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Houndstooth, An Explanation of a Classic Motif

A houndstooth refers to a design created in a woven cloth through a color and weave effect. Traditionally, the warp layout is designed with alternating bands of four dark threads followed by four white threads. Similarly, the weft is woven with four dark threads followed by four light threads. The weaving is done with a 2/2 twill weave structure. In this structure, the weft goes over two threads and then under two threads. (This is the same structure as a pair of jeans.) The resulting fabric created when this structure combines with this color layout is a two-tone broken check shape, named a houndstooth for its resemblance to jagged teeth.

Plaid Houndstooth Pattern P456 in Hotel Lobby

When do designers use a houndstooth?

The houndstooth is a classic design in menswear, tweeds, and suiting fabrics. Christian Dior famously popularized it in his designs for the 1948 Haute Couture spring/summer collection. Since then, it has remained a classic, seemingly always in fashion. Despite the clear combination of color and structure that create the pattern, it is surprisingly versatile. By changing size, scale, materials, contrast, or color, designers can bring an element of surprise to an otherwise recognizable design. An oversized houndstooth in hot pink and bright yellow can be shocking. On the other hand, a small one in two tones of brown can appear as almost a solid. In the hands of print designers, the houndstooth can be expressed in still more ways. Beyond the limits of the loom, print designers add additional colors, tones, and textures. What once was a familiar classic, suddenly takes on exciting new possibilities.

Plaid Houndstooth Pattern P456 in Blue on Bedding Sheets and Pillows
Plaid Houndstooth Pattern P456

Do you love a houndstooth? Where have you been seeing it lately, in ways more classic or more contemporary? Let us know in the comments, or tag us on Instagram to show us your favorite houndstooth in action!

Textile Designs: Two Hundred Years of European and American Patterns Organized by Motif, Style, Color, Layout, and Period, Susan Meller and Joost Elffers

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Kristin Crane

Kristin Crane has designed jacquard designs for the home furnishing and residential jobber market for many years, with mills in the US and in China. Today, she writes about pattern and design trends for Design Pool from her home in Providence, Rhode Island. When not writing about fabric, she can be found weaving in her home studio or hiking along the Rhode Island coast.


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