The Scottish Kilt is traditionally 8 yards ( 7.4 metres ) of pure new wool.
or email firstname.lastname@example.org or if you are wanting to talk to one of the best then email
The Scottish Kilt is traditionally 8 yards ( 7.4 metres ) of pure new wool.
or email email@example.com or if you are wanting to talk to one of the best then email
Ken MacDonald is the 3rd generation to run Houston Kiltmakers and is regarded as a world leading designer Tartans. Among his designs include the ‘American National Tartan’, which was presented to US President George W. Bush in 2004 to commemorate Tartan Day and also the ‘Glasgow Mile’s Better’ Tartan used at the Glasgow Garden Festival, which he personally presented to the British Royal Family.
Ken is passionate about Highlandwear & Tartan, and this has led him to roles as Vice Chairman of The Scottish Tartans Authority and Deacon of the Incorporation of Weavers of Glasgow.
We discussed with him how he got started in the Highlandwear industry and his passion for Tartan.
Tell us about yourself and your journey – how did the shop start, and what has been your role in the industry?
The shop was founded in 1909 by my grandfather William Houston as a gentlemen’s outfitters. Over time it developed to supplying Highlandwear and now that’s what we focus on. Houston Kiltmakers is now a 4th Generation family run business as my son, Ewan, has recently joined us in the shop. Using only the best materials sourced in Scotland where possible, our garments are tailored specifically for the customer by craftsmen & women with many years’ experience. This ensures the finest quality products that will last a lifetime. As we have grown over the years we have expanded and now ship Kilts all over the world!
The store is located in Paisley, Scotland (A town right next to Glasgow), where I was born. From a very young age I received my first Kilt and also wore a Kilt to school. I have always had a passion for Highlandwear and I’ve been lucky enough to have an opportunity to work in this industry. I have been involved in Kilt making and Tartan Design for almost 40 years now.
What does your role with the STA and Incorporation of Weavers of Glasgow entail?
Tartan and Kilts are synonymous with Scotland and these traditions must be safeguarded. As a Governor and Vice Chairman of the Scottish Tartan Authority we have been working hard to try to protect and preserve these key pieces of Scottish heritage for future generations.
I was honored to take the role of Deacon of the Incorporation of Weavers of Glasgow during their 500th anniversary year. This ancient craft has been functioning in Scotland since 1514 and they are continuing their historic work into the 21st century. They still provide assistance to local charities and educational establishments, while maintaining connections throughout the UK weaving industry.
Have you ever designed or provided Tartans for the British Royal Family?
Back in 1988 I was asked to design a tartan for use for the staff uniforms at the Glasgow Garden Festival. The ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’ tartan I designed was used for these uniforms, and when HRH Prince Charles came to visit the festival he was presented with two Kilts in the tartan for his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. It was a great privilege to be able to present the Kilts to HRH Prince Charles in person.
Tartan has strong links to the royal family, with King George VI leading the revival of Kilt wearing in Scotland in the 19th century and Queen Victoria had a love for tartan too, her husband Prince Albert designed the Balmoral tartan exclusively for Royal use. It was great to see that the royal interest in tartan is still strong.
Where do you get your inspiration for new design ideas?
I get ideas for new Tartan designs from many places, but I would have to say that a strong inspiration for me is the Isle of Bute. I spend quite a bit of my free time on this small island off the west coast of Scotland at my holiday home there. It is good to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city sometimes to help yourself get creative.
I designed our exclusive Bute Heather range of tartans on the island and they really are a strong influence on my work. The scenery on the Island is beautiful and it’s hard to believe that somewhere so peaceful is only a little over an hour away from Glasgow.
This article examines the Gordon Clan, looking back at their History, studying their Clan Crests and a glimpse at the associated clan tartans!
The name Gordon believed to be of Anglo Norman descent. The first known of the name are said to have saved the King from the attack of a wild boar. This is why many believe a boar’s head features on the family coat of arms.
The earliest record of the name confirms the Gordons settled in the Borders of Scotland during the reigns of William the Lion and Malcolm IV.
Sir Adam de Gordon was one of the commissioners who negotiated with Edward I in order to settle the competition over the crown of Scotland. Sir Adam was a faithful follower of Robert the Bruce and was sent to Rome to ask the Pope to reverse the excommunication, placed upon Bruce after he killed John Comyn.
British Army Links
The Gordon Highlanders was a infantry regiment of the British Army that existed for 113 years, from 1881 until 1994 when it was amalgamated with the Queen’s Own Highlanders to form the Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons), which was later merged with the Royal Scots Borderers, the Royal Highland Fusiliers , the Black Watch and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to form the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Clan Crest and Motto
The clan crest for the Gordon Clan is of a stag’s head atop of a crown. This is surrounded with the clan motto, ‘Bydand’, which translates from Gaelic to traditional Scots as ‘Bide and Fecht’, meaning ‘Stay and Fight’. The Gordon Coat of Arms features the head of a boar, thought to be reference to the boar killed by an early Gordon in protection of the King.
There are several Gordon tartans, with perhaps the best recognized being the ‘Dress Gordon’ variation. It has transcended the world of highland wear and became a popular tartan in other fashion items.
House of Gordon USA, whose mission is to preserve and promote our unique heritage and Celtic culture.
You can learn more of the heritage and history of the Clan Gordon at House Of Gordon.com
You can see our full range of Gordon Tartans here!
The British Royal family have had long ties with the traditional cloth of Scotland and a great affinity towards tartan. This link didn’t just start with the current monarch, but can be traced back hundreds of years!
While the Dress Act of 1746 under George II brought a ban on Tartan, Kilts & Highlandwear and dented it broad wearership, when it was repealed it proved to kick-start the popularity in Tartan – both with the general public and royalty.
George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822 gave a real boost to the traditional Scottish dress has he arrived wearing a full Kilt outfit. This started the real love affair with the royals and tartan.
Queen Victoria continued the link with tartan during her reign, often dressing her children in Kilts. Prince Albert, Victoria’s husband, was a keen tartan designer and attributed as the creator of the (Royal) Balmoral tartan – a tartan to be worn exclusively by the royals and specially selected parties. (The Queen’s personal piper is one of they selected few allowed to be dressed in the tartan.)
Queen Elizabeth is also a keen supporter of Tartan, often seen wearing the cloth at Highland games or on visits to Scotland. Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales is also often spotted in a Highland Outift on public occasions.
The British Royal family and Tartan have always gone hand in hand. As Queen Elizabeth II breaks the record for longest serving monarch, we hope the link continues for many years to come!
Houston’s Kiltmakers prides itself on providing the finest quality Kilt Outfits, crafted with woollen cloth made by the Scottish Mills. This certainly doesn’t mean that our products are exclusively for clients in Scotland – quite the opposite! We ship our products across the world through our international carrier DHL and Interlink Express. Customers living outside the EU can also take advantage of Tax-Free prices!
Don’t worry if you are Overseas – you can still experience the same high class service we offer all our customers who visit the store. Communication is key when creating your bespoke Kilt outfit, and we take the time to converse with each customer to make sure that the finished Highland Outfit they receive is exactly how they imagined it. You can get in touch by Email, Phone, Skype – or a combination of all three!
If you can’t make it into the store you can still send us the required sizes we need to craft your Kilt Outfit. A local tailor/seamstress can take the sizes we need, or you can use our Self-Measurement Guides and helpful measuring videos to take your own sizes to send to us. Don’t worry, we have many years’ experience working on Highland Wear outfits, so will double check all sizes and let you know if we think any measurement you have sent us seems a little bit off!
Whether your outfit is for a special occasion such as your Wedding day or a Graduation, or perhaps for more casual day-wear at a Celtic Gathering or Highland Games, we’ll give you expert advice at each step of your outfit – making sure you look a million dollars, no matter the event!
Living abroad doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the full Houston’s experience – take a look around the shop with a 3D virtual tour from Google. (Maybe you’ll get the chance to visit and meet the team!)
You can also take a behind the scenes look at our In-Store workshop, where our wonderful seamstress Beth crafts Tartan extras for you Highland Outfit and makes alterations to Kilts. Check out our sneak peek at how Tartan Flashes and Tartan Shoulder Plaids are made!
If you’re from Scotland or somewhere else in the world, let Houston Kiltmakers be your No.1 Kilt, Tartan, and Highlandwear specialists!
Houston Kiltmakers store is located on the West coast of Scotland in the town of Paisley, which lies on the outskirts of Glasgow, 5 minutes’ drive from Glasgow Airport. If you are visiting the shop why not check out some of the great tourist destinations on our doorstep! There is a wealth of attractions in Paisley, with many linked to the towns historical weaving past.
What to see in Paisley
Paisley has a deep routed history is weaving, establishing itself as a key player in the weaving industry in the 1800’s. Its prominence in this industry lead the town lending its name to a woven design, the Paisley Pattern.
While the weaving industry is no longer an industrial powerhouse in Paisley (the last mill closed in 1993), remnants of the historic industry remain around the town.
(Click on the images to enlarge!)
Open: Wednesday and Saturday: 12.00 – 16.00, April – September
Built around the 1740’s, Sma’ Shot Cottages are a fully restored example of a traditional weaver’s cottage with Loom workroom and living quarters. Take a step back in time over 250 years and get a feel of what it would have been like to be working and living as a weaver in the 18th century!
Open: Tuesday to Saturday (and public holidays): 11.00 – 16.00 and Sunday: 14.00-17.00
Situated directly across the road from Houston Kiltmakers, Paisley Museum and Art Gallery offers a wealth of treasures, from Ancient Egyptian artifacts to reminders of our industrial past and our natural heritage.
Also on the site of the Museum is the Coats Observatory, only 1 of 4 public Observatories in the country. Find more details about tours and Winter viewing’s here.
Open: Wednesday and Saturday: 12.00 – 16.00
Housed in the Mile End Mill building and staffed by volunteers (many of whom are ex-mill workers!), the Paisley Thread Mill Museum offers the chance to see many items that have been donated by people who were connected with the Thread Mills and include photographs, mill machinery, samples of products made there and sewing artifacts.
Open: Monday to Saturday: 10.00 – 15.30
Constructed in 1163 and given the status of Abbey in 1245, Paisley Abbey has a deep historical past within the town. Sir William Wallace is widely believed to have been educated for some time as a boy at the Abbey.
Open: Viewing by arrangement: Contact: 0141 889 9980 (church) or 0141 587 8992 (secretary)
This spectacular Church with its distinctive crown steeple can be seen in the skyline from all across Paisley. Completed in 1894, the church can host a congregation of over 1,000 people.
Places to Eat in Paisley
Located just around the corner from Houston’s, this chippy has been serving the people of Paisley for over 100 years!
An Italian restaurant offering Italian classics in a relaxed environment. They also run a cafe directly opposite Houston’s where you can enjoy a lighter snack!
Paisley is home to a host of attractions that are well worth a visit. Make a trip to Houston’s a day out and take in some of the sights around town!
Recently we took a visit across to the Isle of Bute, the location of the Bute Fabrics Mill. Bute Mill have been supplying Houston’s with Tartan Cloth for Kilts and other Highland Dress Outfits for many years. Bute Fabrics weave all of Houston’s Exclusive Bute Heather Range. The Isle of Bute is also where Ken MacDonald created the Bute Heather Tartan designs, drawing inspiration from the scenic locations around the island. This article will give you sneak peek behind the scenes of Bute Fabrics Mill and a look at Tartan being woven!
NOTE: Please click on any photo to enlarge it for easier viewing!
The Isle of Bute is located around 30 miles west of Glasgow, at the mouth of the Firth of Clyde. To visit the island you can take advantage of the regular ferry service from Wemyess Bay to Rothesay, the islands largest settlement. Bute Mills are located on the outskirts of Rothesay.
Bute Fabrics have been weaving on the island since they were established in 1947 by the 5th Marquess of Bute. Aside from weaving Tartan cloth, Bute Fabrics are one of the UK’s most respected and highly acclaimed upholstery fabric manufacturers. In 2014 they received the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise – the UK’s highest accolade for business success.
The Isle of Bute is also home to popular tourist attractions such as Mount Stuart House – the ancestral home of the Marquesses of Bute – and Rothesay Castle, a 13th century castle ruin in the heart of Rothesay.
Bute Fabrics weave a variety of upholstery fabrics, as well as Tartan Cloth. We followed the process of Tartan cloth being woven – from the initial Yarns all the way to the finished material!
The start of the weaving process begins with collecting the correct shades of yarns that will be used in your Tartan design. Samples are taken from each roll of yarn and are compared to check the consistency of colour, making sure that the required shades for the design match perfectly. (See Image) To the untrained eye these all look the same shade of orange, but an expert eye can identify slight discrepancies with some of the threads!
The yarn bob’s are then loaded onto a rack which feeds into the warping drum. Warping is the process of creating tension in the yarns lengthwise, before they are fed into the loom. All the colours that will be used in the Tartan design are racked up, ready for warping.
The warping drum spins round, pulling the yarns that will be used in the Tartan. From here they are then passed through the loom to complete the Tartan.
The different yarn colours are carefully placed in order so that the Tartan design will be produced by the loom. The warped yarns are passed through the loom lengthways, while a shuttle moves across the width of the loom, taking yarn and weaving it through the design. (The yarns moving across the width are called the Weft, while the yarns moving length ways are called the Warp).
Below you can see the Loom in action, with the Warp being pulled through on the left video, and combining with the Weft on the right video. The shuttle is is moving across the yarns at such a speed it is hard to make out! (You can see the St. Mirren Tartan being woven here!)
From here the Tartan cloth is taken from the loom to an area where it is meticulously checked for any imperfections such as broken threads. All the cloth is checked by hand and eye for any irregularities, making sure that you receive the highest quality Tartan cloth!
The cloth then goes for finishing and any extra coatings are applied. All our Bute Heather Tartans receive a Telfon coating, making our Kilts stain-proof (and beer-proof!), so water just runs off the material.
We had a great day out on the Isle of Bute and thank Bute Fabrics for our warm welcome! Now you have seen where some of our cloth comes from, why not consider having a Kilt made in the material! Visit us at Kiltmakers.com for more information about Kilt, Highland Dress and Tartan!
A Shoulder Plaid can be worn at formal occasions when you are looking to stand out from the crowd. Often the Groom will add one to his Highland Outfit to make himself known on his special day! Plaids are also worn by Piper’s and members of Pipe bands.
What is a Tartan Shoulder Plaid?
A Shoulder Plaid is a piece of cloth draped over the wearers shoulder which can add a flash of grandeur to your Highland Outfit.
The Shoulder Plaid is a modern ‘tip of the hat’ back to the traditional ‘Great Kilt’ and the ‘Féileadh Mòr’. Historically the Great Kilt was a large piece of cloth that wrapped around the whole body and draped over the shoulder of the wearer.
As the modern Kilt was developed, the cloth over the shoulder was lost. A Fly Plaid brings back this traditional look, while providing a more comfortable experience for the wearer.
Tartan Shoulder Plaids are usually made in the matching tartan to the wearers Kilt and most popular with Groom’s to make themselves stand out on their special day!
How a Shoulder Plaid is made
To start the Shoulder Plaid a piece of cloth is cut in a square or rectangle. The size and shape depends on the type of Plaid and how it will be worn.
In this instance the edges of the Shoulder Plaid are fringed. By carefully pulling at the threads with a sharp object the threads are easily pulled around the edges creating a frayed effect. This is done for all four sides in this case.
The cloth is then marked out at one corner that will be stitched to create the part of the Plaid that will sit through the Epaulette when worn. This stitching is added to hold the shape of the Plaid when it is worn.
The finished Shoulder Plaid is given a final press and is ready to be worn!
How a Shoulder Plaid should be Worn
The Shoulder Plaid is easy to wear. The stitched edge should pass through the left shoulder epaulette of the wearers jacket. This end can be fastened to the front of the jacket with a Plaid Brooch or a Simple Pin – making sure that the Brooch only goes through the Jacket, and not the underlying waistcoat or shirt.
Extra Tip: A hidden safety pin can also be used to give the Plaid a better shape by pinning some of the cloth to the back of the jacket, just below the top of the shoulder.
Plaid Brooches come in a variety of styles and designs, much like Kilt Pins. Different finishes are available to match up with the rest of the silverware of your outfit.
The Plaid can serve other functions after wearing. Once photos have been taken wearing the Plaid it can be taken off and used as a table runner, table cover etc. to add a tartan touch to your surroundings.
Houston’s offer a range of Shoulder Plaids to match with Hire outfits and also provide Made to Measure Shoulder Plaids. These can be made in any tartan of your choosing.
View our Shoulder Plaids here!
We also stock a wide range of Plaid Brooches, from Clan Crested Brooches to Solid Silver Plaid Brooches.
With all Made to Measure Bespoke Items there is often need for a little fine tuning to achieve the perfect fit. A Jacket may be passed down through a family or the wearers weight may change – minor alterations can keep the Jacket fitting perfectly. If needed, these small adjustments are quick and easy to complete allowing you to look your best in our Jackets! From a Tweed Braemar to a Prince Charlie Jacket – all can be altered so you look your best!
Who can do these Alterations?
If any minor alterations are needed to your Jacket, we recommended taking it to a local tailor, seamstress or someone with sewing experience. It would be helpful for them if you could pin the parts of the jacket you wish to have altered and mark the areas with chalk.
In the case of your Jacket Sleeves being too long, our Jacket Sleeves can be easily shortened. Simply pin and chalk the area that needs shortened – buttons can be reattached in a new position if needed.
The Shoulders of our Jackets can also be chipped if needed, creating a chiselled fit around your shoulders. Firstly mark off what needs to be reduced and pin the fabric to the new position. The tailor will then be able to clearly see what needs to be done.
Here you can see the Shoulder of a Tweed Jacket Pinned and Chalked to be Altered
Back Seam Alterations
The centre seam down the back of your Jacket is another area that can be altered. This seam can be taken in, creating a better fit around your back if needed. Sometimes the back seam will also contain some extra cloth, allowing for the back of the jacket to be widened slightly. Again, chalk and pin the cloth to the correct fit for the tailor to see.
Here you can see the Back Seam of a Tweed Jacket Pinned and Chalked to be Taken In
Side Seam Alterations
At either side of your jackets, under the arms, are side seams. These can be taken in if there is too much space on the side of the jacket, giving a more fitted finish to the jacket. Marking out the area that needs worked on is just the same as with the back of the jacket. The stitching is simply unpicked and the cloth of the jacket folded in to the desired fit and restitched.
We hope that this alteration guide allows you to look your best while increasing the life of your Jacket! If you need any more advice regarding Jacket alterations or anything else relating to your Highland Outfit you can contact the shop, where we will be more than happy to help!
When picking the Tartan for your Scottish Highland Kilt Outfit it can be quite a daunting task as there are over 14,000 Tartans to choose from. In this guide we make it easy for you to find the perfect Tartan for your Kilt – don’t worry if your family name doesn’t have a linking pattern, there is a Tartan for Everyone!
Where to start!
1. The first place to start when looking for a Tartan is with your family name. Simply type your name into our Tartan Finder and see all your matching tartans! Often you will find that your own name is not part of a clan which has a Tartan, if this is the case don’t worry! There are still many routes to go down to find your perfect Tartan!
2. You can search for Tartans relating to other family names (Mothers Maiden name, Grand Parents names, Uncles and Aunties names etc.) to give you a choice of tartans. Just type the name into our Tartan Finder!
3. Sometimes it is the case that you will find that your surname will not have a Clan Tartan of its own, but will be linked to a ‘Sept’. Sept’s are surnames that, while not having their own clan, are associated with another clan. For example, instances of the name Reid can be associated with clan Robertson. Members of the Reid family should therefore wear Robertson tartan. When you use our tartan finder it will bring up any relevant Sept matches and link to the tartans.
4. If you tartan search has no clan tartan or Sept matches, don’t worry! There are many regional, national and County tartans that you could find a link with! For Irish names there are tartans for each Irish County, as well as an Irish National Tartan that can be worn by anyone with a link to Ireland. Tartans such as the American National Tartan and German National Tartan are other examples of national tartans with connections to those countries. There is a range of ‘Tartans for Everyone‘, generic designs in a variety of colours that are free to wear. You can also design your own tartan, or have it designed by Houston’s Owner, Ken MacDonald!
Popular Trends and Styles
As with any item of clothing, fashions change over time and different style come into vogue. In recent times there has been a surge in the demand for Grey and Purple Tartans. (You can see a range of Purple Tartans here, and Grey Tartans here) Houston’s owner Ken MacDonald has designed a range of tartans incorporating a colour palette that matches today’s trends. The Bute Heather Tartan range offers a wide variety of grey and purple tartans, each with a flash of colour running through the design.
Grey tartans are known for their ability to match with any style or colour of jacket, making them ideal for both formal and casual wear. With a subtle flash of colour through a grey tartan it can create a sophisticated look to your Highland Outfit.
Grey Tartans have Royal links going back to the reign of Queen Victoria, when her husband Prince Albert turned his hand to Tartan Design. Queen Victoria loved Scotland, regularly visiting her stately home at Balmoral.
The Royal Balmoral Tartan was designed by Prince Albert in 1853, to be worn by the Queen and members of the Royal Family, with permission from the Queen. This Royal Tartans only other approved wearer was the Queen’s personal Piper.
Grey Tartans have often been linked with Royalty for this reason.
We hope this guide helps you to find a Tartan that you love. Remember, there are no Tartan Police, and anyone has the right to wear any Tartan!