Houston Kiltmakers were the first to Teflon Coat/Stain-proof all of our own range Tartans. Since then many of the Tartan mills have followed suit and offer a Stain-proof coating on their Kilts. We provide this Teflon Coating on all our Own Range Tartans and on a range of Tartans from Selected Mills at no extra cost.
A Teflon Coating, applied to the cloth in the finishing process when the tartan is woven, creates a protective layer around your finished Kilt. This allows for rain and stains (even beer!) to simply run off or be easily wiped off your Kilt.
Over the life of your Kilt, we calculate that this simply protection will save you approximately £180 to £260 on dry cleaning as the garment will need cleaned less often. The Teflon coating lasts a minimum of 18 dry cleanings.
Look out for the ‘Stain Proofed Coating’ banner on the Tartans in our Tartan Finder to see which of our cloths come with a Teflon Coating – Free of Charge!
This article examines the MacDonald Clan, looking back at their History, studying their Clan Crests and a glimpse at the associated clan tartans!
Clan MacDonald is historically the largest of the Scottish Clans. Their roots can be traced back to the 12th century, with Domhnall mac Raghnaill (Donald, Son of Ranald) often being cited as the first in the clan’s line. They hailed originally froom the Inner Hebrides and Ross.
There are several branches of Clan MacDonald, many with their own Tartans. These branches are established from regions where members of the Clan MacDonald moved to around Scotland. The most noted of these are MacDonald of Sleat, MacDonald of Clanranald, MacDonell of Glengarry and MacDonald of Keppoch – the Tartans of all these branches can be seen on Kiltmakers.com, along with other historical variations.
The Clan MacDonald (Sometimes referred to simply as Clan Donald) are historical known to hail from the Islands around the west coast of Scotland, leading to the Clan Chief being bestowed with the title, Lord of The Isles. (This has since been passed on to the hair apparent of Scotland, meaning currently HRH Prince Charles holds the title.)
Clan Crest and Motto
The Clan Crest of Clan MacDonald is of a hand in an gauntlet holding a cross over a crown. The motto of Clan MacDonald is ‘Per Mare Per Terras’, which translates to ‘By Sea and Land’. Several of the branches of the Clan MacDonald have their own Clan Crest, such as MacDonald of Clanranald. The MacDonald of Clanranald crest shows an arm holding a sword above a castle, with the motto, ‘My Hope is Constant in Thee’.
The most famous rival Clan to the MacDonalds is the Campbells. This clash can be traced back to the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692, where members of Clan Campbell murdered members of the MacDonalds of Glencoe on a cold winters night. 38 MacDonalds were killed by their guests, to whom they were providing traditional warm hospitality. Another 40 members of the clan lost their lives to exposure as they attempted to flee across the snow covered glen.
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MacDonald remains the most common ‘Mac’ name is Scotland, with Houston’s owner Ken MacDonald being part of the Clan.
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!
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!
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!
(L) The View of Rothesay on the Ferry to the Isle of Bute. (R) The Exterior of Bute Fabrics Mill.
The Isle of Bute
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.
The Weaving Process
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!
At Houston’s we take great pride in our Kilts and Highland Wear, endeavoring to provide our clients with the highest quality produce. We strongly support the Scottish Manufacturing of Traditional Highlandwear and look to source products locally where possible – Made in Scotland!
All our Kilts are Made to Measure, Made in Scotland and Made to Last! We use several local Kiltmakers, all with many years’ experience in crafting Handmade Kilts. Most of our Kiltmakers are based around the Paisley area (on the Central Belt of Scotland) and work from home. Kilt Making was traditionally a cottage industry, and that is still the case today!
Locally Sourced Tartan Cloth
We source the cloth for our Kilts, Tartan Trews, Waistcoats, Tartan Suits and any other Tartan Accessories from Scottish Mills.* We work with all the remaining Tartan Mills in Scotland to provide any Tartan design our client requests and also have the ability to Specially Weave custom Tartan Designs. We feel that it is important to support this Traditional Scottish industry which has been well-established for many generations. As Vice-Chairman of the Scottish Tartans Authority (STA), Houston’s owner Ken MacDonald continues to work towards protecting Scottish Tartans and the production of this fabric in Scotland for future generations.
Scottish Highland Outfit Accessories
For our Highland Wear Accessories – Sporrans, Silverware, Kilt Pins, Sgian Dubhs and and other items that complete a Highland Outfit – we look to local suppliers. Bespoke, Clan Crested items are made to order and add a special touch to any outfit!
Houston’s also has an in-store workshop where our Seamstress, Beth, works to craft custom Tartan Accessories for clients – ranging from Shoulder Plaids, Ring Cushions and Ties to Ladies Garters, Tartan Flashes and anything else you can think of!
Houston’s Traditional Scottish Outfits are the Real McCoy – Made in Scotland! We are a 4th Generation family run business, working out of the same store on Paisley’s High Street since 1909 and more than happy to help deliver your perfect Highland Outfit!
If you use our Tartan Finder to search for your family Tartan, you mightnotice that your name returns several Tartans, each with a slightly different range of colours used in the design. There are a selection of colour variations used in the Tartan industry, and this article will explain the differences between each one.
The 5 main variations in Tartan styles are Ancient, Modern, Hunting, Dress and Weathered (sometimes referred to as Withered or Muted). Within these groups you can also have a mixing of some of the style, for example a Ancient Hunting Robertson Tartan, or a Modern Dress Gordon Tartan. (Though you can’t get an Ancient-Modern Tartan combination!)
Tartan’s with the prefix ‘Ancient’ are not necessarily older than other Tartans, it simply refers to the colour palette used in the design. The colours are often softer and lighter to what you would see in a ‘Modern’ Tartan design. These colours are choosen to have a closer link to the historical colours of Tartans in years gone by – produced with the natural dyes available. The colours are pastel-like, creating a softer feel, and giving the look of material that is worn beyond its years.
As with ‘Ancient’ Tartan’s, the name ‘Modern’ relates to the colours used in the Tartan, not the date of the design. Ancient and Modern design’s tend to share the same sett, the change is in the colour palette used. While ‘Ancient’ Tartan use lighter softer colours, ‘Modern’ Tartans use stronger, darker colours.
Hunting Tartans traditionally were worn when the wearer was on a hunt. To tie in with this, the colours usual are suited to match with the woodland background linked with a hunt – Greens and browns being the strongest colour here.
It is often easy to identify Dress Tartan’s with the abundance of white thread used to make up the design (An exception to this is the Dress MacLeod Tartan, which uses yellow thread instead of the normal white). These designs are most popular with Highland Dancing Kilts, though they can also been worn to give a brighter looking Tartan Kilt. Dress Gordon is perhaps the most recongizable Tartan in this range as it has been incorporated into many popular fashion items such as scarves and jacket linings.
Tartans of the Weathered Styling use a colour palette to reflect the name – tones that are faded, giving a look of the Kilt being aged by exposure to inclement weather. In years gone by the Great Kilt worn by the Scots would have endured the harsh Scottish Weather and terrain. The Great Kilt would be used to protect the wearer from the elements, and would gain a worn and aged look from this. (Weather Tartans are also sometimes referred to as ‘Withered’ or ‘Muted’, depending on what Mill that Cloth is produced from.)
While there are many different varieties of Tartan to choose from, at the end of the day it is down to preference what Tartan you decide upon. There is no right or wrong Tartan for any occasion – as long as the wearer likes it! Search now for all your families Tartans with our Tartan Finder!
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.
A Large Rectangle of Cloth Cut for a Tartan Shoulder Plaid to be Made
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.
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!
We spent some time in our In-Store workshop watching many items being created by our wonderful seamstress Beth. In this series of articles we will take a closer look at a few of the Tartan accessories she has been crafting!
What are Tartan Flashes?
Historically, Tartan Flashes (also know as Garter Flashes) were simple ties worn around the upper calf and they served two purposes. Firstly they helped to hold up your Kilt Hose. It has also been said in folklore that they were used to make people aware of your marital status – if your Flashes were showing then you were single and available, while hidden Flashes meant that you were a taken man!
Modern Tartan Flashes add a little flair to your Kilt Socks, as well at securing your Kilt Socks in place, ensuring they don’t slide down your leg.
Flashes are usually either a Solid Colour or a Tartan Matching your Kilt’s design – though can also be made in contrasting tartans, or a tartan of the same family (e.g. Hunting Robertson Flashes with a Red Robertson Kilt.)
Flashes normally consist of two coloured pieces of cloth attached to an elasticated fabric strap, which can be tightened and loosened as needed. Their ends are usually fringed to add a flash of style to your socks but can also be made with V-cut edges!
How it’s Made – Tartan Flashes
To begin creating the Tartan Flashes lengths of Tartan cloth are measured and cut to leave you with 2 strips. Our seamstress Beth always endeavors to capture as many colours from the Tartan as possible in the material that is cut. Trying to incorporate the Tartan pattern in a small, thin strip is challenging, but Beth’s experience means that the results are always great to look at!
These will create the section of the Flashes that are visible while wearing. These strips are then folded in half and stitched closed, creating two tubes. These are then turned inside out to conceal the stitch work, leaving a clean, tidy seam.
From here the tubes are pressed to create the flat recognizable rectangular shapes of the Flashes. To create the fringing the threads are carefully hand pulled out of the open end of the tube. This creates the frayed effect, adding to the overall look of the Flashes.
The last stage is to attach the two tartan cloth strips to the elasticated strap. This will make sure the flashes stay secured to your leg and also they will provide support for your Kilt Hose. These parts are machine stitched together to create a strong bond between the Flashes and Strap, ensuring that they last you for years to come!
At Houstons Kiltmakers we provide the service of Custom, Specially Woven Tartans for clients. These can be tartans that are not stocked by any Mills or tartans that are not readily available from other sources. Houston’s take you through the whole process from Designing and Registering your Tartan to having it Woven and made into a Bespoke Kilt.
Why a Special Weave Tartan?
There are several reasons why you might choose to have a Tartan specially woven:
Perhaps your family name doesn’t have a link to any Clan Tartan and you want to design a Tartan for your family name, or a Private/Corporate tartan.
You might want to recreate a Historical Tartan with custom thread colours or a unique sett.
Or maybe you just want to have your own Tartan designs woven to be made into a special item.
A popular choice is to combine your own family tartan with your Bride’s family tartan, creating a brand new tartan design to commemorate your special day!
For any need, Houstons are more than happy to accommodate any requests for your new tartan.
Tartan Design Options
There are several options to choose from when considering designing your own Tartan.
Ken is more than happy to take the ideas you have for a tartan (colour schemes, Setts etc.) and create a personalised tartan with an extra ‘wow’ factor. Ken will tweak his designs until you are completely satisfied with the tartan before it goes for weaving. Often Ken will create a handful of designs from your recommendations, providing CAD images of the Tartans, allowing you to choose your favored design.
Tartan can be woven in a range of weights and materials – we weave in 11oz, 13oz and 16oz (16oz recommended for Kilts). You can also choose your fabric from All Wool, a Wool Mix or Poly-Viscose. We recommend All Wool for a Kilt.
Houston’s offer the exclusive service of Teflon coating tartans/kilts to make them stain resistant. This service can only be done at the time of ordering the Kilt. The Teflon coating ensures your kilt it rain, stain and even beers proof! We calculate that over the lifespan of your kilt you will save approximately £180 to £260 on not having to have your kilt dry cleaned as often.
Time Scale for Custom Tartans
The time it takes for the whole process of designing your tartan to having it made into a bespoke kilt can vary from around 3 to 6 months, so it is best to plan ahead and start the ball rolling as soon as possible.
Express services are available, at additional cost, which can reduce the time of delivery of your Kilt.
Costs of a Special Weave Kilt
The cost of a special weave kilt depends on the tartan design and the kilt finish chosen. Prices start from £790, (£660 Tax-Free)(From $1,220 ($1,020 Tax-Free)), customers out with the EU can take advantage of our Tax-Free prices!
The minimum length of tartan to be woven is one bolt length (around 11m Single Width), which means after a Kilt has been made from the cloth there is often off-cuts which can be made into other accessories (tartan flashes, tartan ties etc.). At Single Width (approx. 27 inches wide) it is around £80 per metre (11m provides enough material for a 8 yard Kilt and extra material for accessories such as tartan ties, flashes, ring cushions etc.) and Double Width cloth (approx. 54 inches wide) is around £90 per metre (11m provides enough material for approx. three 8 yard Kilts and material left over for accessories.)
For a quote, please contact Houston Kiltmakers direct via email at email@example.com or call us on +44 141 889 4879, outing the specifics of the bespoke kilt you wish to have made. You can also learn more about Tartan Design here.