For the past year or so, I've been ashamed to admit a growing nerdiness about textiles. For Seattleites, the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the SAM both have a number of kimonos and primary source outfits with fantastic textiles, so if you're in the area I recommend taking another look at these.
Why are textiles something to think about?
1. You can't sculpt them in a 3D program
2. Outfits can say a lot more about a culture than the creature anatomy wearing them.
3. 3D and 2D art both tend to focus on contrast and silhouette first, material texture second, and fabric pattern...last? There's a ton of resources about fabric drapery for 2D drawings, 3D sculpting and cloth simulation, but very little discussion about what's on that fabric.
It was really bugging me that with most detailed fabrics, the 3D inclination is to #1. find a photograph of a fabric and #2. call it a day. But the more you look at fabrics, the more something even this complicated actually seems to be laid out in an approachable style. This is my first attempt at making up a process to address the problem, and it turned out passably IMHO.
The process is really quite simple; essentially you're making a big detailed square, then putting another big detailed square on top of it. It was so easy, I spent 15 minutes to make a tutorial!
So what does it look like in 3D? Here's a quick attempt to throw it on the Turtle That Won't Die. Not much going on yet other than procedurally unwrapping to the rug texture, plus a node setup to generate a normal map off the texture.