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  1. #1
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    Is Standardization of a Clans' Tartan Fabric Important or Not?

    Can any of our SME’s please opine on tartan fabric standardization? Are variances in color and pattern between different mills an issue for clan tartan kilts? Should clans recommend, sanction, or recognize any particular mill as providing a clan standard? My quest includes a similar query to the Tartan Authority. Hopefully a reply is pending. My quest also includes requesting sample tartan fabric swatches from different mills for a comparative evaluation. It would be terrific to decide if or how important standardization of color and pattern may or may not be from various mills.
    Semper Paratus

  2. #2
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    It is possible that you may be overthinking this.

    What determines a Tartan is the thread count. So many yarns of one color followed by so many yarns of another color.

    A thread count can sometimes be doubled or halved to produce a specific Sett size. But the relationship will usually be kept recognizable.

    The letter "G" may be used for green but it is seldom that a listing will specify a specific color of shade of green

    Each mill may have slightly different dye lots and even one dye lot may be slightly different from the next run from the same mill..

    One mill may produce a Tartan in a specific color range to produce a specific shading such as "Ancient, "Weathered", "Reproduction" or "Muted" but they are usually accepted as the same Tartan.

    For example - All of these are accepted as Black Watch.

    Modern colorway.


    Ancient colorway. (also Cambell)


    Weathered colorway.


    Dress version.


    When put together you can easily see that these are all the same thread count.


    Tartan is a very fascinating art form but there are few rules and few conventions that are universal.

    Yes Tartans have names. We have to call them something. But in some cases the names were given to the design for no discernible reason. Some designs have been adopted and we accept that adoption. And in some cases there are Tartans which carry a Highland Clan name that have been rejected or denied.

    And then there is the very interesting case of The Vestiarium Scoticum.

    Published in 1842... "The Vestiarium was seized upon by Clan Chiefs and the weaving industry with equal fervour. Very few thought seriously to question the claims and it wasn't until almost 140 years later that an analytical study of the book was undertaken. The conclusion was that talented and ingenious though they were, the Sobieskis had perpetrated a fascinating and monumental hoax upon a gullible society and the vast majority of 'old' clan tartans came only from the fertile imagination of Charles"... Sobieski Stuart...
    D C Stewart and J C Thompson's Scotland's Forged Tartans says: "Despite the misgivings of a few, but potent, authorities, these tartans were eagerly accepted by a public desperate to wear its "authentic" clan tartans and a trade equally desperate to sell them and they have remained with us, highly respected and totally unauthenticated. . . . beyond all doubt, the Vestiarium and its background material are complete forgeries."
    Steve Ashton
    Forum Owner

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  4. #3
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    QUOTE=Braw Cathairneach;1377437]Can any of our SME’s please opine on tartan fabric standardization? Are variances in color and pattern between different mills an issue for clan tartan kilts? Should clans recommend, sanction, or recognize any particular mill as providing a clan standard? My quest includes a similar query to the Tartan Authority. Hopefully a reply is pending. My quest also includes requesting sample tartan fabric swatches from different mills for a comparative evaluation. It would be terrific to decide if or how important standardization of color and pattern may or may not be from various mills.[/QUOTE]

    Your email to the STA will come to me but as I'm here.

    Colour and pattern are obviously two different things. Colours; red, blue, green etc., are standardised, you are referring to the shade/hue, which are not. In historical terms, there has never been standardisation of shades or setting and some variation has always occurred because of local variations and preferences.

    In terms of the pattern, which the overall impression (proportions) should be the same there have always been adjustments to fit the circumstances, for example; the setting is often reduced and the proportions altered for light weight material used for things such as ties. Conversely, weaving a tartan carpet might require a different configuration.

    There is no standardisation, to try and impose it would be unworkable and would detract from the beauty and tradition of tartan. Other than pipebands, the military etc., there is no requirement for uniformity, tartan and highland dress should be able personal preference and individual taste.

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  6. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Braw Cathairneach View Post
    Should clans recommend, sanction, or recognize any particular mill as providing a clan standard?
    Should they? No! I wouldn't want to imagine a future where a clan chief recognises only one particular tartan motif for his clan, and everyone wears a kilt that looks the exact same as if they were a pipe band. Part of the joy of wearing a clan tartan is that it is recognisable as being that clan's tartan, but allows individual expression. I always love seeing photos of clan gatherings where there is a wide variety of colour differences, sett sizes, and of course kilt construction differences that make each wearer's kilt unique to him.

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  8. #5
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    I recall years ago looking at the Colquhoun website for 'recognized' tartans as I wanted to have a kilt made from Dalgliesh's reproduction tartan. At that time the Colquhoun Chief stated on the website that the modern and ancient tartans were the only ones recognized but did not make any mention of different mills. Since that time , the website has changed significantly . One of the changes is that there is no mention of 'recognized ' tartans and his wife is pictured wearing the reproduction colours.



    I guess, even if you do standardise something, standards change.

  9. #6
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    Thank You All

    The topic was being researched as it was brought to my attention as the clan web guy to set the matter straight for new members. Your collective SME is thoughtful and rational. The technical, historical, and human nature aspects of your collective rational shows that it is imprudent to attempt standardization. I've learned something from all'ya'all. Now I ha'e some corrective action to contemplate and implement. Thank all of you for your time and SME.
    Semper Paratus

  10. #7
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    Excuse me, but what is SME?
    Steve Ashton
    Forum Owner

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  12. #8
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    Sme

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Ashton View Post
    Excuse me, but what is SME?
    My apologies for using the acronym SME. SME is subject matter expertise.
    Semper Paratus

  13. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Ashton View Post
    Excuse me, but what is SME?
    One website, of acronyms, suggests “Subject-matter expert” , might be the implied meaning. ( though it also gives numerous other possibilities. I DO wish folks would define the acronym they use).
    Last edited by jhockin; 13th August 19 at 08:42 AM.
    waulk softly and carry a big schtick

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  15. #10
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    Knew about SMLE, not SME

    My impression has long been that the exact proportions of the various stripes the interpretation of the colours were at the discretion of the weaver.

    With the same tartan you'll see versions where the spaces look more spacious and the over-stripes look more delicate, others where the thinner stripes are thicker giving a blocky look.

    And "green" might be a deep bottle green, or a soft moss green.

    However, there has been a thing happening with tartan designs recently where that traditional practice hasn't been followed.

    The first time I remember encountering it was with the tartan Flower Of Scotland.

    It's basically Gunn in Ancient Colours with one narrow stripe moved. But AFAIK the Ancient colouring (lighter colours) was specified and required of the Flower Of Scotland tartan- in other words there could be no "Flower Of Scotland Modern".

    The same thing happened with the California tartan. It's Muir in Ancient Colours with minor changes. AFAIK California stipulates Ancient colours.

    Then there's Isle Of Skye! A lovely tartan. Genius, in my opinion. It has three different greens. Change any or all of those greens and the tartan doesn't work as it's designed to.

    In the worlds of corporations, advertising, and American universities quite specific colours are often specified and tartans pertaining to such entities likewise have to have specific colours, for example IrnBru requiring specific shades of orange and blue. Ten different US Universities might wear red, each University's precise colour of red considered crucial and is maintained on all uniforms, apparel, insignia, signage, etc. Tartans designed for these Universities would be required to be each one's exact shade of red. (Pantone is a popular way for organisations, printers, clothing manufacturers etc to maintain exactly the same colour.)

    It wouldn't surprise me if someone coming from one of those cultures might think that Clan tartans would likewise stipulate specific colours.
    Last edited by OC Richard; 13th August 19 at 12:35 PM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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