How checkered table cloths made their way to Italian restaurant tables
Chequered tablecloths actually have a much longer history than you might think. The type of chequered fabric we now all instantly recognise is called gingham. While Italians say the fabric originally comes from northern Italy, Germans claim it was invented in Bavaria and the French argue they first introduced it. In reality, the history of gingham is as chequered as the fabric itself. It is said to have originated in South East Asia, which has a long history of colouring textiles with rich natural dyes. From there, Dutch colonisers introduce it to Europe in the early 17th century. In fact, the term gingham derives from the Malaysian word genggang, which means ‘striped’. Originally, the fabric had regular bright coloured stripes, but later it would also be made with check or plaid patterns. Rather than printing the colour on the fabric, coloured fibres are woven together. The result is a durable, versatile product. Because of its qualities and spurred by the Industrial Revolution, gingham soon becomes a popular fabric across Europe, including Italy.