Guide to Common Fabric Patterns and Types

From basketweave to zebra print.

If you’ve ever wondered what exactly ikat or houndstooth are, you’re not alone. There are dozens – maybe hundreds – of fabric patterns and types commonly used in the fashion and interior decorating world, and while some of them are very well known -- for example, stripes, -- others are more obscure, such as fleur-de-lis or ditzy. Read on for pictures and descriptions of 30 popular fabric patterns. You’ll never need to wonder about the difference between gingham and checks again.

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    As the name suggests, a basketweave pattern looks like the crisscross weave of a basket. The design can literally be woven with ribbon, or merely be printed on the fabric, but the overall effect is symmetrical and somewhat like a checkerboard. You can find this classic design in just about any color combination from neutral to bright. Basketweave is a great pattern for any contemporary style.

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    Used quite a bit for upholstery and drapes, as well as bedding and fabric accessories, brocade is a heavy material woven on a Jacquard loom. A true brocade has a raised design that looks embroidered, but is actually woven into the fabric. Brocade is often made of silk or satin, and frequently incorporates metallic threads or similar decorative touches. The colors are typically somewhat subdued. This is a fabric best used with traditional decorating styles.

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    Like a checkerboard, a checked pattern is a simple design that alternates two different colored squares. Most of the time, one of the colors is white, but you can find checked fabrics in a wide range of colors. Checked designs are very versatile, but work especially well with country looks.

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    Currently riding high in popularity, chevron is a pattern of zigzagging stripes, typically in two alternating colors. As with checked designs, one of the colors is usually white. Chevron has a fun, contemporary flair that adds a touch of pizzazz to an otherwise sedate room.

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    The often elaborate designs of chinoiserie (pronounced "sheen whaz a ree") are western takes on daily life in long-ago China. Colors and fabrics range widely, as do the designs. Florals, birds, fishermen, boats and children are especially popular themes. Chinoiserie works well with traditional styles or Asian-inspired decor.

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    Popular in Grandma's day, but making something of a comeback, chintz is cotton fabric that's been glazed, resulting in a high shine. Yesterday's chintz often featured large florals, but today, you can find many solid colors, especially deep jewel tones. Use chintz in a traditional room, or to add a fun touch of vintage style to any decorating theme.

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    Similar to brocade, damask is woven on a Jacquard loom, and has a raised design woven into the fabric, usually a floral pattern. It's often made with luxury materials like silk. Typically, damask fabric has a sheen, and it adds an expensive looking touch to a room. Damask is generally single color or tone-on-tone, but occasionally is more colorful. This somewhat formal design works best in an equally formal or traditional room. 

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    Also spelled ditsy, this is any cheerful pattern with small elements scattered across the fabric. Those elements might be flowers, geometric shapes or small figures. Ditzy fabrics are usually quite colorful, and they work well with any casual decorating style.

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    There's a definite retro appeal to flame stitch design -- it was very popular in the 1970s. The pattern is a closely-spaced series of flame-like, jagged lines. Unlike chevron, flame stitch zigs and zags are usually thin and can vary in height. It's a fun pattern for a contemporary room, and a must-have if you love all things retro.

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    A symbol of European monarchy, particularly French monarchy, since medieval times, the fleur-de-lis represents a lily. The stylized design shows off three or four petals with a band near the bottom. It's a very formal, traditional design, but is often combined with other elements, making it a nice accent to just about any style of decor. Most often, you'll find this pattern used in a neutral palette. 

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    You'll find floral patterns ranging from tiny to large-scale, realistic to abstract, casual to formal, and colorful to monochromatic. While there's a floral pattern suitable for every decorating style, floral designs are a hallmark of cottage decor. Depending on the style of the floral pattern, you can mix-and-match florals with just about any other pattern.

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    "Geometric" is a catch-all term for any design that incorporates geometric shapes, such as circles, squares, triangles, or ovals. The design might be symmetrical and regular, or quite abstract. Geometric patterns are very versatile, but look especially good in contemporary spaces, or with midcentury modern or other retro styles.

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    This country classic shows off white plus another color woven into a checkerboard pattern. The difference between gingham and checks is that with gingham, there are intermediate squares where white lightens the intensity of the contrasting color by half. While gingham is very common in country decor, it's a good choice for any casual decorating style, and mixes well with many other designs. 

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    It's an ancient pattern, but enjoying a current surge in popularity. Greek key design -- sometimes called Greek fret --  is an interlocking pattern of squares or rectangles, typically drawn from a continuous line. You'll often find it used as a border around rugs, pillows, drapes or bedding. It's a great look in any contemporary room.

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    A harlequin pattern is basically a checked pattern, but with diamonds instead of squares. Often, there is a small dot where the points of the diamonds meet. Harlequin can be very colorful, or a simple design of white plus another color. It's a fun pattern for a contemporary, glam, eclectic, or Parisian room. 

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    Looking somewhat like a fish's skeleton, herringbone is similar to chevron, but differentiated by the breaks between the zigs and the zags. The breaks can be actual lines, or very thin gaps between the zigzags of the pattern. It's also typically much thinner than a chevron design. Herringbone is a great pattern for a contemporary room. 

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    It's a classic in the fashion world, but also a classy touch to just about any style of interior design. Houndstooth is a checked pattern with somewhat abstract, irregular points on the corners of the squares. If you're imaginative, the design looks something like a dog's teeth. Generally, houndstooth is black and white or another combination of neutral colors. Try it in your contemporary or eclectic room. 

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    Pronounced "ee-caught," this super-trendy material is not so much a pattern as a method of dying and weaving fabric. The result is a geometric design that looks somewhat stretched and blurred around the edges. You'll find ikat fabrics in a wide range of shapes and color combinations. What they all share in common is a global vibe and a touch of trendy style that looks great in any contemporary room.

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    Jacquard (pronounced "jack hard") is an umbrella term for fabrics woven on a Jacquard loom, which was invented by Joseph Jacquard and first used in 1801. Fabrics woven on the loom have a raised pattern that looks embroidered, but is actually woven into the design. Brocade and damask are sometimes referred to as Jacquard, as they are both created on that type of loom. These fabrics are rather formal and traditional in style, and usually fairly subdued in color. 

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    Leopard print is of course modeled on the gorgeous coat of the wild cat. As a fabric design, it adds a sexy touch to any room -- even more so in the bedroom. It's sometimes confused with cheetah print, which is made up of black dots, rather than the open, irregular circles found on a leopard's coat. Try leopard print anywhere you'd like to add a sexy edge. 

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    This popular fabric features large, elaborate medallions, which are usually round, although they might also be diamond-shaped or oval. The pattern often incorporate floral or foliage designs along with geometric shapes. A medallion is symmetrical; you can cut it through the center and have two matching halves. This versatile design works in any style room, and can be found in just about any color combination.

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    There are many lattice designs in the decorating world, but one that is especially in vogue is the Moroccan lattice. Like all lattice, or trellis, patterns, it is a grid-like design formed by interlocking lines. The Moroccan trellis is distinguished by its four sides: two are rounded and two are pointed. Moroccan lattice is often confused with quatrefoil, which is very similar, but has four rounded sides. A great pattern for contemporary rooms. 

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    Pronounced "oh gee," the fabric pattern looks something like an onion, or a diamond that is rounded on two sides. It has a middle eastern vibe, but has been used widely throughout the world for centuries. You'll find ogee patterns in a wide range of fabrics and colors, so choose the design that best complements your bedroom's theme and palette. It's complementary to contemporary, global, boho, and eclectic styles. 

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    Originally a Persian design, paisley became hugely popular throughout Europe in the 1600s, and takes its name from a town in Scotland. The teardrop-shaped, intricately designed pattern now has a retro feel, as it was the height of fashion during the 1970s, but it adds a touch of interest and color to any contemporary style.

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    The cheerful, familiar polka dot pattern is an evenly spaced array of same-sized dots. Use it in a child's bedroom or in your own; it's extremely versatile and works well with most other patterns. You'll find polka dots in just about any color scheme you can imagine. 

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    The vanilla of the decorating world, stripes are about as basic as you can get. There are many variations, however, including awning stripes, which are broad stripes sometimes separated by thinner bands, and barcode stripes, which are stripes of varying widths. You can combine a striped design with just about any other pattern without fear of clashing.

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    Traditionally, tartans were designs woven in wool and used to designate the various Scottish clans. The pattern is formed with stripes of different widths and colors duplicated on both the vertical and horizontal axis. Plaids that do not exactly duplicate the pattern on both the horizontal and vertical axis are not tartans, they're just regular plaids. Use a tartan fabric to warm up your winter bedroom, or any time of year in a traditional or formal space. 

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    A popular design from 18th century France, toile (pronounced "twall") is a monochromatic design printed on white, and depicting scenes of country life, flowers or people engaged in everyday activities. It's a bit formal, but works well with many other patterns. Toile is a hallmark of French country style. 

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    There are many variations of trellis patterns, but they all are formed with interlocking lines that resemble a fence or trellis. Most often, the fabric's palette is limited to two colors. Trellis patterns of all types are currently very popular on the interior decorating scene.

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    Probably the most popular animal print is zebra. The black-and-white color scheme works like a neutral, the irregular stripes are easy to combine with other patterns, and the touch of wild style adds a bit of sexy fun to any decorating theme. In a child's or teen's bedroom, try a colorful zebra print for extra whimsy.