarn is allowed to go slack occasionally, giving the fabric an interesting texture. Madras is a plaid gingham that originated in India. Madras fabric is not colour-fast and tends to bleed.

Impact of Gingham Fabric

The production of gingham fabric lifted the economies of England and Southern U.S. states. Gingham was the most popular fabric sold by many textile companies. DanChecks gingham fabric, made by Dan River Mills in the U.S., was popular throughout the 20th century. The impact of gingham fabric was also felt in the craft world. Counterchange smocking uses the checks or stripes of gingham fabric to make interesting and unique patterns in the fabric.

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