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  1. #1
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    Making a Day Plaid (Laird's Plaid) - Tutorial

    I’ve been wanting a day plaid (laird’s plaid) since 2012 when I had my Reproduction Colquhoun kilt made. I had ordered 9 yards of double-width tartan from DC Dalgliesh, with 4 yards to be used for my kilt (these 4 yards of double-width become 8 yards of kilt). I planned to use the remaining 5 yards for a waistcoat on-the-bias and a day plaid. I originally discussed my plan here. Read that thread for some valuable background information.

    Well, fast-forward 6 years, and I hadn’t done anything with the remaining tartan material. I actually couldn’t find it for the last 2 years. We had moved, and it was hidden in a box in the back of a closet. But I realised that I needed to get this done. I had skipped the San Antonio Highland Games earlier this year because it was too cold and windy, and although I did go to the Salado Highland Games a few weeks ago, I was pretty cold. I figured a day plaid would have made the difference! It was time to do this.

    So, on to the project. I’m posting this in the Tutorials forum to document how I made it and discuss some of the technical issues involved.

    First, I started with my unrolled tartan material, shown below. It was just a few inches shy of 5 yards. It’s double-width, folded in half width-wise so it would fit in my hallway.



    To determine the length I wanted to make it, I folded it to the correct width for wearing (folded in half width-wise, then again) and draped it over my shoulder to hang to the length I wanted in front. Then I grabbed it from the top of my shoulder and pulled it off, folding it at that point and marking where the front bottom edge met the back. Then that length is doubled, since the plaid is folded twice length-wise when worn. For my height, it turned out to be right at 3-1/2 yards (10-1/2 feet) that was ideal.

    To be clear, this means that the 10-1/2 feet (126 inches) is folded length-wise to become 5-1/4 feet (63 inches). Then that length is draped over the shoulder with half in front and half in back (31-1/2 inches on either side). A taller person, or a person who desires a lower hanging plaid, may want 4 yard or more.

    Cutting that beautiful length of tartan took a bit of courage on my part, and no small amount of second-guessing.

    Next, I took a piece of scrap material leftover from cutting the pleat material out of the top of my kilt (I had Barb Tewksbury send me these scraps) and tested my fringe-making/purling technique. I’ll describe that below. But I was happy with the test sample and ready to start making the plaid.



    Out of curiosity, I decided to weigh my tartan material. Knowing I had just cut it to 3-1/2 yards, I could easily back-calculate the nominal material weight. It came out to 55.2 ounces, which converts to 15.77 oz material. That’s close enough for me, as DC Dalgliesh’s tartan is supposed to be in the 15-16 oz weight range.



    Making a day plaid out of double-width material is as simple as cutting to length and fringing/purling the ends. Simple, right? Not so much, at least for this amateur. This process took me about 25 man-hours from start to finish. It is a very tedious, laborious process. A professional could do it quicker (and indeed I sped up quite a bit as my technique and process got better), but I just had to struggle through.

    A quick note on terminology. In weaving, warp threads are the threads that run the length of the material. Weft threads are the cross-threads that go from selvedge to selvedge.

    First, the raw ends have to be fringed by pulling out enough weft threads so that there is about 6 inches of warp threads hanging out. These will be purled by hand. Pulling out the weft threads is easy at first, when there’s very little warp thread exposed. You pretty much just grab a thread and start pulling. It sort of “unzips” itself. As you can see below, this tartan material from DC Dalgliesh uses a true kilting selvedge where the weft threads just loop around the end warp threads.



    As more and more length of warp threads are exposed, the weft threads get more difficult to unzip. There’s a lot of friction there and the warp threads will tangle up as the weft threads come out. I found that once the tangles start happening, it’s easier to stop pulling threads out the end of the material and start pulling them out the side. In the photo below, I would pull the blue thread to the right. There’s still a lot of friction as the threads have to move through the over/under locking of the warp threads. But it can be done, albeit slowly. Too quick or too hard, and the threads break.



    In order to pull the weft threads out from one selvedge side, the opposite selvedge has to be cut. Remember, these weft threads are continuous and just loop back and forth. So the loop at one end has to be cut so the opposite side loop can be tugged out. What I did was use a needle to tease the weft threads up enough that I could cut each thread with scissors near the left side selvedge. Then remove the short pieces that looped over that side. This left raw thread ends, as shown below. These could then be tugged out the right side.



    Once that process was complete, I had about 6 inches of warp threads forming a fine fringe at each end. The first end of the plaid took me about 6 hours to get to this point, but the second end only took me 2-1/2 hours due to refining my process. The raw fringed end:



    The next step was to purl the ends. I did this by carefully and mathematically selecting the number of threads I wanted to put in each purled fringe, so that they ended up in colour blocks to match my tartan. I wanted to minimise the mixing of different coloured threads in each purled fringe. For my purposes, each purled fringe took 6, 7, or 8 threads.

    Purling the threads is a process of making two twisted strands and then twisting those together and knotting them. Below is an example of an 8-thread purl. First, I separated two blocks of 4 threads each. These have to be carefully taken from the fine fringe to make sure they’re in sequential order.



    Next, each block of 4 threads gets twisted to the right (clockwise) by 10 twists, or until they’re good and tight. The result is two right-twisted strands.



    Last, these two strands are back-twisted together. Since they were each twisted clockwise, the final purl puts these together and twists them anti-clockwise by the same count (10 twists). Then a simple knot at the end. The result is an 8-thread purl that has a permanent twist that won’t untwist itself.



    That’s pretty much the process. But it takes hour after hour after painstaking hour! Just for reference, this tartan has 270 threads in each sett repeat. And the double-width cloth has 8 setts plus about 92 extra threads. So that’s 2252 threads on each end that have to be handled on each end for a total of 4,504 threads.

    The way I split the threads, it came out to 36 purled strands per sett. It took 299 purled strands on each end of the plaid (598 total). My fingers are sore!

    I hope my description of the process made sense. If not, please let me know what needs to be clarified. If you have better tips and tricks for the process, please share those too!
    Last edited by Tobus; 22nd November 18 at 06:52 PM.

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  3. #2
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    Now that I’ve described the process, here are the final results.

    The folded plaid with purled ends:



    And the obligatory photos of me wearing it, after all that hard work! First, the typical carrying of a day plaid in the usual fashion when not needed for warmth. If you click the link in my first post, there’s a description there of how to fold it and wear it. The fringed ends go in front with the big fold at the back.



    Next, one example of how it can be unfolded and wrapped around the body for a little extra warmth at the torso. Again, click the link in my first post for more illustrations of additional unfolding to make it into a half-cloak or full-cloak. I don’t have a plaid brooch/pin, so I didn’t show all the options. But it’s pretty simple to just throw the top fold of the plaid back over your shoulder and wrap it around the body.



    With my luck, though, I’ll probably only get to carry it and when it gets cold I’ll have to wrap it around my wife instead of wearing it myself!


  4. #3
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    Nice job. Personally, I prefer a three-plaited fringe such as this one from a c1820-30 plaid. The plaits are sightly heavier, hang well are are really attractive.

    Plaited Fringe.jpg

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  6. #4
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    I do like that, figheadair. But the time spent to braid those would be ...daunting, to say the least. I'm curious as to the method used to gather them so far apart without having loose threads near the base, or starting to curl the cloth between plaits.

    If I had this to do all over again, I would definitely put more threads in each completed strand to make them larger/heavier and reduce the number. When I look at photos and portraits of other fringed plaids, they do seem to be larger diameter.

  7. #5
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    Here are a couple hints which can make purlling a fringe just a bit easier.

    I pull fringe using a wire bristle dog brush. I pull between 4 and 6 inches.



    Then with two forceps I put the number of yarns for each half of the twist in the jaws and with your fingertips twist each 12-15 turns in the same direction.



    Then just drop both forceps together over the edge of your table and they will spin together putting the twist into the fringe.



    A simple overhand knot finishes off the purl.



    If you don't have a source for forceps you could also find one of these fringe twisters which work the same way.

    Last edited by Steve Ashton; 23rd November 18 at 02:47 PM.
    Steve Ashton
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  9. #6
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    I wonder if you could use some of the weft threads to thicken up the fringe?

    It would mean even more twisting, but you could increase the numbers of threads of a particular colour if necessary, or make a fatter final cord with perhaps six instead of four threads.

    Anne the Pleater
    I presume to dictate to no man what he shall eat or drink or wherewithal he shall be clothed."
    -- The Hon. Stuart Ruaidri Erskine, The Kilt & How to Wear It, 1901.

  10. #7
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    Ah, Steve, the use of forceps hanging from the twisted strands to back-spin themselves is brilliant! I wish I had thought of that (or asked) before I did it all by hand. I do have a whole tool drawer full of all sizes of forceps. If I ever make another one - which I might end up doing to go with each of my Colquhoun kilt variants - I'll definitely remember that.

    The fringe twister tool, though, now that's just cheating!

    One thing I didn't particularly care for in my knotting was the fact that the loose ends of the threads come out at a bit of an angle. So all the purled fringes have a kink at the end, like they all have feet. A figure-8 knot might allow the threads to come out in-line with the purled fringe, but it would take more time and take up more length of thread.

    Apparently knotting the ends is the traditional thing to do, but this seems like a potential cause for tangling and catching. I'm wondering if there's another way to "fix" the ends of the strands that's cleaner?

  11. #8
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    Anything can be fixed with enough duck tape.
    Steve Ashton
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  13. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Ashton View Post
    Anything can be fixed with enough duck tape.
    I would add bailing wire, but that would show too much. Maybe fishing line?

  14. #10
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    Realistically, a simple overhand knot has worked for a couple hundred years so don't overthink it.

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
    Steve Ashton
    Forum Owner

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