The History of Tartan
If anyone was asked to name five iconic things about Scotland, tartan or kilts are bound to be one of the things mentioned. Here is a brief overview of this beautiful and historical fabric that has, without a doubt, become one of the most important symbols of Scotland and Scottish Heritage.
Tartan is a woven material, generally of wool, that has stripes of different colours that vary in breadth. An assortment of coloured yarns are arranged in a unique pattern that, when woven, become the "sett". This "sett" comprises a series of squares, intersected with stripes and is repeated over and over again to make up a length of tartan.
Historically, tartan was the everyday wear of Highlanders and was spun, dyed, woven and fashioned locally. Early tartans consisted of only two or three colours, or a simple check pattern, and local weavers would make the tartan for all the people in the community.
The colours were extracted mainly from colourful plants, roots, berries and trees that grew locally. As different sources of dyes were available in each geographical area, the tartan would be unique for each community. This brought about the recognition of a tartan as belonging to a community, or Clan.
With the evolution of chemical dies, weavers were able to introduce more elaborate patterns with more vivid and varied colours. These became known as 'modern' colours, by which they are known to this day.
Over the past two hundred years, the number and variety of tartans has continued to grow. Our own tartan library, at DC Dalgliesh Mill, has over 25,000 examples. Many setts are available â not just for clans, but for families, localities, regiments, businesses, events, and more â in different colour variants, including ancient, modern, reproduction or weathered.
With countless varieties of patterns, it is now possible to design and name your very own tartan. https://www.scotweb.co.uk/tartandesign/ As long as it is unique, and complies with the standards laid down, it too can be placed on the Scottish Register.
To read all about the process, visit DC Dalgliesh. Take a look at the video, at the foot of that page, to see our looms in action.
Visit our fabric browser https://www.scotweb.co.uk/fabrics to see some of the beautiful tartans we produce, at our very own artisan tartan weaving mill, as well as thousands of others.