For those of you who are celebrating Tartan Day on April 6, a little primer on tartans. Tartans
began in Scotland as woven wool patterns used as district identifiers, created using locally popular patterns and, originally, different natural wool colors. The word tartan originally just meant the style of weaving -- take the yarn over two cross strands, then under two, then repeat. Eventually the meaning changed to what we now accept, the patterns of colors in the weave, also called the sett.
As the ancient ways of making dyes
became more sophisticated, more colorful patterns started to emerge. Soon, brightly colored dyes made many bright, vibrant weaves possible. In districts where one clan dominated, the tartan naturally began to be associated with the clan, and this eventually became the current system of specific patterns (or families of patterns) being specifically connected to individual clans and their related families, or septs.
But those bright colors were a liability out on the Highlands hills, so eventually weavers developed hunting
tartans in similar weave patterns but muted, natural colors. Modern, synthetic dyes have made even brighter, more intricate tartans possible. Clans now have entire tartan sets
to choose from, including ancient, modern, dress, hunting, and many other possible combinations.
) and fly plaids
for the lads are just the tip of the tartan iceberg. Lasses can wear dresses
and all kinds of accessories
Most folks think of kilts when they think of tartan, however. If you’re long on cash (tartan fabric is expensive
if you get the real stuff!) but short on time or sewing skills, here’s how to turn your tartan into a Braecon Feille or Great Highlands
Want to see if you’re entitled to wear a tartan? Check
your last name against the accepted clans and septs. Once you get your tartan garment, accessorize with a sporran
(although there are some that might attract unwanted attention
), a Scottish knife
like a dirk or the more common sgian dubh
. There might even be drinking