One of the most confusing, yet coveted fabrics are checks a.k.a plaids, which almost seem to be the same thing, to most people. But, subtle differences exist, which are clear to those who know these fabrics well enough.
CHECK Fabric PLAID Fabric
Checks and plaids, both, consist of long bands / lines / stripes running horizontally and vertically, intersecting each other, several times, and these lines can be of various colors, or just 2-3 colors alone.
This mix of inter-crossing lines is what is plaid or even check.
However, the two are different by definition.
A check pattern can be most simply be described by a chess board, in that, it consists of only 2 main colors, and the pattern is such, that is geometrically symmetrical, and consists of lines/stripes that intersect to form geometrically perfect squares, and not random lines as such (which is the case in plaid fabric).
A plaid pattern fabric is different from the chess board pattern, in that, it consists of stripes of different colors intersecting each other, and these could be of different geometrical pattern, and need not be perfect squares.
A good example would be the 2 fabrics below:
The plaid or check pattern fabric can be woven as part of the fabric weave, also known as yarn-dyed fabric, or it can be a printed pattern as well, in which case it is referred to as a printed fabric. For reasons unknown, the printed check or plaid fabrics, are not preferred over the yarn-woven plaids, and the latter are referred to as the “original” thing. In fact, madras plaid fabrics are not referred to as authentic madras, if they are the printed sort. They would be disqualified from being “Madras”, and would be simply known as printed plaid.
Plaid patterns are generally more complex, while check patterns are much simpler. Checks are always symmetrical patterns, wherein, the inter-crossing horizontal and vertical lines form even-sized tiles or squares. Checks are very much like even shaped / sized boxes.
In check patterns, there is usually no overlapping of the boxes/tiles/squares.
Check fabrics come in various variants such as gingham, such as the picture above, as well as others such as tattersall fabric.
The popular Gingham check fabric, is one of the most famous check patterns, and consists of a white background and one more color, commonly a pink, yellow, green, lilac, brown, black or blue. The box sizes generally range from half an inch all the way upto two inches, depending on the use of the fabric.
Usually, the smaller gingham checks are suited to clothing like dresses and shirts, while larger box gingham check fabrics are apt for table linen, bed linen and drapes.
Buffalo Checks are another form of checks, originating from the American continent, and are like a chessboard pattern, with clear large-box patterns, which are geometrically in the same repeat pattern, and usually of two colors alone. Black is also usually one of the two colors, in this fabric, along with another color, such as blue, maroon or yellow.
Window Pane Checks or window checks consist of vertical and horizontal lines/stripes intersecting to form boxes, which are usually with a single solid color inside all boxes. The boxes themselves are of same size across all boxes, and are sometimes slightly rectangular, as opposed to being perfect squares.
These fabrics are used for men’s suits, among other uses.
TATTERSAL Check Fabric:
This patterns looks the same as a “graph paper” check, but consists of lines of two or more different colors. Some common colors used for these lines are blue, black, yellow, red and green. The lines themselves, that form the tattersall pattern, can be of different thicknesses, with one line being of thicker width, as compared to the other line. Additionally, the size of the squares formed by the intersection of these lines, is always uniform.
This check is very similar to graph or window pane; except the lines alternate in color, making it a little more visually dynamic. Also, tattersall stripes are usually darker than the base color.
So, there you have it…most of the distinctions between plaid and check fabrics, for providing more clarity, on an otherwise confusing subject.