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In an earlier post we mentioned that Kim was on a trip over seas to Ireland. During Kim’s trip to Ireland she also took a short trip to Scotland where they were able to go through a tartan weaving mill.

The Tartan Weaving Mill

So today we are talkin’ Tartans!

First tho, we may want to clarify the terms tartan and plaid before we go any farther.

A Scottish Tartan is a pattern of interlocking stripes or more specifically, alternating bands of colored thread woven as both warp and weft at right angles. This means that the horizontal and vertical threads are woven in a pattern that repeats and makes a distinct pattern of squares and lines known also as a sett. Any pattern like this to us is referred to as a plaid. The word plaid or plaide, however, comes from the Gaelic word for blanket, specifically used in the context of Highland dress to refer to a large length of material. The original kilt consisted of a large length of cloth, large like a blanket, gathered and belted at the waist. So now do you see the small bit of confusion with regards to tartan and plaid?

colorful yarns ready for weaving

The earliest tartans were done in the 3rd or 4th century. All tartans were locally supplied and hand woven. Certain colors and patterns were made in certain areas and thusly clan tartans emerged for areas but not yet for clans.

At the end of the 18th century commercial weaves began producing tartans at a much greater rate. One of the more famous producers, William Wilson and Sons of Bannockbum, produced a large number of patterns and standard colors and patterns that were first identified by numbers but later changed to names. The Wilson key pattern book of 1819 included about 250 tartans, with about 100 of them having names from designs collected from all over Scotland.

a loom inside the mill   man at the loom at the mill

In 1815 the Highland Society of London ask clans chiefs to submit samples of the clan tartans for registry and not many had actual official tartans. Later in 1822 with the visit of the King to Edinburgh for a tartan fest, some clans had to actually design new tartans to have one officially for their specific clan. From then on it seemed they were named and associated with certain clans.

tartans by the bolt   measuring the tartan from the bolt

Tartans today represent not only clans, but also may represent a district, a town, a cooperation, an event, or even a specific person. They can be registered with the state legislature or the clan chief to be official.

Here are two of the most popular tartans of today – Black Watch and Royal Stewart:

Black Watch and Royal Stewart tartans

When Kim comes to your home with samples of fabric, she can show you a collection of Roth and Tompkins plaids inspired by the tartan. Here are a few:

Roth & Tompkins plaids

For a close up look and feel of the Roth & Tompkins plaids or other plaid decorator fabrics, call or email Kim for your free in home consultation – 513-398-5798 or