Burn's Night Made In Scotland

The Life of Robert Burns

Robert Burns was a Scottish Poet (although he collected and produced far more songs than poems) from the 18th century who is now world renowned, and whose work has inspired other artists around the globe throughout the years. Auld Lang Syne is arguably his most prominent work, as it is sang across the globe to celebrate New Year’s Eve as the bells are tolling.

Besides Auld Lang Syne, Burns’ most prominent works include My love is like a red red rose, Tam o’ Shanter and Comin’ Thro’ the Rye. Burns is considered a pre-romantics poet due to his appreciation of nature, exploration of human emotions and his individuality.

Burns night is celebrated on the poets birthday, 25th January 1759, and was initially started as a form of memorial held by close friends, where a fine meal was shared, speeches were made in honor of the poet, and his pieces were performed. Traditionally the meal served would be the Scottish staple of haggis, neeps and tatties.

Haggis, neeps and tatties. Traditionally ate on holidays such as Burns night or St Andrew’s Day.

On 3rd of April 1786 Burns submitted his work to a publisher in Kilmarnock in order to fund him moving to Jamaica to become a bookkeeper on a plantation (in other words, an overseer of slaves). They were published on the 14th of April and his success was immediate as he was soon known around the country, cancelling his Jamaica trip. This success lead to the influence he has had on countries outside of Britain, such as the USA, and even Canada.

Burns died young, only 37. His global reach can be seen through the tributes that were made to him across the world. His birthplace in Alloway, Dumfries, has been transformed by the National Trust for Scotland to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, consisting of the very cottage he lived and grew up in, as well as handwritten manuscripts and other pieces of his work. A replica of the Burns cottage can be found in Atlanta, Georgia, belonging to the Burns Club Atlanta. His reach truly stretched beyond what he could have ever imagined.

Made In Scotland

A celebration of Scottish Music

Music is an important part of culture all over the world, and Scotland is no different!

Whether it’s traditional Scottish music or the modern music scene across various Scottish cities, there’s something for everyone. 

Traditional Scottish Music

Let’s start in chronological order, with the traditional music of Scotland. As with many forms of music, it started as a means of passing the time whilst doing labour intensive tasks. In Scotland, before the industrial age, this would have been work such as farming or clothes making; a “waulking” song was a call and response song that would be sang whilst ‘walking’ the tweed. These were often sang in Gaelic.

Video demonstrating a traditional waulking song

The most well known staple of Scottish music is of course, the bagpipes. Believe it or not, the origin of bagpipes did not actually begin in Scotland. According to which historian you ask, you may get a variety of different answers – some believing they were first found in Ancient Egypt, whilst others say Ireland. Either way, Scotland has most definitely adopted the instrument as their own. 

Bagpipe music was traditionally used throughout the military and in pipe bands, but has morphed to become part of folk dance music (often played at ceilidhs), and then in it’s most modern form – it is the instrument of bands like the “Red Hot Chilli Pipers.” Of course, many people also choose to have a piper play at their wedding. 

Bagpipes are not the only form of traditional music in Scotland. Other instruments that were often played included the fiddle,accordion, pipes and chanters,guitar and clarsach (a Scottish harp).

Modern Scottish Music

As the times change, so does music. Scotland has been home to many successful and famous musicians on top of having a great local scene. Some of Scotland’s most famous artists include the likes of Lewis Capaldi, Annie Lennox, the Proclaimers, Calvin Harris, Paolo Nutini and many more – all of which we have included in our ultimate Scottish playlist.  All of these artists branch across many genres and showcase Scotland’s diverse musical landscape. Whether you are native to Scotland or not, we guarantee you there will be something on this playlist that’ll make you say “ I didn’t know they were Scottish!” Who knows, maybe you’ll find your new favourite tune to add to your wedding playlist!


Tartan Wedding Accessories – Ring Cushions, Ladies Garters and More!

At Houston’s, we can take care of every little tartan detail at your wedding. We can provide bespoke, handmade tartan extras for your wedding. Attention to detail is key on your special day, so let Houston’s take care of bringing tartan to your wedding!

Tartan Ring Cushions

These handmade ring cushions add a touch of tartan to your ceremony. They can be made to match the tartan of the groom’s kilt, keeping with the colour scheme of the wedding. Ring Cushions come with either 1 or 2 ribbon ties, with the choice of tartan or silk ribbon.

Ring Cushions can be made in any Tartan!

On request, your Ring Cushion can be embroidered with the Bride and Groom’s initials, love hearts or a range of other messages in a variety of available font styles.

 Tartan Ladies Garters

Custom made ladies garters are also available from Houston’s. They can be made in any tartan, matching the tartan of the groom’s kilt, or in the family name of the bride. Ladies garters are a beautiful keep sake for a bride to be on the best day of her life. This can be her something new! All garters come with a white bow with pearl detail and are made to order, ensuring the perfect fit.

Tartan Shoulder Plaid

The perfect accessory to make the groom stand out against the rest of the wedding party – a shoulder plaid, matching the tartan of the groom’s kilt, can add prestige to his highland outfit. More about the shoulder plaid’s origins from the Great Kilt can be read about in our Previous Blog post.

The Plaid can serve many functions after wearing. The groom can wear the plaid for the ceremony and for the photographs after the ceremony. In the evening he can remove the plaid, using it as a table cover under the wedding cake, or on the top table as a table runner. The perfect way to add to the tartan theme of your wedding!

Other Tartan Accessories (Available on Request)

We can create order Tartan extras to order, from Ties, Bow-Ties and Hand Ties to Table Cover, Tablet Computer Cover and more!


Chalk Design and Weave

Commissioned by Stephen Chalk and his family for his 50th birthday, we designed and weaved this unique custom tartan for a memorable birthday.

Commissioned by Stephen Chalk and his family for his 50th birthday, we designed and weaved this unique custom tartan for a memorable birthday.

What an excellent birthday present!

This design was one of the most technical tartans Houstons have ever designed, with fire orange and Lurex woven through the weft to match his motorbike! A truly personalised experience.

We hope the family can enjoy this tartan for generations to come…
Stephen pictured with Ewan Mcdonald, 4th generation to run Houston Kiltmakers and skilled kiltmaker.

This tartan, being completely custom, was over a year in the design phase. The tailored experience doesn’t end there, however, as when deciding to make kilts out of this tartan there is an array of options with regards to weights, jacket options and even bespoke tweed jackets! This truly is a stunning tartan and the kilts will turn out great.


Bespoke Tweed wedding Jackets

If you’re wanting each part of your kilt outfit to be special and unique to you, we offer bespoke jackets from Houston Kiltmakers, established 1909. Ewan and his team are  making some of the best kilt outfits in the world.

Totally bespoke we prefer to take six months to a year to make.

We can have an initial design meet and get cloths, linings and embroidery aside and measure you closer to your wedding date.

We will help you every step of the way create a unique wedding outfit   

With customized features 

So you look your best on your wedding day

Email for bespoke one of a kind outfits.


Jacket Linings

Lining Ideas

Tell us your preferences in regards to colours, fabrics and patterns in order to find the best tweed to bring all elements of your outfit together. We have standard linings of which the price is included with your the rest of your outfit purchase.

For our £50 linings there are lots of colours to choose from and some really nice tones such as sailor blue; which ties in very nicely with muted tartans woven in the UK.
Our £90 luxury linings – some two tones, excellent quality with unique depth. Woven by Dugdale bros Huddersfield.
We also have our £160 stunning paisley pattern lining. Featuring some beautiful paisley and two tone paisley that will set your jacket apart from the rest.

Note; you can have your jacket and waistcoat with different linings. Personal touches such as tartan trim , initials, wedding date or address embroidered onto a piece of your tartan inside the jacket are all ways to make it extra special.
We will always help you to pick a lining that sets off your outfit thanks to our expert knowledge.  


Argyle hose, Diced hose and Castellated topped hose

Also known as tartan socks or plaid socks, these hose are all made to order and take 6-10 weeks to make. Traditionally worn to black tie events and evening events with black brogues, or the traditionalist would wear buckle shoes. Made from pure new wool, and always hand made in Scotland.

Some wear Argyll hose with day jackets but best to only wear to formal events, with a black jacket such as Prince Charlie, Montrose, Kenmore or Sheriffmuir.

Classic Argyll hose with Modern Hunting Robertson

Castellated tops have turrets on top and date back to the 1600s. They stay up naturally or come with a cord to tie them up with, should you wish to use it. Diced, Argyll and castellated socks are expensive but look and feel a million dollars. They are the best socks you can wear with your kilt and if you match the colors right it will give your outfit a whole new dimension and depth.

Black and white/ grey Castlated diced sock with Bute Mist.

When correctly fitted, hose feel fantastic. They require a few different sizes but are pretty easy to measure (see measuring details below).

Remember Hand knitted socks need to be hand-washed only – we have seen a few sets that have gone through a hot wash cycle and there is not much use for them after that…

Argyll socks hose will last a lifetime if you look after them and are hand wash only.

Purple and Navy contemporary Argyll Hose with Scottish Heather tartan
Classic diced Hose with Ancient Campbell tartan
Contemporary Charcoal/ Black and teal Argyll Hose with Glencallum tartan
Claret red and Green diced Castellated hose with Macdonald of Glengarry Modern
White and red diced castellated Hose with Autumn Bute

How to measure:

We need your:


Shoe size ( US or UK)

Length of foot

The width all the way around widest point

Round the ankles

Round the calf

Length of leg (Note we will add extra on for the return)


The Scottish Kilt

Who, what, when, where  and why?


Established in the 17th Century, Kilts (originally called “little wrap” in Gaelic) were the first steps in a separation of the Celts, as prior to this Irish and Scottish Gaels wore similar fashions. During the Jacobite uprising of 1745 there was a “diskilting” act enacted as they were seen as a symbol of rebellion and primitive savagery, the only exception being for those serving in the military. This is perhaps the lifeline of the modern kilt seen today, as historians have argued that Highland costume would not have survived had there not been Highland regiments raised on and dressed in parts of their traditional dress.

Highland chieftain Lord Mungo Murray wearing belted plaid, around 1680.

Nearly 40 years later, through the efforts of the Highland society of London, the “diskilting” act was revoked. The image of the highlander at this point in time was changing from being seen as other, to an extotic romanticised image which still has an impact in today’s society. This image was also in part response to the industrial revolution; a rejection of the urban and industrial and an embracing of the wild, unpredictable wilderness.

Kilt wearing became national dress after King George IV’s visit to Edinburgh where he walked out on his guests dressed in a kilt, establishing it as national dress for Scotland. This example of a kilt far differs from the traditional Highland wear seen in the previous century.

David Wilkie‘s 1829 portrait of the kilted King George IV

The tail end of the 20th century is when kilt wearing became more what we are used to seeing today. The connotations the kilt has with masculinity has led to modern designers incorporating elements of the kilt into fashion to suit the young, fashionable male. The punk subculture as well as LGBT+ culture have adapted the kilt due to its associations with traditional masculinity, with more modern takes also allowing for the piece to make more of a statement, whether that be of individuality or questioning the lines between masculinity and femininity. 


The Scottish Kilt is traditionally 8 yards ( 7.4 metres ) of pure new wool, and always made in Scotland. There is almost an inconceivable amount of tartans to choose from. Tartans are usually associated with a clan, but can be custom made. Kilts also come in a variety of weights to suit one’s needs or weather conditions:
– 16/17oz cloth ( Heavy weight ) is the best weight of authentic Scottish Kilt cloth as it sits and hangs and gives the best swing to the pleats. Contrary to what you may think, it is not any warmer than a 13oz kilt.
– For broader gentlemen heavy weight is by far the best cloth to use as it hangs much better over the belly and holds its shape and looks a million dollars!
– 13oz Medium weight is adequate if you are under a 44/46″ waist
– 19oz to 21oz is regimental weight cloth – only 6 tartans are woven in this weight now
– 110z Lightweight


Traditionally the Scottish kilt is fully handmade.The kiltmaker will take half a day to check the cloth, check sizes and prepare the tartan.The kiltmaker will then take around two days to make each kilt, there are around 6000 to 7500 stitches!

22 to 28 deep knife pleats ( Note kilts can be box pleated if you wish ).

And reinforced double stitches surrounding the key areas where typically you face the most wear and tear. Kilts can also be partially machine stitched which are also of high quality.


Houston Kiltmakers provides kilts with 3 buckles and straps so the customer has 1.5″ of adjustment for their optimal comfort. All kilts are cut for growth so that they can be adjusted a few inches in years to come.

Kilts can be made to a normal sett where the pleats at the back are folded to repeat the tartan exactly ( so the front and back of the kilt looks exactly the same) or they can be regimental sett. This is also called sett to the line where the kilt maker will take one of the symmetrical predominant pivot lines and sett each pleat to that line so you just see lines down the back of the kilt and the front and back of the kilt look remarkably different. A normal sett kilt is by far the most popular of the two options.

Kilts usually take 6 to 8 weeks to make provided the cloth is in stock. Kilts can be express made  quickly in a few weeks or a few days if required at a premium.

If commissioning a special weave and cloth has to be woven, then kilts can take up to five or 6 months to make. For this reason we always recommend booking at least six months before your function date if you can.


Houston Kiltmakers is a 4th generation family business based in Paisley established in 1909 by William.M Houston. Mr Houston’s Great grandson Ewan William MacDonald is now running the business and is passionate about everything tartan. At Houstons we have kiltmakers with decades of experience.


Houston kiltmakers are one of the few kiltmakers in Scotland who offer bespoke options. Our history spanning over 100 years and being established in the threading town of Paisley means we are particularly skilled and provide a niche in this market. If you are interested in getting a bespoke, authentic Scottish kilt you can come into the shop, contact us by telephone on  0141 889 4879 or email


How Many Tartans Are There?

There is no way of knowing specifically the first tartan ever created, given how long they have existed. However, with certain magical online tools, we are able to at least see more modern renditions, who designed it and when.

A Tartan is a design by which 2 or more colours are set to a pattern and weaved to create an accumulation of lines and boxes. Certain mills may have different coloured threads, meaning it is important that you are aware of the specific colours of yarn.

SELKIRK, SCOTLAND – Wattie Inglis, a weaver at Lochcarron Weavers, overseas the first bails of Royal Pride tartan, being produced for McCalls Highland wear on February 1, 2011 in Selkirk, Scotland. The new tartan was designed to mark the forthcoming Royal Wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton.

In the past, tartans were worn mainly by highlanders. During the 18th century when Tartan was associated with government rebellion, it was adopted by lowlanders as a means of making a statement. It began to grow within Scottish culture, with more and more tartans being designed and registered. According to the Scottish Tartan Society (STS), Scottish Tartan Authority (STA) and the Scottish Tartan World Register (STWR) there are 8165 tartans on the register, made up of legacy tartans formerly recorded by such authorities. On top of this, there are over 2400 tartans registered on the Scottish Register of Tartans since its implementation on February 5th, 2009.

Any new tartans created are registered with the Scottish Register of Tartan, where a huge catalogue of tartans can be found and the rights to be woven can be acquired from specific tartan Designers. This is useful if one day you wish for your own special weave or custom tartan to be made.

Highlandwear Made In Scotland

About Ken MacDonald – Owner of Houston Kiltmakers

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 and his son Ewan, the 3rd and 4th generation to run Houston Kiltmakers

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 Highland wear 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!

Houston Kiltmakers through the ages

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.