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Hampshire Cultural Trust

Dotty Spots and Crazy Circles

Spots and circles form part of a group of patterns that are based on geometric shapes.They are one of the most popular non-floral motifs. Circles have been used throughout history to represent eternity, continuation and wholeness.

In textile design, a circle is a motif large enough to hold another pattern or colour inside itself. A spot is too small to contain another pattern and is usually a solid colour. Dots can be as small as a pin dot or slightly bigger to form coin or outsized dots – all are solid in colour.

The combinations for creating a pattern out of circles, spots and dots are numerous which might explain why they are such an enduring motif.

Their versatility and the sense of movement that can be created with them, means that they are rarely out of fashion. Small spots of a solid colour can be arranged to make the pattern known as Polka dots – the term taking its name from the Polka, a Bohemian dance, popular in the mid 1840s.

Circles can be placed inside circles to create a bullseye where the pattern almost dances visually.

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    Day dress mid 1860s
    Cream wool printed with purple spot and star cluster motifs. Possibly worn at the seaside.
    Accession number C1976.31.335


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    Summer afternoon dress 1854
    Pink cotton gauze woven with white silk spot motif.
    Accession number C1976.31.345


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    Dress 1950s
    Printed cotton, blue on white and white on blue polka dots. The matching dot fabrics have been decoratively arranged.
    Accession number: C2002.3


Spotted pattern with large black and white spots on a green background