Gingham is a printed or dyed fabric that is known for its checked patterns of white and a bold color. The size of the checks can vary, and although it typically is found with the checks appearing in horizontal rows and vertical columns, the checks also can appear to be arranged diagonally. Originally, this fabric was intended to be woven into stripes. Its name comes from the word genggang, which means "striped" in the Malay language spoken in places such as Malaysia and Indonesia, where it is believed to have originated.
This fabric dates to at least the 17th century, when it was imported to Europe and later to the American colonies. Its production was a major economic boon in many places, including Manchester, England, and the colonies in what is now the southeastern United States. Originally, two differently colored fibers were used to produce a striping effect. As time passed, gingham fabrics began to appear with a checked pattern, as well as plaids. Blue and white was the color combination of choice for many years, although it can now be found in virtually any bold color paired with white.
Gingham is produced in cotton, synthetic fiber blends and even man-made olefin fibers. The appearance of gingham, especially when made as an all-cotton fabric, is that of a flat luster. Many manufactures will treat the fabric to make it resistant to wrinkles because it normally tends to wrinkle very easily. It is, however, a midweave fabric that wears well and is easy to clean.
This fabric is used in many applications. Gingham curtains are found in many kitchens, and gingham handkerchiefs are found in many back pockets. It is a favorite for lightweight shirts and blouses, as well as summer dresses for women. Many barbecue aprons are made with gingham checks, and even pajamas and bedspreads can be created with this fabric.
Gingham typically is considered to provide a youthful, whimsical or relaxed feel. This might be because it frequently is used in children's clothing and décor, or that feel might be why it is used for those purposes. It can be found virtually anywhere, but it most often is found in informal settings. As a lightweight and easy-to-clean fabric option, it is considered to be a great choice for many household linens as well as comfortable clothing.