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Tartan Fabric



Tartan conjures up the thought of a Scotsman wearing a kilt with bagpipes tucked under his arm. Yet tartan represents so much more than bagpipers. Tartan represents solidity, family, values, loyalty and trust. It has been recorded in history since the 3 rd century AD. The first record of tartan fabric was a scrap of a check woven fabric used as a plug in an earthenware pot full of Silver coins.

History also tells us that the colours and pattern of tartan fabric differentiates between clans or tribes. It shows who your loyalties are with. The tartan you choose to wear or are permitted to wear will show everyone where your allegiance lies. Tartan, check or plaid are all a pattern of wool fabric; the pattern being a series of coloured yarns that are woven together to create a box pattern. The shape and size of the pattern and its colours vary according to the name of it. One of the most famous tartan fabrics is Royal Stewart Tartan. The reason for its popularity is it is the personal tartan of the Queen of England. This is closely associated with another popular tartan – Black Watch Tartan. The Scottish regiment wore Black Watch Tartan as their chosen colours and their pipers wore Royal Stewart Tartan.

Here in Lee Valley Ireland we use both Royal Stewart and Black Watch Tartan in our products. These products include our renowned grandfather shirt, flannel collar shirt, fleece-lined flannel shirt and our nightwear range.


What is tartan?

Tartan is a pattern made from weaving a selection of coloured threads. The threads are woven at right angles to each other and the pattern is repeated consistently through the fabric. Tartan Fabric is also called plaid or check. A tartan outfit was called a sett.

Clan Tartans
These are the tartan fabrics chosen by a family, clan, tribe or even a branch of a family. The tartan must by recognised and approved by the clan’s elder or chief. One tartan would be chosen for a particular clan by its chief and a branch of that same family may well decide to use another tartan, but one that is similar to the original clan tartan. In many cases one of the thread colours or the size of the pattern may be the different element.  Subscribe to Lee Valley Irelands Blog Now

Hunting Tartans
The gentile society wore a Hunting Tartan sett while hunting. The sett would be in muted tones of green and blue to enable the hunters blend with the landscape. Again certain clans wore certain tartans. The Muro clan chose to wear Black Watch as their Hunting Tartan sett.

Dress Tartans
A Dress Tartan is based on the clan tartan. In most cases one background colour would be substituted with a striking white thread. The white would enhance, brighten and smarten up the tartan. Kilts made from the Dress Tartan were worn for dancing.

Tartan Facts
 Scotland adopted Tartan as its symbolic national dress.
 Queen Elizabeth wears Royal Stewart Tartan.
 Black Watch is the name of a Tartan and a Scottish Regiment. 
 Plaid actually means blanket. 
 All Celtic nations identify with tartan.

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  • (caitriona hurley)
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