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Tartan FAQ

What is the history of tartans?
Did the Welsh or Irish have clan Tartans?
When did the clan tartans came about?

Q: What is the history of tartans?

A: According to the Scottish Tartan Authority, originally the word "tartan" described the way the thread was woven to make the cloth: each thread passed over two threads then under two threads, and so on (what we refer to today as a twill weave). This gives tartan its distinctive appearance. Unlike a conventional check, there is always a square where the two colours of thread cross creating a speckled blend of the two colours. Tartans were most likely not a Celtic invention. The Chinese are thought by some to have invented tartans over 3,000 years ago! See also:

Q: Did the Welsh or Irish have clan Tartans?

A: The clan designs of Scottish Tartans have a long traditional history, but there is little historic evidence of clan named tartans in Wales or Ireland. However, tartan weaves were common in all Celtic and many other cultures.

Q: When did the clan tartans came about? I heard they where only 300 yrs ago, but I thought They where always there. What is right?

A: Plaid fabrics have been woven by many cultures for many centuries. In Scotland, until the late 1700's, people simply wore whatever the local weaver was making. The concept of a family tartan became fashionable at that time, and the first tartans were officially recorded in the early 1800's with the formation of an official Scottish tartan registry. Today that registry is maintained by the Scottish Tartans Authority.


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