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  1. #1
    Join Date
    2nd January 10
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    Crieff, Perthshire
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    The Sett, setting and colours

    I posted this on my FB page but thought I'd share it here too.

    What makes a tartan unique? We generally think that it is the sett (pattern) and that the size of the pattern makes no difference as long as the individual colours are proportionate to each other. But who decides which is the correct sett and how much variation can there be and the pattern still be the same tartan. The question is easier to answer with modern designs because there will have been an original threadcount that can/has been recorded.

    Older tartans present a more interesting challenge and the answer is more nuanced and not quite so simple. Take for example the MacDuff tartan which, so far as is known, was one of Wilsons of Bannockburn’s ‘Fancy Patterns’. In this graphic the top three settings were all recorded in Wilsons’ 1819 Key Pattern Book and represent settings for different reeds (which set the density of the cloth). Not only are they different size setts, they are proportionally different but all three were regarded as the same tartan.

    More confusingly, so to were the three bottom settings which were also all produced by Wilsons at about the same time. The first (bottom left) simply replaces the blue with a lighter shade, so there is no difference in the actual sett. However, whilst the basic sett is retained in the remaining two, some of the colours are change; blue and green replace the black overstripes on the red square of the middle and right-hand patterns respectively. Normally the result of such a colour change would be regarded as a different tartan, as it usually was by Wilsons. It’s interesting that they sometimes departed from the normal practice and retained the same name for an obviously different pattern, something that would not be accepted today.

    Click image for larger version. 

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