What is "Tabby" - Definition & Explanation
Last Updated on: 01-Jun-2024 (1 month, 19 days ago)
Share on FacebookShare on Twitter

Discover Tabby Textiles: History, Types, and Modern Applications Explained


Tabby in Textiles: An In-Depth Introduction

Tabby, a term frequently used in the textile industry, refers to a distinctive coat pattern characterized by two or more colors arranged in a striped configuration. This pattern isnot only visually striking but also carries a rich historical significance. Originating from the Arabic word "attabiya," referring to a type of striped silk, the Tabby pattern hasbeen a staple in textile design for centuries.

The Tabby pattern is achieved through various weaving and dyeing techniques that intricately blend different colors to create a harmonious and aesthetically pleasing effect. These techniques require precision and skill, highlighting the craftsmanship involved in producing Tabby textiles. The resulting fabric displays alternating stripes of varying widths andcolors, making each piece unique.

Historically, Tabby patterns have been used in a variety of applications, ranging from luxurious garments to home furnishings. The versatility of this pattern allows it to be adapted toboth contemporary and traditional designs, making it a timeless choice in textile design. Additionally, the use of Tabby patterns in textiles serves not only an aesthetic purpose but also a functional one, as the weaving techniques employed can enhance the durability and texture of the fabric.

Understanding the intricacies of Tabby patterns in textiles provides valuable insights into the broader field of fabric design and production. This article delves into the history, techniques, and modern applications of Tabby patterns, offering a comprehensive overview for textile enthusiasts and professionals alike.

History of Tabby in Textiles

The term "Tabby" originates from the Arabic word "attabiya," named after a striped silk fabric produced in the Attabiy district of Baghdad. This pattern has been a prominent feature in textile design for centuries, known for its striking appearance and intricate weaving techniques. Historically, Tabby fabrics were highly valued for their aesthetic appeal and durability, making them a popular choice for both garments and home furnishings.

Types of Tabby Patterns

  • Classic Tabby:

    This traditional type features evenly spaced, alternating stripes of two colors. The classic Tabby pattern is often seen in upholstery and drapery, providing a timeless look that complements various interior styles. The simplicity of the classic Tabby makes it versatile and easy to incorporate into different design schemes.

  • Variegated Tabby:

    This type incorporates stripes of varying widths and multiple colors, creating a more dynamic and visually engaging pattern. Variegated Tabby is commonly used in fashion, particularly in statement pieces like scarves and shawls. The variation in stripe width adds depth and texture to the fabric, making it a focal point in any ensemble.

  • Shadow Tabby:

    This pattern features subtle, tone-on-tone stripes that give the fabric a sophisticated and understated look. Shadow Tabby is often used in formal wear and high-end furnishings, where a hint of pattern is desired without overwhelming the overall design. The delicate nature of shadow Tabby makes it ideal for creating elegant, refined pieces.

Tips for Handling Tabby Fabrics

  • Proper Storage:

    Store Tabby fabrics in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to prevent fading and deterioration. Use breathable fabric bags or acid-free tissue paper to protect the fabric from dust and moisture. Proper storage ensures that the fabric retains its color and texture over time.

  • Gentle Cleaning:

    Clean Tabby fabrics using mild detergents and cold water to preserve the integrity of the fibers. Avoid harsh chemicals and high temperatures, which can damage the fabric and alter its appearance. Hand washing is often recommended, but if machine washing, use a delicate cycle.

  • Professional Care:

    For valuable or delicate Tabby fabrics, consider professional cleaning services. Experts can handle the fabric with care and use specialized techniques to maintain its quality. Professional care is especially important for antique or high-end Tabby textiles that require extra attention.

Applications of Tabby in Textiles

  • Fashion and Apparel

    Tabby patterns are widely used in the fashion industry to create visually striking garments. The classic Tabby, with its alternating stripes, is popular in dresses, shirts, and skirts, providing a timeless and elegant look. Variegated Tabby patterns, with their varying stripe widths and colors, add a dynamic and bold touch to scarves, shawls, and statement pieces. The sophisticated shadow Tabby is often seen in formal wear, adding a subtle yet luxurious texture to suits, gowns, and high-end fashion items.

  • Home Furnishings

    In home dcor, Tabby fabrics are favored for their durability and aesthetic appeal. Classic Tabby patterns are commonly used in upholstery for sofas, chairs, and cushions, offering a chic and versatile design element. Curtains and drapes featuring Tabby patterns can enhance the elegance of a room while providing functional benefits such as light control and privacy. The textured appearance of Tabby fabrics adds depth and interest to home interiors, making them a popular choice for decorators and homeowners alike.

  • Textile Art and Craft

    Tabby patterns are also appreciated in the realm of textile art and craft. Artists and artisans use these patterns to create intricate tapestries, wall hangings, and quilts. The distinctive striped design of Tabby allows for creative expression and innovation in textile art. Whether through weaving, knitting, or other techniques, the versatility of Tabby patterns enables artists to produce unique and visually captivating pieces that celebrate the beauty of traditional and contemporary textile craftsmanship.

  • Historical and Cultural Textiles

    Tabby patterns hold significant historical and cultural value. Historically, they have been used in traditional garments and textiles across various cultures. In some regions, specific Tabby patterns are associated with cultural heritage and are used in ceremonial clothing or special occasion garments. The preservation and study of historical Tabby textiles provide insights into the cultural practices and artistic achievements of past civilizations. Museums and collectors often seek out these textiles for their historical significance and aesthetic beauty.

Major International Manufacturers and Users of Tabby in Textiles

  • Libeco - libeco.com

    Libeco, based in Belgium, is renowned for producing high-quality linen fabrics, including those featuring classic and contemporary Tabby patterns. Their commitment to sustainability and craftsmanship ensures the production of durable and aesthetically pleasing textiles used in both fashion and home furnishings.

  • Scabal - scabal.com

    Scabal, a luxury fabric manufacturer from the United Kingdom, is known for its sophisticated suit fabrics, often incorporating Tabby patterns. Their attention to detail and use of premium materials make their textiles a favorite among high-end fashion designers and bespoke tailors worldwide.

  • Maharam - maharam.com

    Maharam, an American textile company, specializes in innovative and high-quality fabrics for commercial and residential interiors. Their diverse collection includes Tabby-patterned textiles, which are widely used in modern upholstery, drapery, and wall coverings, emphasizing both functionality and design.

  • Zimmer + Rohde - zimmer-rohde.com

    Zimmer + Rohde, a German textile company, offers an extensive range of decorative fabrics, including those with intricate Tabby designs. Their textiles are popular in luxury home furnishings and interior design, combining traditional craftsmanship with contemporary aesthetics.

  • Frette - frette.com

    Frette, an Italian luxury linen manufacturer, is famous for its premium bedding and home textiles. Their use of Tabby patterns in bedding collections adds a touch of elegance and sophistication, making their products highly sought after in the luxury hospitality industry and upscale residences.


The Tabby pattern remains a timeless and versatile element in the textile industry, celebrated for its unique striped design and wide range of applications. From its historical origins in the Attabiy district of Baghdad to its contemporary uses in fashion, home furnishings, and textile art, Tabby continues to be a favorite among designers and manufacturers. Its ability to combine aesthetic appeal with functional benefits, such as durability and ease of handling, ensures its enduring popularity.

Understanding the different types of Tabby patterns, including classic, variegated, shadow, high-low, and side-slit variations, allows for greater creativity and innovation in textile design. Each type offers distinct visual and tactile qualities, making Tabby fabrics suitable for various uses, from elegant formal wear to sophisticated interior dcor. The intricate weaving techniques and craftsmanship involved in producing Tabby patterns highlight the skill and artistry of textile professionals.

Major international manufacturers and users, such as Libeco, Scabal, Maharam, Zimmer + Rohde, and Frette, exemplify the importance of Tabby in the global textile market. These companies' dedication to quality and innovation ensures that Tabby fabrics continue to evolve and adapt to modern demands while preserving their traditional charm. As the textile industry advances, the integration of new technologies and sustainable practices will likely further enhance the appeal and functionality of Tabby patterns.

In summary, the Tabby pattern's rich history, diverse applications, and continued relevance in contemporary textile design underscore its significance in the industry. As designers and manufacturers explore new possibilities and push the boundaries of textile artistry, the Tabby pattern will undoubtedly remain a cherished and integral part of the fabric landscape.

A term referring to a coat pattern that consists of two or more colors in a striped pattern.

Some more terms:

Dotted Swiss

Dotted Swiss is a lightweight, sheer fabric that is characterized by its subtle raised dot pattern. It is typically made from cotton, although it can also be made from other fibers such as silk or...

Read about Dotted Swiss

Continuous Filament Yarn

A yarn composed of one or more filaments that run the whole length of the yarn. NOTE: Yarns of one filament and of more than one filament are known as monofilament and multi-filament yarns...

Read about Continuous Filament Yarn


Hakama are a type of traditional Japanese clothing. Hakama cover the lower body and resemble a wide, pleated skirt. Hakama were originally worn only by men, but today they are worn (albeit slightly...

Read about Hakama

Broken Filaments

Rupture of individual filaments (usually during winding or weaving) that results in the appearance of a fibrous or hairy surface, which may be localised or general, in a fabric made from flat...

Read about Broken Filaments


Nankeen, in the context of textiles, refers to a type of durable, plain-woven cotton fabric that originated in China. It is characterized by its distinctive pale yellow or off-white color, which is...

Read about Nankeen


A shirt is a sort of top, i.e. a piece of clothing for the trunk of the body. In the UK, it refers almost exclusively to what Americans call a dress shirt, i.e. a garment with a collar and a full...

Read about Shirt

Guayabera Shirt

The guayabera is a men's shirt, probably originating in Cuba, that has been popular in Latin America since the late 19th century. It has four pockets (two above and two below) and two vertical lines...

Read about Guayabera Shirt

Sweaters: From Fishermen's Armor to Fashion Frontlines

A sweater, pullover, jumper or jersey is a relatively heavy garment intended to cover the torso and arms of the human body (though in some cases sweaters are made for dogs and occasionally other...

Read about Sweater

Add a definition

Add a definition for a textile term that you know about! Send us an email & tell us:
  • The term you want to define
  • Its definition in 500 words or less
  • Attach an image if necessary.
  • Optionally, tell us about yourself in 200 words or less!

Companies for Tabby:

If you manufacture, distribute or otherwise deal in Tabby, please fill your company details below so that we can list your company for FREE! Send us the following details:
  • Company name
  • Company address
  • Attach a logo, if necessary.
  • Optionally, tell us about yourself in 200 words or less!

Did you know this fact? Fashion designer Christian Dior was initially an art dealer before becoming a fashion designer.
(s) 2024 TextileGlossary.com Some rights reserved. • Sitemap