Tartan is made with alternating bands of pre-dyed coloured threads woven as both warp and weft and are at right angles to each other. The cloth is woven as a simple twill, this forms visible diagonal lines, known as the twill line. Where different colours cross, this gives the appearance of new colours blended from the original ones. The resulting blocks of colour that repeat vertically and horizontally in a distinctive pattern of squares and lines is known as a sett.
Mention tartan today and most people think of Scotland as the home of tartan, but this is not the case. It is known that in central Europe in the 6th century BC a tartan like textile was in use. Some of the material was discovered as recently as 2004 in the Hallstatt salt mines near Salzburg, Austria.
Most people think of Clan Tartans as the definitive tartan but district tartans have been around longer than clan tartans. The earliest documented tartan in Britain is from the 3rd century AD and is a "Falkirk" tartan. It was uncovered at Falkirk in Stirlingshire, Scotland, about 400 metres north-west of the Antonine Wall. District tartans were used to signify the area that the person who wore it hailed from. Dyes used at the time we made from plants and lichen. People at the time wore whatever took their fancy hence a person could be wearing several different tartans at once.
The modern association between specific tartans and clans did not exist in the 17th and 18th centuries. The first regularised official tartan appeared in fabric form by the British Army. This tartan had a profound influence on the way clan tartans evolved.
In 1724 the British Army mustered Highlanders in to six companies of men and were informally known as the ‘Black Watch’. This was in reference to the ‘Black’ or undercover activities used by the companies to keep watch on the Jacobite clans and their activities. The companies that were part of the British Army wore tartans but there was no standardised pattern at this point in time.
In 1739, the British Government formed the Highland Companies in to a regiment known as the 43rd Highland Regiment. The uniforms issued to the men consisted of a belted plaid in a standard colour tartan. The colours used were Blue, Green and Black. This tartan was known as the ‘government pattern’ This tartan was called by the nickname of the regiment ‘Black Watch’. Today the tartan is in Navy, Black and Dark Green and this is what we are accustomed to see today as the Black Watch Tartan.
After the Highlands were defeated at the Battle of Culloden the wearing of tartan was banned due to the fact that kilts and tartan were such a powerful and recognisable symbol of Highland loyalty and independence by the Disarming Act of 1746.
Due to the use of Tartan and Highland Dress by the Highland Regiments, highland dress not only survived but also evolved in the regiments. Up to this time the highland dress was known as the great kilt. No one knows who made the transition from the great kilt to the feileadh beag or the little kilt that was the fore runner of today’s kilt.
In 1782 the repeal of the Disarming Act of 1746 allowed the wearing of Highland dress by non-military persons. As time had passed Highlands had grown used to wearing the same dress as any other Scots. Little enthusiasm for returning to tartan clothing was shown and kilts and tartan clothing did not make immediate and universal come-back as one would think.
It was not until the middle of the 1800’s that Clans adopted specific tartans some of the clan tartans are based on the ‘Black Watch’ tartan.
In recent years’ tartan has become something to be part off and as a result the Scottish Government made on official registrar of all know tartans.
Although tartan is thought off a Scottish cloth, tartans are being registered by people the world over.
The sett size for the DERBYSHIRE TARTAN is 11.5 inches which nowadays is regarded as an old sett size
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The Derbyshire Tartan™ is registered with Scottish Register of Tartans