Gingham is a sweet, quiet classic. It can step in as a coordinate in almost any situation. It provides a little more zazz than solids without being showy or trendy. Maybe you can’t help but think of country and grandma’s aprons when you see it, but to me that’s a good thing.
Gingham is usually a plain weave made with two colors of yarn in a simple boxy criss-cross pattern. The term does seem to refer to the cloth itself, though it can come in any fiber (here’s silk taffeta, here’s printed oilcloth, here’s linen), various weaves and weights, and there also seems to be such thing as “gingham stripes” so the term isn’t exclusive to the classic criss-cross pattern we all envision, though that pattern printed onto surfaces is called gingham.
Gingham squares can double as a measuring tool. It’s nice to cover an ironing board with 1/4 inch or 1 inch gingham so you can quickie measure a hem, or cover a blocking board with it to block your knits. Does anyone know a source for gingham checks in metric measurements?
Here’s Martha Stewart showing how to batik a gingham pattern onto fabric.