What is "Tartan" - Definition & Explanation
Last Updated on: 07-Jan-2023 (8 months, 28 days ago)
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Tartan: Unraveling the Mystique from Scottish Tradition to Global Fashion

Tartan in Textile: Exploring History, Types, and Tips for Handling

Tartan is a distinctive textile pattern characterized by a crisscross arrangement of colored bands, resulting in a checkered or plaid design. It holds a rich cultural heritage and has become synonymous with Scottish tradition. This article provides an in-depth exploration of tartan, including its history, types, tips for handling, and profiles of top international users and manufacturers.

History and Origin

The history of tartan dates back centuries and is deeply rooted in Scottish culture. It is believed to have originated in the Scottish Highlands, where the specific patterns and colors of tartan were used to identify different clans and families. Originally, tartan was handwoven using natural dyes derived from plants and minerals found in the local surroundings.

Types of Tartan

Tartan patterns are diverse and varied, with each design carrying its own significance. Here are some notable types of tartan:

  1. Clan Tartan: Clan tartans are associated with specific Scottish clans and represent their unique heritage and identity. Each clan typically has its own distinct tartan pattern, incorporating specific colors and variations.
  2. Regional Tartan: Regional tartans are associated with different regions of Scotland and often represent the local traditions and history of those areas. Examples include Highland tartans, Lowland tartans, and Isles tartans.
  3. Fashion Tartan: Fashion tartans are created for the purpose of style and aesthetic appeal. These tartans may not have historical or clan associations but are designed to cater to contemporary fashion trends.
  4. Corporate Tartan: Corporate tartans are designed specifically for businesses or organizations. They often incorporate company colors or elements and are used for branding and promotional purposes.

Tips for Handling Tartan

When working with tartan textiles, it is important to keep a few tips in mind to ensure proper care and maintenance:

  • Washing Instructions: Follow the manufacturer's washing instructions to preserve the integrity and colors of the tartan fabric. Some tartans may require specific care due to the nature of the dyes used.
  • Ironing and Steaming: Use low heat settings when ironing or steaming tartan fabric to avoid damaging the fibers or altering the pattern. It is recommended to iron on the reverse side or use a pressing cloth.
  • Storage: Store tartan garments or fabrics in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to prevent fading or discoloration. Consider rolling the fabric instead of folding to minimize creases.
  • Professional Cleaning: For valuable or delicate tartan items, consider seeking professional dry cleaning services to ensure the fabric is treated with care and expertise.

Top International Users and Manufacturers

Tartan fabrics are utilized by various international users and manufacturers in the textile industry. Here are some notable names:

  1. Johnstons of Elgin: A renowned Scottish textile company, Johnstons of Elgin has a rich history in producing high-quality tartan fabrics. They offer a wide range of tartan designs and products, including scarves, blankets, and clothing.
  2. Harris Tweed Authority: The Harris Tweed Authority is the statutory body that oversees the production and promotion of authentic Harris Tweed. Harris Tweed, known for its distinctive tartan patterns, is handwoven in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.
  3. Lochcarron of Scotland: Lochcarron of Scotland is a leading manufacturer of tartan fabrics, producing a wide range of designs for clothing, accessories, and interior furnishings. They collaborate with designers and retailers worldwide.
  4. Strathmore Woollen Company: Strathmore Woollen Company specializes in creating high-quality tartan fabrics using traditional weaving methods. They offer an extensive collection of tartan designs, catering to both domestic and international markets.
  5. Tartan Weaving Mill: The Tartan Weaving Mill in Edinburgh, Scotland, showcases the art of tartan weaving to visitors. They produce a range of tartan products and offer customization services for individuals and organizations.


Tartan is not just a textile pattern; it is a symbol of Scottish heritage and a versatile design element in the world of fashion and textiles. Its diverse range of patterns, including clan tartans, regional tartans, fashion tartans, and corporate tartans, allows for creative expression and cultural representation. By following proper handling tips and understanding the significance of tartan, individuals can appreciate and enjoy this iconic textile for generations to come.

This is a woolen or worsted cloth woven as 2/2 twill in elaborate check designs.
Multicolored plaids originally made for Scottish clan kilts.
Refers to the kinds of plaid patterns traditionally worn by Scottish highlanders. Each design was associated with a specific family or 'clan'. The term is generally used to today in reference to any plaid design similar to these Scottish designs.
A tartan is a specific woven pattern that often signifies a particular Scottish clan in the modern era. The pattern is made with alternating bands of coloured (pre-dyed) threads woven as both warp and weft at right angles to each other. The resulting blocks of colour repeat vertically and horizontally in a distinctive pattern of squares and lines known as a "sett". Kilts almost always have tartans.
A fabric, originally a woollen 2/2 twill worn by Scottish Highlanders, woven in checks of various colours.

Some other terms

Some more terms:

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A long crease mark (q.v.) in a dyed or finished textile and that runs approximately in the length direction. NOTE: The marks are caused during wet processing in the rope form and may be the result...
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a) In a weft-knitted fabric, a defect that consists of ill-defined areas of varying density attributable to the use of yarn of irregular thickness. b) In webs and slivers, a defect that consists of...

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