Ever browsed an online fabric catalog, looking for that perfect pattern, but never knew what a particular pattern is called? There are thousands of patterns, and each pattern is repeated in different colors too. It can be really difficult to know what kind of pattern you want.
Of course, the manufacturers, like Kovi Fabrics, try to make life easier for you with a set of search parameters to help narrow down the endless selection of beautiful textiles to the patterns you want. That is if you know what the pattern you want is called.
This guide will show you exactly what to expect for different patterns and help you with the names of the major pattern types, so you know what to search for.
The History of Patterns
While you probably don’t want to know about every little development in the world of fabric patterns, it is interesting to note that the first patterns were printed on fabric with block dyes.
A pattern was carved onto a wood block, then dyes were applied to the block before being transferred to the fabric. The block was then repainted and used repeatedly to create a pattern.
This was known as block printing. Many traditional fabrics are still printed in this manner today. From block printing, copper plates were soon engraved and used in a mechanical press to create printed designs on fabrics. Later, a roller was used to create large-scale printed fabric at speed and at lower costs.
While some fabrics are still printed with patterns in this manner—especially certain synthetic materials where the pattern is applied as a thick layer—most high-end fabric patterns are made by weaving the pattern into the fabric.
Woven patterns are more durable, won’t rub off as easily, and offer a much richer finish than printed fabrics. The individual strands of yarn are dyed to make the pattern.
Now you know a little about how patterns are made, it’s time to discover what different patterns are called.
26 Pattern Names and What They Look Like
There are many different patterns, and while some are named, there is also variation within each pattern type. Manufacturers will have several pattern names (which are like a group of patterns each) to search among.
When you hear the term “geometric patterns,” it usually refers to patterns that look like a mathematical drawing in geometry. There will be straight lines, squares, circles, triangles, and chevrons printed or woven into the fabric.
Some examples of geometric patterns include:
This pattern has a jagged kind of chevron design that is uneven to create the classic “houndstooth” appearance that it’s named for. First designed by the shepherds of the Scottish lowlands, it was easy to blend into the craggy landscape, and traditionally, it is woven in neutral earthy colors.
Prism and diamond designs are similar, though prism patterns are often not joined into a single web of patterns.
Like prism patterns, diamond patterns have a specific cubed appearance, though diamond prints are usually joined to make a webbed pattern that repeats with regular spacing.
There are many different prints that may fit into the contemporary and abstract realm. Some are more “natural” and are, therefore, considered organic patterns, while others are more linear and shaped for geometric patterns. There is no specific and simple pattern repeated with these as these patterns are complex and reflect the influence of technology in the cutting-edge manner it’s designed.
A trelliswork of arched designs is often called quatrefoil. The pattern originated in the Gothic era, and the arched patterns are much like the arches of Gothic architecture. Often, the pattern creates a four-leaf clover appearance.
Like the military “sergeant’s stripes” or upside down V, this zig-zag pattern is popular for upholstery and curtaining. When repeated in fine detail, the chevrons can become herringbone patterns. Usually, chevrons are larger in scale than herringbone though.
Polka dot requires no introduction. Plain backgrounds with contrasting dots regularly spaced across the surface have become the staple pattern of the “baby doll” era and still remain popular in children’s rooms today. When printed using a contrasting sheen such as with velvet, the print is popular for occasional pillows too.
A herringbone pattern is usually a plain fabric that has been woven to create the typical “fishbone” pattern of repeating inverted Vs. Hugely popular for upholstery, herringbone patterns make excellent curtaining and clothing fabrics.
- Plaid (also known as tartan)
Again, thanks to the Scotts, we have a glorious geometric pattern that offers diversity. Usually made in earthen tones and natural blues, this fabric is ideal for classic upholstery pieces. Plaid patterns may be at 90-degree angles or tilted to 45-degree angles with lines of varying thicknesses repeated over the plain background.
Nope, not the dance that went viral here. Instead, gingham is a pattern that could be described as a plain small-scale plaid fabric. This type of pattern is often found in kitchen towels, and it makes for great sheeting patterning.
Stripes are pretty easy to spot, but remember that the pattern can take many forms. From single lines, different thicknesses of lines, lines interspaced with dots, and lines with floral overlays to lines that become dotted, there are many different stripe patterns.
Think of Troy and the classic Greek pattern here. A Greek key is a single line that forms a rectangular pattern that interlocks like a key.
The quintessential “cowboy” pattern is known as southwestern. Think of ponchos, Mexican awnings, and saddle pads with well-worn cowboy saddles. This pattern is usually woven in desert colors like rusts, browns, earthy yellows, deep reds, and dark grays.
When a chevron pattern grows some attitude, you get a flamestitch. This pattern is a chevron where the inverted V begins to resemble flames or flowing lines. Flamestitch usually has four primary colors.
Organic patterns are by nature curved and free-flowing. These patterns can dissolve into abstraction, but there is less of a linear feel to them.
Abstract is a term that’s loosely applied to any pattern that is not definitely identifiable. Usually, these patterns have a broken appearance and blur together. The overall effect is more about the colors and textures.
With designs that are reminiscent of Turkish arches, baskets of cornucopia, and trade wealth, the Damask pattern is wealth personified. Look for floral, fruit, and architectural elements. Usually, the pattern is done in monochromatic color pallets, with a gray or white print over a darker or lighter background in a single tone.
Paisley patterns have an easy-to-spot teardrop design that is repeated with floral elements. If you’re thinking of peacock feathers and the decorative work of the Far East, you’re on the spot.
A popular pattern is an ogee, where a series of arches join in mirror images to create a repeating “s-curve” down the length or width of the fabric. The arch-like curves that are made often contain a floral element inside, making for a vibrant fabric that’s ideal for curtains and upholstery (when used on a smaller scale).
If you’re looking for a blurred fabric where patterns bleed together, you’re looking for ikat. The unique appearance of bleeding lines is achieved through a unique weaving process, though it can be printed too, thanks to the great advances in fabric printing technology.
Ikat is ideal for a lazy beach house look, though it can be used for many other applications too.
When you see tiger stripes, zebra lines, cheetah dots, or snakeskin textures, you’re looking at an animal skin pattern. Animal skin patterns remain popular, and when used correctly, they can be a real talking point in your home.
- Toile (can also be called Chinoiserie)
For a Provincial look, toile is an ideal choice. This pattern is a “picturesque” design that repeats scenes from life in the countryside of France. Usually, the background is plain and pale colored, while the pattern resembles an etched or sketched scene from orchards, farms, at the water well, or on the cart down the road.
When the pattern is more Oriental in nature, it is usually known as Chinoiserie, and these scenes resemble Chinese watercolor prints.
In addition to the traditional geometric and organic patterns, there are also specialty prints and patterns that deserve a closer look.
- Matelasse (also known as brocade)
Plain fabrics with a raised woven pattern in the same color (or even in a different color) where the pattern seems to be padded are known as matelasse. Nautical motifs, leaves, single animals, and other simple elements are popular choices here. The pattern can be intricate and may take up most of the fabric surface, or it can be as simple as a few bees on the surface.
The rural life makes a revival with farmhouse style. To meet this niche style, fabrics with a countryside pattern are gaining popularity. Think scenes of cottages, bears, old trucks rumbling down farm roads, porch scenes, etc.
Patterns made exclusively of leaves also remain popular. Different plant leaves may feature, and the leaves may form a canopy appearance, or you may find silhouetted leaves added to the fabric in Matelasse style with raised embroidery.
Keeping up with modern designs, graffiti-like patterns, and scenes of modern life such as subways, pop art elements, and text, this pattern is great for funky workspaces, teenage rooms, and that shock value space in your home.
Tapestry fabrics offer the opportunity to create a unique picture that can be anything from landscapes, cars, wine bottles, cats, dogs, and other elements that look great in tapestry weave. There are many different applications for tapestry, from pillows to upholstery and curtains to borders on curtains.
How Do I Know What Pattern to Choose?
Now you know what the names of some of the different patterns are, you may wonder how to go about choosing the right pattern for your home DIY project. A few quick pointers about patterns to keep in mind:
- Large-scale patterns will become boring quickly, so rely on smaller patterns for the bulk of your upholstery needs
- Dense patterns become tiring if not interspersed with areas of quiet such as plain or solid fabrics
- Plain patterns with a simple repetitive element will remain in style longer but indulge your heart in bold patterns in strategic areas of your home’s upholstery needs
- Take care when choosing patterns that are made with extra bright colors as these will quickly dominate a room, so reserve these for splashes that create interest
- Large patterns seem larger and more oppressive unless the size and scope of the room match it
- Smaller patterns will remain more in the background and leave room for creative twists
The Final Pattern
A pattern can help make or break your design scheme. Knowing pattern names can help you navigate online catalogs to prevent you from simply choosing a print because you feel overwhelmed by the vast selections. Finally, keep in mind that there are always happy unions between two or more different patterns, so don’t let a pattern that seems unknown put you off experimenting. For further guidance on patterns, speak to the experts at Kovi Fabrics.