What is a Ticking Stripe Fabric?

7th September 2019

You’ve all seen ticking stripe fabrics and we know that it’s a very popular choice of fabric that our customers use and look out for, but do you know what it actually is? Or why ticking fabrics were initially made?

If you’d like to find out more about how they were originally used to stop quills and straw from attacking you in your sleep then explore our article below.


Where does the word ticking come from?

The earliest mattresses were basic and uncomfortable, made from straw, leaves, raw wool and even twigs they didn’t make for a great night’s sleep. Eventually, the basic human need for comfort meant that these mattresses evolved and were soon covered with a basic sack which was called a ‘tick’. This ‘tick’ was made from a densely woven, herringbone fabric – the compact nature of the yarns in this type of weave prevented insects, straw and feathers from poking through when in use. The herringbone pattern developed over time to include a stripe in which the point of the herringbone can be seen and became an intrinsic part of the design. What we now know as a ticking stripe.

Did you know that ticking as a practical/utility fabric has been around in some form for over 1,000 years and that they derived from the Greek word ‘theka’ meaning case or covering?

Pink ticking stripe fabric
Image: Paul Viant Photography/Abaca

Bringing us up to the modern day, it’s rare to see these on mattresses anymore – they have been replaced, in the main, by floral damasks. Ticking fabric with the classic stripe has since evolved and is probably more common in decorative furnishings such as upholstery and curtains than it is as a utility fabric, never to be seen. This is something we have been championing here at Ian Mankin for around 35 years! It may be borne from utility; but it’s practicality, the crafted nature of the weave and the elegance of the stripe that makes it the perfect choice as an interior fabric.

Ticking is usually made from 100% cotton or a blend of cotton and linen yarns in a herringbone weave. In a ticking stripe you have the central coloured, broad stripe with a thin stripe either side usually in the same colour – this gives the illusion of a wider stripe without it being too bold. In a way, it feathers the edge. There are a multitude of ticking designs available in a vast array of colours with different coloured stripes and grounds.

What makes our ticking fabrics different?

A good ticking fabric isn’t only about the colours that work together, it’s also about the negative space between them that creates a quality pattern.

At Ian Mankin we create colour woven fabrics, using dyed yarns rather than printed stripes which introduce a depth of colour into the fabrics. They create a softer more tonal stripe which doesn’t give as much strobing (the distorting effect on the eye) as a high contrast, solid printed stripe can give and makes for a very liveable fabric.

If you take a closer look at our Ticking 01 Navy fabric below you will see that the herringbone in each of the stripes is centralised. This process demands a lot of care and attention from the weavers and can have a subtle effect on the aesthetic of the stripe as the weave adds a dimension to the overall pattern. The structure and density of the herringbone weave also gives the ticking fabric its durability and makes it highly practical in upholstery.  If you catch this fabric at an angle you can see the subtle pattern in the blocks of colour. When this is covering a large piece of furniture it will be very visible, so its important to choose your fabrics wisely and with this is mind.

Ian Mankin tickings are great to work with because of the fact that they are woven rather than a printed design, this gives our tickings a great handle and ensures that there is no tracking at all on the pattern. It is the quality of the weaves that ensures that the pattern is uniform throughout all of our fabrics.

Image: Ian Mankin Ticking 01 Fabric – Navy

How to use ticking fabrics

Due to its hard-wearing nature ticking can be used for almost anything in the home including upholstery, tableware, cushions, curtains and blinds – all you need to do is find the perfect colour and width to suit your scheme.

If you’re feeling bold then do take a look at how Ingrid Abramovitch has made a dramatic statement using our Ticking Stripe 1 Black and Empire Stripe 1 Airforce fabrics in Elle Décor. It is definitely worth a peek at even if you’re not thinking of decorating anytime soon. Ticking fabric works perfectly here because of its classic design style and its ability to endure changing trends. If you’re one of those people that likes to redecorate once in a blue moon and then ticking is your answer, it’ll instantly spruce up your home and save you money in the long run! Create a similar bedroom setting by combining ticking fabrics with complementing designs from our Britannia collection.

Navy blue stripe bedroom

Coordinating ticking stripe fabrics

Ticking stripe is a great fabric to use throughout the home – it has a luxurious feel, beautiful handle and sophisticated look which works well in virtually any environment. Take the lead from influential American interior decorator, Sister Parish. Well known for up-scaling 1940’s sitting rooms and experimenting with ticking stripe and chintz fabrics. From her continuous coordination of charming fabrics in multiple designs and colourways, she has helped the humble ticking fabric increase in popularity. Explore Sister Parish’s work here:

Image: Sister Parish

If you would like to make your home feel that little warmer and then choose classic shades of red or warmer neutrals. Blue ticking fabrics are a great addition to a fresh and welcoming coastal scheme. Whether you are wanting to stand up to elegant architecture, you live in a country with a hot climate or you just want to add interest to an otherwise bland space – ticking stripes are simple and guaranteed to ride the waves of changing trends. Quiet and dependable when you want to use it as a backdrop, bold and lively when used on a focal point.

Totally in love with ticking?  We don’t blame you and so we’ve branched out to Ticking wallpaper and Ticking Striped Cushions to help you with your addiction!

Looking for an eclectic English style? Consider using different variations of striped, floral and textured plain fabrics in similar colourways to coordinate with tickings and add a little fun to your scheme. They can work absolute wonders on upholstery, soft furnishings and home accessories! Give it a go with our Ticking Stripe 1 PeonyDevon Stripe Peony, Kew Floral Wallpaper in Baltic Pink and Arran Peony fabric. Sticking to a similar colour theme can help you build up the look without it being overbearing.

Red ticking stripe bedding
Image: Ian Mankin Peony and Pink Collection

Relaxed rustic schemes look fantastic with a splash of ticking, helping you to create that light and airy lived-in vibe. Check out this great blog from House and Garden to get tips on layering up natural fabrics and simple patterns for an authentic look and realise your dreams of remote, country living!

Blue ticking stripe chair

If you’d like to take a closer look our complete collection of ticking stripe fabrics are available with complimentary fabric samples online. However, if you’re still unsure of how to integrate this beautifully draping fabric into your home and are in need of some further inspiration, then find your nearest trusted Ian Mankin designer or maker using our ‘Find a Stockist’ tool.

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