One can easily tell houndstooth fabric by its distinctive broken checks and four pointed shapes. This fabric was traditionally woven of black and white wool in the lowlands of Scotland. It got its name because the pattern resembles that of the jagged back teeth of hound dogs. In the 1930s and '40s, houndstooth fabric became very popular. Now designers use houndstooth for that vintage or retro look.
The houndstooth design is very recognizable. Manufacturers weave two threads up and two threads down to give it the characteristic jagged-check pattern, which is normally a small print. The pattern is very similar to the black-and-white head coverings often worn by Middle Eastern men. The threads always contrast with each other, such as the traditional black and white. Looking closely at the design, one can see what looks like a four-pointed star.
While the original houndstooth fabrics were all black and white, today’s fabric designers have added more colors to make the patterns more interesting and compatible to the diverse preferences of consumers. You can find an array of colors, using only two colors or adding a third, in houndstooth-pattern designs.
Wool houndstooth is a medium-weight fabric. Originally houndstooth fabric was 100 percent wool. Sheep’s wool was the original material used, but now the wool comes from a variety of animals, such as alpacas, llamas, Angora goats and camels. The various wools vary in price. Today’s cloth manufacturers also make the houndstooth pattern on all sorts of fabrics, including polyester-wool blends, knits, upholstery fabrics and cotton.
Look for suit coats for both men and women made with wool houndstooth fabric. Upholstery is another popular use for houndstooth fabric. Traditional houndstooth is very soft and has a little bit of a stretch to the fabric because of the weaving process. The little bit of stretch allows upholsterers to easily manipulate the fabric around corners of furniture, giving a nice smooth look to the finished product. You can also commonly see the houndstooth design in the pants that many chefs now wear.
Manufacturers recommend dry cleaning only for the traditional houndstooth fabric. Never put wool in the washer and dryer, as the fabric will shrink and the heat makes wool turn into felt. Real wool houndstooth fabrics can be quite pricey depending on which type of wool it is. Following the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning your houndstooth fabric and use a reputable professional to clean your upholstery.
- Photo Credit George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images
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