Last weekend I was lucky enough to be at a Burns night party complete with the haggis, Scots flag, kilts, and there was even a tiny one year old dressed in a frilly tartan skirt .
The origins of tartan lie within the clothing industry and ‘plaid’, the alternative name for tartan is not Gaelic in origin but believed to be Roman. The clan tartan was a type of uniform worn by its members and denoted status and showed one’s origins. Clans usually had four tartans – one for the clan chief and his immediate family, one for other clan members, a formal tartan for evening wear and a hunting tartan.
In order that a piece of cloth be known as a tartan it has to be a twill weave. The sett-the number and order of the colours which make up a pattern – must follow a strict order with the same number of ends per inch in both the warp and the weft as is required by the design being woven. Historically sett were not written down but memorised and passed down through the generations of men and women who dyed, spun and initially wove the woollen cloth.
Tartan is a closely woven fabric and is hard wearing when made from wool. The wool makes it water resistant as well as warm. Traditionally Tartan kilts would be unwrapped from the body at night and used as a blanket, particularly in the battlefield.
The cushions shown below display the versatility of tartan – matching and contrasting colours can be successfully combined.