compiled and written by cecilia

If you are a frequent reader of Scotia News you will be familiar with our exploration of a tartan each issue. That delineates the history of each tartan. In this article I will briefly introduce how this noble cloth is constructed.

Tartan is made with alternating bands of coloured (pre-dyed) threads woven as both warp and weft at right angles to each other. The weft is woven in a simple twill, two over - two under the warp, advancing one thread each pass. This forms visible diagonal lines where different colours cross, which give the appearance of new colours blended from the original ones. The resulting blocks of colour repeat vertically and horizontally in a distinctive pattern of squares and lines known as a sett.

Women would dye the wool and sing while "waulking" the material. This is to stretch and 'relax' the fibers to get it ready for weaving.

Waulking the Tweed at Woolfest 2010. Yes, I see the MAN there singing. I KNOW Waulking is ONLY done by women. Don't write me angry letters. I had nothing to do with this.

Once the wool is dyed to the required colors - historically whatever natural colors were available in the area, the weaving can begin.

Tartan weaving Mill in Edinburgh

LUSS TV visits Islay to see the weaving of the MacKessog tartan

Knockando Woolmill - Speyside, Scotland

In the 21st Century we can play around with tartan designs using computers. There's this very fun site where one can make designs until one is blue (or checked) in the face. Check out this tartan maker.

With this on-line virtual tartan maker you have three colors you can choose.
Just for fun mine are:
first color (thickness at 2): 5A358C
second color (thickness at 8): 88C2BA
third color (thickness at 3): D60059
click "Make It"
click "Download"

This what I saved - each in a different orientation. They tile so are useful for backgrounds, of course. To add more colors click on the "+" next to the band label.

first tartantartan changed in orientation

If you join (free) you can also share your masterpieces. Here is my first one. If you click "Play with This!" you can see the settings used to make a particular tartan design and alter it to suit your sensibilities. This is also a good way to access more colors.

My friend Yonni made some tartan patterns of his own and has used them in his products. Holy Plaid, Batman!! Even Stripes!. You can Fill your life with tartans. Everywhere! When you really get involved with how interesting and intricate the design possibilities are can you appreciate why this pattern continues to be a favorite. Thanks to Yonni you can see what a creative person does with what starts out as a simple idea.
The Tartan design may be centuries old but there's something delightful and comforting about it. It fits right in with the present and the future.