A Glossary of Fabric Pattern Names
Have you ever found a fabric you liked, but didn’t know how to describe it to find it again? We’ve all heard of florals, stripes and geometrics but fabric styles don’t stop there. We've learned a lot about fabrics over the years, including the names of a wide variety of styles and designs. So we've compiled a list of common pattern names and a little bit about each one.
1. Damask (DAM-usk): This elegant design gets its name from the city of Damascus, a major trading post along the Silk Road where fabric of this style was made and traded to the West. Damask fabrics feature patterns of flowers, fruit and other designs and are usually monochromatic. Damask designs are popular today in wallpaper, table linens, and upholstery.
2. Matelassé (Mat-la-SAY): The word “matelassé” is a French term meaning quilted or padded. This makes sense, as a matelassé fabric is a design with a raised pattern that appears padded, quilted or embossed. While they appear padded, matelassé fabrics don’t actually contain any padding. Matelassés are typically solid colors and are great for pillows, bedding, and more.
3. Quatrefoil (KAT-ruh-foil or KWA-tra-foil): This pattern comes from Gothic and Renaissance architecture. The name quatrefoil is Latin for “four leaves” and the design resembles a four-leaf clover. There are many variations of the quatrefoil, including the “barbed quatrefoil,” which is squarer and the “slipped” quatrefoil, which has a small stem. This design is popular in window treatments, pillows and wallpaper.
4. Houndstooth: This classic check was first worn by shepherds in the Scottish lowlands. It is a two-tone pattern that combines dark and light yarns in uneven rows. The uneven pattern results in a design that looks similar to a dog’s tooth, hence the name houndstooth. Houndstooth is popular in jackets and clothing but is also great for upholstery.
5. Suzani (Su-ZA-nee): A traditional Middle Eastern pattern, suzani textiles were embroidered by brides as part of their dowry and presented to the groom on the wedding day. Suzani fabrics are usually a large-scale design with sun and moon disk (medallion), floral, and vine motifs. Today’s suzani designs are usually loom woven or printed. This style is popular for bedding and window treatments.
6. Chevron: A zigzag stripe pattern, chevrons have been popular in the U.S. for decades. The term chevron comes from the inverted V shape used in military insignia. In fact, the design goes back as far as 1800 B.C. on pottery and rock carvings. Chevrons are a fun, playful fabric for pillows, window treatments and much more.
7. Paisley: The paisley motif resembles a droplet, teardrop or tadpole and is of Persian and Indian origin. The British were introduced to the paisley design in the 18th century when the British East India Company brought back shawls with the design. The pattern got its name from the town of Paisley, Scotland, where textiles with the design were produced. Paisley continues to be popular today in formal styles as well a playful bright colors, perfect for kids’ rooms.
8. Ogee (OH-gee): Ogee gets its name from the architectural arch it resembles. The arch is formed at the connection of two, mirror image, elongated S shapes. Ogee patterns can sometimes resemble an onion. This curvy pattern is often used in bedding and rugs.
9. Jacobean: These patterns date back to the 17th century during the reign of King James I of England. A common motif in Jacobean fabrics is branches ornamented in color with fruits, flowers, and/or birds. They can have an old English feel to them, but many designers are now giving Jacobean elements a modern flair. Jacobean fabrics are often seen on upholstery or window treatments.
10. Ikat (EE-cot): Ikat refers to a dyeing and weaving method rather than the pattern itself. The term ikat comes from the Malay word “mengikat” meaning, “to tie.” The centuries old process includes tying the threads before they are dyed to achieve designs that are then woven into the fabric. This method gives ikat fabrics their signature blurred edges. Most ikats today are actually ikat-inspired prints.
11. Animal: Like the name suggests, animal print generally mimics the skin or fur of an animal on the fabric. Examples include zebra, leopard or crocodile. On our website, we also categorize fabrics that have animals printed on them as an “animal” pattern.
12. Dot/Polka Dot: Fabrics where the only pattern is repeating large or small scale dots on the fabric are categorized as dot or polka dot. These can occur in any color.
13. Herringbone: This pattern is an arrangement of rectangles in a V-shaped weaving pattern usually found in twill fabric. It is called herringbone because it resembles the skeleton of a herring fish. It somewhat resembles chevron but usually on a much smaller scale and has a break at reversal, which makes it resemble a broken zigzag, whereas chevron is continuous.
14. Plaid/Checkered: A fabric with varying bars or stripes of color (sometimes in varying thicknesses) that cross at right angles, also sometimes called tartan. It is traditionally wool or cotton and features both vertical and horizontal bands of color.
15. Gingham: Similar to plaid, gingham is a type of plaid that features vertical and horizontal overlapping lines of the same thickness and color on a small scale.
16. Toile: Meaning “cloth” in French, this sophisticated pattern usually depicts pastoral scenes of the French countryside such as people or nature. These patterns are usually detailed and can resemble an illustration you’d see in a book. You may also find toile in exotic Asian styles.
17. Greek Key: Based in ancient history, the Greek Key is an interlocking rectangular pattern constructed from one continuous line.
18. Southwestern: Reminiscent of weaving methods found in the American Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, etc.). These fabrics usually feature bold desert-like colors and repeating geometric shapes or stripes.
19. Chinoiserie: Similar to toile, this fabric features Asian-inspired motifs of people, buildings or animals for an overall sophisticated look.
20. Flamestitch: A bold, colorful zigzag pattern. It usually involves four threads in four different colors. To create the “flame” effect, the different colored stitches are worked in a series of stepped, zigzag lines.
Bring these patterns into your home with new DIY home décor projects. Find fabrics in all these styles in the Home Fabric category, you can even refine your selection by fabric style!
What patterns are you loving right now? Tell us in the comments!
Footnote: In October 2019 we updated this blog to include 10 new fabric designs and included updated fabric images.