Everybody knows what Tartan fabric and clothing looks like and most probably have some of it tucked away in a drawer or closet somewhere.
The story of tartan fabric is not so simple though. Most people think this pattern of fabric originated in Scotland, but there is no evidence of that. The exact origin of the fabric is not known, but this type of square pattern has been made for centuries, really almost since weaving began.
Weaving material in its basic form is very simple, you have a warp and a weft, in other words, the fibres that run up and down and the ones that are woven across. If you think about it, what is the easiest pattern to produce using this method? The weaver uses different colours of fibres for the warp and alternates them and does the same for weft fibres and a basic square or tartan cloth is produced. Later patterns, of course, became more complicated and intricate but the same principles still apply.
It is known that the Celts had been making this cloth from wool for centuries which was probably due to their access to sheep and because wool is a very good thermal insulator and ideal for the climate of the area. Over the years each area developed its own tartan patterns to identify and differentiate itself from its neighbours and then each clan started to produce their own tartans and so on. The colours of the original tartans were muted as access to dyes were limited to the plants and minerals found in each clan’s area.
Nowadays tartans are a fashion statement and come in a multitude of colours, fabrics and styles. Tartan fabric will always be associated with the people that made them part of their national identity, the Scottish.