Of Tartans and Kilts
April 6, 2012 4:09 PM   Subscribe

Today is National Tartan Day, and in New York city it's Tartan Week! A celebration of Scottish heritage, Tartan Day is held on April 6 to commemorate the Declaration of Arbroath, a declaration of Scottish independence submitted to Pope John XXII in 1320.

Tartans have been woven in Scotland for centuries, but it wasn't until the visit of King George IV to Edinburgh in 1822 that the invented tradition of the Clan tartan was born.

One of the earliest documented tartan patterns, not affiliated with any one family, is Culloden, named for a tartan coat found after the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Tartan scholar Peter MacDonald suspected that its curious color scheme was not accurate, and found out that he was right (PDF).

Other countries, states, and organizations have adopted the tartan tradition... There's a Freemasons Universal Tartan, although the Grand Lodge of Scotland (which has its own tartan) disagrees. For H.P. Lovecraft fans, there's the elusive R'Lyeh sett. There has even been talk of a MetaFilter tartan. (more recently.)

You can use the Scottish Tartans Authority's Tartan Ferret to find your family tartan, or design your own. New tartans may be submitted to the Scottish Register of Tartans, and if you'd care to have some custom-woven D.C. Dalgliesh Ltd, one of the last tartan mills in Scotland, can do that for you.

Once you have your tartan fabric, you might like to have a kilt made from it. The 8 yard, knife-pleated kilt has been popular since the late 1800s, but the older 4 yard box-pleated kilt has made a comeback and is easier on the wallet. There is also the old-school Féileadh Mòr. If you're handy with a sewing needle, you can make your own kilt. Just remember, the pleats go in the back.

posted by usonian (15 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I used to live in Arbroath. It's such an exciting town the the weekly newspaper, the Arbroath Herald, was wont to lead with stories like 'church wall still standing.'
posted by anigbrowl at 4:16 PM on April 6, 2012

Reiterating the need for a Metafilter tartan, stat.
posted by LN at 4:21 PM on April 6, 2012 [6 favorites]

Also, don't forget it's New Beer Day today
posted by growabrain at 4:28 PM on April 6, 2012

A Scottish-descended friend of mine had a favorite bumper sticker that said "Scots Have Tartan Balls".
posted by XMLicious at 5:56 PM on April 6, 2012

Isn't it like being a child, and dressing up cute for your parent/monarch?
posted by Goofyy at 11:28 PM on April 6, 2012

Graham of Mentieth, represent. Our line can be traced back to Robert the Bruce himself, although somewhat indirectly.
posted by scalefree at 12:03 AM on April 7, 2012

Tartan? Rats. Since I've been eating fish every Friday for Lent*, I was hoping for Tartar Sauce.

* no religious reason, it's just the only time of year McDonalds has its 'Filet O Fish Friday' deal
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:55 AM on April 7, 2012

Graham of Mentieth, represent

Ooo, didn't know there was a castle on the other island on the Lake of Menteith... (not to be confused with the Lake of Men Teeth).

Inchmahome is one of our go-to places for taking couchsurfers and other visitants. Along with MonthPython castle, natch (although I far prefer Castle Gloom [no, really! it lies between the burns of Sorrow, and Care]).
posted by titus-g at 1:58 AM on April 7, 2012

One think I liked on visits to Scotland is how inclusive the tartan thing is, including even my very non-Scottish name, so (almost) no tourist could go away unhappy.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:35 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by arcticseal at 3:10 AM on April 7, 2012

Ooo, didn't know there was a castle on the other island on the Lake of Menteith

Inch Talla, though I've never been there myself. Apparently King James feared one of my ancestors was intending to lay claim to the throne for himself, possibly for boasting "he still had the reddest blood in Scotland". So he stripped him of the Earlship. Some of my cousins still carry Monteith as their middle name. As for the tartan, in high school I had a minor role in Brigadoon & had a kilt made of it, plus various ties presented as family gifts over the years.
posted by scalefree at 4:01 AM on April 7, 2012

If you're a guy you can also wear 'trews' in your tartan which are wool trousers in your tartan.

Side story, at my wedding I kind of had my heart set on my dad wearing his Trews because he had worn them to EVERYTHING when I was a kid and they were a bit of a family joke. Unfortunately June is not prime wool trousers weather. We ended up buying a pair of Ralph Lauren golf pants for him that worked very nicely as summer weight trews. ;) Also fortunately, my non-scottish now husband was very sweet about the craziness of a scottish family wedding. Probably helped by the fact that he could escape being stuffed into a kilt by wearing his uniform.

If you are kilt or trews shopping or just in need of very good fish and chips, there is Pipers Cove in Harrison NJ. They sell tartan yardage and can custom make items. I love visiting it, it's like a mad tartan crazy explosion in there, and Joan (one of the owners) is a treat.
posted by lyra4 at 5:07 AM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Inchmahome is one of our go-to places for taking couchsurfers and other visitants

If I ever find my way over there, I'll definitely keep you in mind.
posted by scalefree at 5:37 AM on April 7, 2012

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