The Pretenders - Kissing Cousins and Rank Imposters

The Tartan Wars - Do stripes, checks, and other patterns make you dizzy? 

 

What really is the difference between plaid and a tartan?

 

Nothing much, if you go by the ideas of illustrators for Scottish-themed Romantic Fiction.    

 

However, for those more discerning who want the exact definitions, here's the roundup of various patterns that you might come across.  Don't be fooled!

 

Click on the pictures for more detail if any.

Clan Anderson Tartan

Clan Anderson Tartan

Tartan is made with alternating bands of coloured (pre-dyed) threads woven as both warp and weft at right angles to each other. The weft is woven in a simple twill, two over — two under the warp, advancing one thread at each pass. This forms visible diagonal lines where different colours cross, which give the appearance of new colours blended from the original ones. The resulting blocks of colour repeat vertically and horizontally in a distinctive pattern of squares and lines known as a sett.

Tartan and Plaid as aliases

Tartan and Plaid as aliases

In North America, tartan and plaid are often used interchangeably for each other. However, a real tartan pattern follows specific rules. Non-named tartan plaids are often referred to disparagingly as "bumbee" plaids.

Bagpiper wearing a full plaid

Bagpiper wearing a full plaid

A full plaid is a long piece of tartan fabric, traditionally worn as part of a full highland dress uniform. It usually matches the tartan of the kilt. A full plaid is pleated the whole way, with half of its length sewn shut (so that the pleats cannot open). Its length is almost twice the height of the wearer (about twice the distance from the ground to the wearer's shoulder) A full plaid is typically only seen on members of pipe bands which elect to wear full dress (military styled) uniforms.

"Plaid" on a Bed

"Plaid" on a Bed

In Scotland, a blanket might be referred to as a plaid.

Simple Plaid (a "Bumbee" Plaid)

Simple Plaid (a "Bumbee" Plaid)

With most every tartan, the pattern on the stripes running vertically is exactly duplicated on the horizontal axis too. Basically, this matching pattern in both directions will create a grid. The warp and weft threads are then woven in a two-over-two "twill" pattern. When looking at a simple plaid, you'll notice that the stripes — either in color, size, or pattern — are not the same in both directions.

Windowpane

Windowpane

he windowpane check is a pattern that resembles the pattern of panes on a window. The stripes that cross to form windowpane checks are often thicker and farther apart than the pattern found in graph checks.

Tattersall

Tattersall

Tatersall is a check pattern that consists of thin, regularly spaced stripes in alternating colors that are repeated both horizontally and vertically. The stripes that create the tatersall pattern often come in two different colors and are usually darker than the background color.

Buffalo Check/Plaid

Buffalo Check/Plaid

Officially, Buffalo Plaid or check is " plaid with large blocks formed by the intersection of two different color yarns, typically red and black.

Pin Check

Pin Check

This is a pattern created by pin sized stripes (about 1 yarn thick) that cross to form tiny checks that look like dots to the human eye. This pattern often consists of one color with white. This small check effect gives the shirt a textured solid effect.

Mini Check

Mini Check

This is a pattern consisting of very small and even sized checks. It usually consists of one color with white and often resembles the gingham check-except that it’s a lot smaller. This pattern is more casual than stripes, but dressier than larger checks.

Madras

Madras

Madras is a pattern that originated in a city in East India, formerly named Madras. This summer fabric style is distinguished by a pattern of colorful checks and stripes. The stripes of a madras check or plaid consist of different colored stripes that cross each other to form uneven checks. Madras has become a popular “preppy” pattern for shorts and casual shirts.

Houndstooth

Houndstooth

Houndstooth checks originated in woven wool cloth of the Scottish Lowlands. The houndstooth pattern has a similar pattern featured in the Shepherd’s check and Glen plaid. The checks that make up the houndstooth are broken/uneven and pointy-shaped (like a hound’s tooth). The houndstooth pattern is traditionally black and white but can be found in a variety of colors and on a variety of garments and accessories nowadays.

Harris Tweed

Harris Tweed

Harris Tweed is a cloth that has been handwoven by islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides. Harris Tweed is protected by the Harris Tweed Act 1993, which strictly outlines the conditions in which the cloth can genuinely be made. Note the distinctive herringbone pattern.

Argyle

Argyle

The argyle (occasionally argyll) pattern is made of diamonds or lozenges. Typically, there is an overlay of intercrossing diagonal lines on solid diamonds. The argyle pattern is derived from the tartan of Clan Campbell, of Argyll in western Scotland, used for kilts and plaids, and from the patterned socks worn by Scottish Highlanders since at least the 17th century. These were generally known as "tartan hose."

Harris Tweed

Harris Tweed

Harris Tweed woven in a tartan pattern.

Graph Check

Graph Check

This is a check pattern that resembles the crossing lines of graph paper. The graph check pattern is characterized by solid, thin, single-colored stripes that cross each other to form even and small-sized checks. The stripes that create a graph check are thinner than the stripes in a windowpane check.

Glen Plaid

Glen Plaid

Glen plaid, (short for Glen Urquhart plaid) or Glenurquhart check is a woollen fabric with a woven twill design of small and large checks. Also known as the Prince of Wales check, is a pattern most commonly found in suits. It is woven in a twill pattern and consists of broken checks where a conglomerate of alternating dark stripes and light stripes cross each other to create a pattern of small and large checks. This pattern is usually done in a muted color with white.

Gingham Check

Gingham Check

Gingham usually comes in a checkered pattern and is distinguished by white and colored, even-sized checks. This pattern is formed by horizontal and vertical stripes (usually of the same color) that cross each other on a white background to form even checks. Gingham originated as a striped pattern when it was first imported in the 17th century and had become woven into a check pattern during the mid-18th century, with blue and white being the most popular choice in color.

Fair Isle

Fair Isle

Fair Isle is a traditional knitting technique used to create patterns with multiple colours. It is named after Fair Isle, a tiny island in the north of Scotland, that forms part of the Shetland islands.

Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet

So you can get ready for the test

Officially registered tartan graphics on this site courtesy of The Scottish Tartans Authority.  Other tartans from talented tartan artists may also be featured.

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