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Highlandwear Made In Scotland Scottish Clans Scottish History tartan traditions

Clan Tartans in Focus – Clan Campbell

This article examines the Campbell Clan, looking back at their History, studying their Clan Crests and a glimpse at the associated clan tartans!

The Campbell Clan is one of the largest Scottish Clans and historically one of the most powerful. According to the 2001 census, ‘Campbell’ was the 4th most common surname in Scotland.

Clan History

It is thought that the Campbell’s originally hailed from the Strathclyde area on the west coast of Scotland, with strong connections to the Argyll region.  The clan chief of Clan Campbell has been the Earl of Argyll since 1445, then Duke of Argyll from 1701.

The Argyll region of Scotland and the Campbell Clan Crest

In the 14th Centuary the Campbell’s were strong supporters of Scottish Independence, and fought along side Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314

The Campbell’s are perhaps best known for their part in the infamous Massacre at Glencoe, where troops (including several Campbell’s) lead by Robert Campbell of Glenlyon murdered members of the MacDonald Clan in Glencoe on 13th February 1692.
During the two Jacobite uprisings in the 18th centuary, the Campbell’s sided with the British government and fought against the Jacobite armies. The Campbell’s had four divisions of men at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, the last battle of the uprising which crushed the rebellion.

Today, the Clan Chief of the Clan Campbell is Torquhil Campbell, 13th Duke of Argyll, who captained Scotland’s Elephant Polo team to victory in the 2004 and 2005 World Elephant Polo Association World Championships.  Inveraray Castle has been the seat of the Duke of Argyll, chief of Clan Campbell, since the 17th century.

Torquhil Campbell, 13th Duke of Argyll (L) and the Scottish Elephant Polo team in  2005, with Campbell in the centre (R)
Torquhil Campbell, 13th Duke of Argyll (L) and the Scottish Elephant Polo team in 2005, with Campbell in the centre (R)

Clan Tartans

The Campbell Tartan is predominantly green and blue, intersected with a black check. The tartan may look quite familiar to many, as it also goes under the name ‘Black Watch‘ – the tartan used extensively in the UK military.

Inverary Castle, surrounded by Clan Campbell Tartans
A variety of Campbell Tartans

There are variations of the tartan based on different locations around Scotland where certain Campbell’s hailed from. These tartans include: Campbell of Argyll, Campbell of Breadalbane, Campbell of Cawdor, Campbell of Lochawe and Campbell of Loudoun. Each design uses the base colours from the Campbell tartan, but add a thin, coloured line through the design.

Clan Crest and Motto

The Clan Campbell crest is of a Boar’s head and they have the motto ‘Ne Obliviscaris’, which is Latin for ‘Forget Not‘)

Houston’s stock many varieties of Campbell Clan Crested accessories here.

Other Useful Links

The Clan Campbell Society of North America (CCSNA) is a great resource to learn more about the Campbell Clan’s history.

Inveraray Castle, the seat of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of Clan Campbell.

View all the Campbell Tartans stocked by Houston Kiltmakers.

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Highlandwear Kilt Kilt Hire Kilts Kilts for Sale Scotland Scottish Clans Scottish History Special Weave Tartans tartan traditions Weddings

How to Choose a Tartan

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!

Tartans for Scottish Kilts

Where to start!

Choosing a Scottish Tartan For Your Kilt
How to Choose a Tartan for your Kilt - There is a Tartan for Everyone!

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.

Autumn Bute, Ancient Bute and Grey Bute Kilts
Grey Bute, Ancient Bute and Autumn Bute Heater Kilts, Tartan Designed by Ken MacDonald

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.

Royal Links

Royal Balmoral Tartan
Royal Balmoral Tartan, Designed by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria

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!

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Highlandwear Kilt Kilts Scotland Scottish Clans Scottish History tartan

History of the Kilt – Part 3 – Dress Act 1746

Kilts and tartan were not always prosperous in Scotland and sometimes their development was restricted. 1746 saw the implementation of the Dress Act 1746, which put the future of Highland wear, the Kilt and Tartan into jeopardy.

The end of the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century was filled with political and religious turmoil around Scotland. Jacobitism was gaining popularity in Scotland in a stand against the Union. From 1688 to 1745 several uprisings from the Jacobite loyal against the British Government. The most famous Jacobite rising from this time are the Risings of 1715 and 1745. (The 1745 Rising was led by the ‘Young Pretender’, Bonnie Prince Charlie, who lends his name to the Prince Charlie style of jacket.)

Bonnie Prince Charlie
Bonnie Prince Charlie

After the failed 1745 uprising support for Jacobitism began to decline. They drew a large amount of their support from the Highland Clans, and in 1746 the government brought in the Dress Act to dampen their support.

The Battle of Culloden
The Battle of Culloden, where the 1745 Jacobite Uprising came to an end.

The Dress Act 1746 restricted the wearing of Highland Dress, Kilts and Tartan. It states:

‘…no man or boy within that part of Britain called Scotland, other than such as shall be employed as Officers and Soldiers in His Majesty’s Forces, shall, on any pretext whatever, wear or put on the clothes commonly called Highland clothes (that is to say) the Plaid, Philabeg, or little Kilt, Trowse, Shoulder-belts, or any part whatever of what peculiarly belongs to the Highland Garb; and that no tartan or party-coloured plaid of stuff shall be used for Great Coats or upper coats…’

This Act several restricted the wearing of Kilts and Tartan outfits. The banning of Tartan cut off a way in which communities and families associated themselves with each other and the banning of Kilts suppressed the dress associated with the Jacobite Uprisings.

King George IV
King George IV's Visit to Scotland in Highland Dress

The ban would stay in place for almost 40 years, finally being repelled in 1782. The Kilt and Tartan had fallen on hard times, but its popularity would return in the 1800’s through King George IV’s visit to Scotland and Queen Victoria’s efforts to revive the Scottish Icons. Find Part 4 of this series HERE!

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Highlandwear Kilt Scotland Scottish Clans Scottish History tartan

History of the Kilt – Part 2 – Development of Tartan and the Modern Kilt

It would be difficult to talk about the history of the Kilt without talking a little about the designs that were on them. Tartan, as the designs are known, was first seen as far back as the 3rd century with the discovery of ‘The Falkirk Tartan‘. This early check design is credited as being one of the first instances tartan.

Black and Browns make up the 'Falkirk Tartan'
Perhaps not as colourful as some of todays tartans, the check design is clear in the early 'Falkirk Tartan'

Through the years tartan has developed. The basic check design has remained the same, but the amount of colours in the pattern and detail in the sett has changed.

The tartan we know today is thought to have fully developed around the 16th century. The differences in tartan patterns and the links to different family names or island residences is thought to have been first observed by Martin Martin in his 1703 writing ‘A description of the Western Isles of Scotland‘, where he said,

…each Isle differs from the other in thir fancy of making Plaids, as to the Stripes in Breadth and Colours. This Humour is as different thro the main Land of the Highlands, in so-far that they who have seen these Places are able, at the first view of a Man’s Plaid to guess the Place of his Residence…

Being able to tell where someone is from by the tartan of their Kilt perhaps is not as easy today with the increased movement of people, but when choosing a tartan a good place to start is with a family name (own name, mothers maiden name etc.). There are no restrictions for what tartan you can wear, so it is personal preference if your family isn’t associated with a clan (or your family tartan isn’t the flashiest!)

Different Tartan Kilts
A display of Modern Kilts

Along with developments to the tartan patterns came changes to the design of the Kilt. In 1723 Thomas Rawlinson introduced a Kilt design that made working in his charcoal factory more practical. Essentially he had removed the Plaid from the Great Kilt, so the wearer was just left with the bottom half. This design grew popular and is what we know as the Kilt today.

'Modern Kilt Invented, 1723'
'Modern Kilt Invented, 1723' - Panel from The Great Tapestry of Scotland

The new design stuck and this is the most popular design for a Kilt today.

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In the next blog post we will look at the troubled period of the Dress Act 1746 which made the wearing of Highland Dress (including Kilts and Tartan) illegal in Scotland! Find Part 3 HERE!

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Highlandwear Kilt Kilts Kilts for Sale Scotland Scottish Clans Scottish History tartan traditions traditions Wedding Kilts

Special Weave Tartans

Houstons can provide special weave tartans not readily available to the market. If you are having trouble finding your desired tartan we can assist and source it for you through the Scottish Tartans Authority. Further to this we can have a tartan designed specifically for you by owner of Houstons, Ken MacDonald to alternatively you can design a tartan yourself using our exclusive ‘My Tartan’ design app available to download for free from the Apple App store. They are woven in 16oz heavy weight, 13oz medium weight, 11oz light weight or even silk fabric. You will also be given the option have your tartan Teflon coated which makes it stain proof and even beer proof! If you wish to have a kilt made in one of these tartans you will need to contact us direct. Special Weave tartans will take considerably longer to make as firstly, the tartan must be sourced if it is a design that is not usually available. Alternatively, if you have chosen to design your own tartan to be made this will also be a lengthy experience as you will need to converse with the tartan design regarding your chosen design. Once you have finalised your unique tartan design there will be a number of stages to have the cloth woven, finished and made into your bespoke kilt!

The time scale for creating a special weave tartan and having it made into a bespoke kilt can be anything from 3 to 6 months. Therefore, if you are looking to have your tartan woven for a specific date we advise you get in touch as far in advance as possible! An express service will be made available to you for an additional cost. With this service your kilt will be delivered in 2 to 3 months.

The cost of a special weave tartan varies depending on the chosen design and the kilt finish. Prices range from £300 to £2000. For a quote please contact Houston Kiltmakers direct via email shop@kiltmakers.com or call us on +44 141 889 4879 outlining the specifics of the bespoke kilt you wish to have made

You have countless options when creating your own tartan. You can have a clan tartan made with your own specific choice of colours to coordinate with a wedding colour scheme. Or you can combine your own family tartan with your bride’s family tartan and create a brand new design to commemorate your special day using our My Tartan app! If you wish to have a design created by Ken MacDonald we can create an ECAD image which is a digital image of what your chosen tartan will look like. Therefore if you are unhappy with the design we can make any necessary changes to achieve your desired design. To find out more about tartans and special weaves read on!

THE “RIGHT” TO WEAR A TARTAN

 “Often over the years one has heard people explaining they have the right or that they are entitled to wear this or that tartan…. in fact no such right , in any legal sense , exists for them or anyone else ….the only considerations which govern the wearing of a particular set are usage and good taste”

Quote from Scottish Tartans Authority director Brian Wilton

So the answer to the question “what tartan am I entitled to wear? Is: “any tartan you fancy”

To make life easy to pick a tartan at Houston’s we have over 100 tartan books , the only kilt shop in the world where you can see every commercial produced tartan, and have the facility to weave any tartan if a stitch count exists from our records… We have collated over 600 tartans any one can wear in 8 swatch books in colour bunch to make viewing tartans a lot easier for our customers. At Houston Traditional Kiltmakers we get customers visiting our shop from all parts of Scotland, the U.K., Europe and the rest of the world. Our professional staff will advise on tartans you can wear from a choice of around 14,000 different tartans.

Clans & Septs

MacDonald ancient

 Clans

Clan is the Gaelic word for family and originally clans only belonged to the Highlands.

The clan system is closely bound up with Scottish heraldry. The best definition of a clan provided by a heraldic authority is contained in Nisbet’s “System of Heraldry”, published in 1722: ‘A social group consisting of an aggregate of distinct erected families actually descended, or accepting themselves as descendants of a common ancestor, and which has been received by the Sovereign through its Supreme Officer of Honour, the Lord Lyon, as an honourable community whereof all of the members on establishing right to, or receiving fresh grants of, personal hereditary nobility will be awarded arms as determinate or indeterminate cadets both as may be of the chief family of the clan.’

A clan is therefore a community which is both distinguished by heraldry and recognised by the Sovereign. At the head of this honourable community is the chief. He is the only person entitled to display the undifferenced shield of Arms, i.e. without any marks of dependency upon any other noble house.

Chiefship is a title of honour and dignity within the nobility of Scotland. Any claimant to such a title must establish, to the satisfaction of the Lord Lyon representing the Sovereign, that he or she is entitled to the undifferenced arms of the community over which they seek to preside. It is the determining of chiefship which is among the Lyon Court’s central work.

Many of the cases which have come before the Lyon Court in the last 50 years have related to the chiefships of clans. There are now about 140 clans that have chiefs recognized by the Lord Lyon.

A clan or family that has a recognized chief or head confers noble status on the clan or family which gives it a legally recognized status and a corporate identity. A family or name group which has no recognized chief has no official position under the law of Scotland. If you have a name of one of the 140 Clans you can wear any of the tartans under that clan’s name. MacDonald for example has 23 different tartans under the one name.

Sept Tartans

The surname Vance has no clan tartan but is a sept of the Galloway District. (Galloway District Modern Red pictured above)

In Scotland, a sept is often a family that is absorbed into a larger Scottish clan for mutual benefit. For example, the Burns family sept was absorbed into the Clan Campbell. The Burns family being very small and of questionable heritage gained legitimacy and protection and the Campbell clan absorbed a potential rival for British affection in Scotland. Each Scottish clan typically has a number of septs, each with its own surname. Septs have rights to wear clan tartans although they often have tartans of their own. You can do a search on www.kiltmakers.com to find out if you family name is affiliated to any other clan.

Irish Septs

Irish National Tartan

In Ireland, the word sept is used to refer to a group of people with both a common surname and common origin. In recent times, Irish septs are sometimes called clans, although Ireland does not have a clan system similar to that of Scotland. Related Irish septs belong to larger groups, sometimes called tribes, such as the Dál gCais, Uí Néill, Uí Fiachrach, and Uí Maine.

Tartans Anyone Can Wear

Houston’s Own Bute Heather Collection

If you do not have a family or clan tartan to wear you can choose from a vast range of tartans that anyone can wear. You can choose from a range of national tartans such as Scottish National and American national. Nowadays people tend to choose a tartan to coordinate with wedding or colours or purely for its aesthetic value. Greys in particular are currently in vogue and very popular amongst kilt buyers. Pictured above is Houston’s own Bute Heather Tartan Designs which are predominantly woven in greys, purples and blues. As well as being in vogue, grey tartans are also very prestigious and have been worn by prominent figures in Scottish history. John Brown was the personal servant of Queen Victoria in Scotland during her reign. A very famous portrait painted of Brown was painted of him wearing a grey Balmoral kilt.  Further to this, the ‘Clan Originaux’ pattern book confirms the genealogy of a grey tartan known as Stewart Mourning. This particular tartan was created after the death of King Albert and worn by Queen Victoria. There are only a few hundred tartans that are privately owned and require permission to be worn.

Tartan

What tartan can I wear?

Most customers will choose a clan tartan based on a family name. This could be either a person’s own surname or that of a parent or grandparent. However; you can wear any tartan for any occasion.

Traditionally hunting, ancient and weathered tartans were worn with tweeds and day jackets for outdoor functions, hunting and highland games. Dress and modern tartans were worn with formal functions and black tie dinners.

Weaving Looms

A special weave tartan is very rare and at Houstons we make sure that we use only the finest craftsmen and equipment to create your one of a kind piece. We have a friend who has a single and double width loom reserved solely for the use of Houston Kiltmakers. It takes one full day to weave a special weave tartan. Using a traditional loom to produce Scottish tartans only adds to the authenticity of your bespoke piece. Choosing to have your kilt stain proofed will also help to preserve your kilt for many years so it may be passed on through the generations in your family as an heir loom is you so wish.

Preparing the Wool

When preparing the wool for your kilt we begin with your chosen colours. All wool used for making kilts comes from sheep in New Zealand and Australia. Once the sheep are sheered the wool clipped is washed clean and sent to the yarn dyers to be spun and dyed.

 

Warping, Weaving and Finishing

Once the yarn is dyed it is sent onto the weaver. The weaver then adds all colour wools to the drum for warping. Yarns are wound on by colour. The yarn is then fed through a weaving machine to be woven.

 

Once the tartan is woven it is cut off and sent to the finishers to be washed, checked and if requested Teflon coated, to be fully finished.

Houston’s own Straad Bute Tartan

 The tartan is then sent back to the mill for a final inspection and then sent on to one of our kilt makers.

Types of Tartan

 Modern

Modern tartans are woven in rich, dark colours. The colours are always stronger and can be worn with navy blue or black jackets.

  Ancient

Ancient tartans are woven in soft, lighter colours. Ancient tartans can be worn with black or a range of tweed jackets.

 Weathered or Muted

Weathered or muted tartans are woven in faded and muted colours. This gives the tartan an older appearance. In olden days, these tartans were coloured by natural pigment dyes.

 Hunting

Hunting tartan tends to be woven in darker colours, more commonly in green for a camouflage effect.

 Dress Tartan

Dress tartans are basically any of the above tartans woven with lots of white through the design. Dress tartans are generally worn by women.

 Kilt Weights

Kilts come in several weights of cloth. The 11oz cloth is very light weight and more suitable for ladies skirts, gents trousers, waistcoats, children’s kilts and some professional dancing kilts. For gent’s kilts, we recommend anything from 13oz medium weight to 16oz heavy weight cloth this being the real “Rolls Royce” of kilts. All of our kilts are 8 yards, traditionally handmade in pure wool. The heavy weight 16oz kilt cloth sits, swings and looks a million dollars, compared to a 13oz medium weight kilt, and it is NOT any warmer. It is the weight of the jacket which makes the heat difference. All of our Houston’s jackets are super light weight and stain-proofed.

19 oz kilts are generally for regimental wear but are available in around six tartans.

16 oz/17oz kilts are the largest range available with a choice of around 14,000 tartans. Heavy weight kilts are the best as the kilt sits and swings better. Heavy weight tartans can also be Teflon coated making them stain proof. Contrary to popular belief, heavy weight kilts are not any warmer than medium or lightweight kilts. It is in fact the top half of your outfit such as your jacket and waistcoat that generate heat. The majority of jackets are heavy weight however; Houston’s have perfected their own super light weight jacket which has a great cut and comfortable fit.

13oz Medium weight kilts are normally produced for Irish and Welsh national tartans. Medium weight kilts come in a choice of around 1000 tartans

11oz light weight cloth would normally be woven for ladies skirts, gents’ trousers and waistcoats, children’s kilts, children’s trousers and ties. Kilts do not have a hem around the bottom of the garment however; children’s kilts can be cut for growth. A hem of around 2 to 3 inches will be added, and can then be let down when the child grows a bit taller.

8 oz fabric is used to make coordinating ties or bow ties and also ladies dresses.

Wool, like the 11oz lightweight cloth can be used for ladies and gents’ trousers and waistcoats.

Silk is available in 80 tartans and can be used to make ties, bow ties, waistcoats and ladies dresses.

Cotton and Poly Cotton can used to make napkins and shirts. It is also used for school uniforms and corporate wear.

Poly Viscose is a washable and stained proof fabric generally used for school uniforms, children’s highland wear and corporate wear.

Teflon Coating

Houston’s also have an exclusive service of Teflon coating tartans/kilts to make them stain resistant, this service can only be done at time of ordering the kilt on all our own Cloths. All kilts are individually hand tailored to your own specification in a range of 6 different available kilt finishes from handmade kilts through to machine-finished kilts.

Teflon coating ensures your kilt is rain, stain and even beer proof! The fabric is even beer proof! The wool has the same handle and is fully breathable, making them safe to wear to rugby and football matches.

We calculate that over the life span of your kilt you will save approximately £180 to £260, not having to get your kilt dry cleaned as often. This also helps the environment. The Teflon coating lasts a minimum of 18 dry cleans.

FURTHER HELP AND INFO

Owner of Houston’s Ken MacDonald has had his own kilt for over 30 years and it is well maintained due proper care and storage.

For further information on tartans as well as advice on what to wear and how to wear it please view our helpful video clips at www.kiltmakers.com/tv/