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Herringbone is a popular traditional weave, but why?

It’s 07.15 and I’m on my regular commute to London Euston...As I look up from my Iphone, I’m already surrounded by commuters, all heading to the big smoke, most of us for a day pushing emails and listening in on conference calls.

Mustn't grumble though. At least I've got a seat, which isn't the case for most of my fellow travellers, especially the ones who live closer to London.

After ten years of doing this commute at roughly the same time every day, I've realised it provides a great opportunity to observe how people's tastes and styles change over time. After all, there aren't many places where you get to observe the same people in the same situation 365 days a year - without even having to talk to them. Well, this is the UK after all!!

Today, I notice that there are at least three people within about five feet of me who are wearing or carrying something in herringbone pattern, a mix of shirts, coats and scarves. Given the density of people per sqft in my carriage, this is a resounding endorsement of the herringbone pattern. No need for a more in depth or costly consumer survey to conclude that Herringbone is seriously popular with consumers and manufacturers alike.

For anyone unfamiliar with herringbone, it features a geometric pattern that is sometimes called a “Broken Twill Weave.” Whilst it might look similar to a chevron, it is notably different. Instead of the “stripes” of the zig zag flowing across the width of the fabric, the zig zags are broken up by alternating the colours in each direction.

At Ambunti Warehouse, we are particularly fond of our traditional  herringbone wool blankets and throws.

But how long has it been in existence and why is it so popular. No time to visit the library; let’s hope the WiFi’s working so i can consult the all knowing Google.

Okay, so I’m definitely not the first person to think about this. Not a fishbone or roll mop on page one of Google. Literally hundreds of articles about herringbone pattern,

So, it looks as though there are three main reasons why herringbone pattern exists and they’re not quite what I expected.

Herringbone in Roman brick road

It all started with the Romans using herringbone brick patterns to construct their famously straight roads. "Opus spicatum" as it was known then. Apparently, bricks in herringbone pattern laid over rubble were extremely hard wearing and able to absorb the shocks of the Empire's traffic. This link with the Roman empire may also explain how herringbone made its way into the clothing industry, appearing in Italian cloths and clothing. The shroud of Turin, dating back to the time of Christ, was made out of white herringbone cloth.

Shroud of Turin in Herringbone

The Egyptians used herringbone in jewellery and also in an early version of twill.

There are also a couple of references to herringbone pattern being used in Irish textiles as far back as 600BC.

Whilst wool is a popular fibre used in herringbone fabrics, it is now made from many fibre compositions, such as light cotton, thick wool and cool linen, hence its presence in so many textiles and products still used today.

If you would like to find out more about the origins of wool in blankets and clothing, read our blog about the Cherchen Man, who was wearing and trading wool more than 10,000 years ago.

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