As September draws to a close we are sharing some of our Highlights from the busy summer we have had as well as a message from our very busy Social Media Manager.
Tartan Hero of the Month – April
Clann An Drumma
Clann An Drumma is a Scottish tribal band with a diverse age range amongst their members. Each member has their unique skillset that allows them to add to the quality of the band. They are for the most part Scottish born, with exceptions such as their member Dougie who was born in Singapore. In general, most of the band have been wearing some form of tartan and/or kilt from a young age, as they were in pipping bands in their younger years.
The band have commissioned their own tartan, The Clann An Drumma tartan. This is by far their favourite across the band. Individually, member Dougie also owns a Blackwatch kilt and a ward of the isles kilt, and Jamie owns a Clann An Drumma as well as a weathered Gun and a Culloden. Their ‘least favourite’ tartan would probably be the Anderson tartan. This is less of an aesthetic issue and more historical accuracy, as tartans initially were made with local resources, of which there would often be an overlap between regions, and thus a lot of tartans are similar at least in colours used. They would also blend in with the scenery, and the Anderson would be a poor choice of camouflage.
Upon meeting the band, it is clear how knowledgeable about Highland culture and history they are. They use this knowledge to inform not only their music, but how they perform at gigs and other events. Their way of dressing is not just a performative feature, they are historically accurate and provide talking and learning points. When you see them dressed for events, you may stop to wonder why their sporrans are off to the side as opposed to centred like you may have seen in wedding photos etc. The correct placement is actually to the side, as when performing a Highland charge it would be impractical for it to be in the middle of ones legs.
For the band, dressing in a Feileadh Mòr evokes a sense of pride. They don’t have a favourite element of kilt outfits or a favourite way to wear it, and prefer to dress historically to represent the culture where highland wear has evolved from. Considering that when dressing in a Feileadh Mòr they have to place and pin the pleats each time, they say it is a relief taking it off at the end of an event.
The band are of the belief that whilst at times problematic, the romanticising of Highland life is a vehicle for people to learn about the topic. TV shows such as Outlander are bringing the concept of Highland culture to the masses, and one can only hope they take a genuine enough interest to do further research.
The band enjoys music from artists such as Maggie Bell, Frankie Miller, Battlefiend band and wolfstone. Each member would choose slightly different dinner guests if given the option of 3 Scottish dinner guests, past or present. For band member Jamie, he would choose William Wallace, Alasdair Mac Colla and Rob Roy. Member Dougie would choose Robert the Bruce, Sir James Douglas and of course, William Wallace.
World Poetry Day 21/03/22
Known as the weavers poet, Robert Tannahill was not as fortunate in his career as our beloved national bard, Robert Burns. The tragic ending to his life is what propelled him into the fame he so desired, and he became a pillar in a town full of innovation and culture.
Born in Castle street in Paisley, Tannahill was born with a slight deformity in his right leg, leading to a limp and contributing to his slight frame. Tannahill came from a family of nine, as noted in a letter he wrote to a friend. When he was of school leaving age (around 12 for most working class/labouring families) he was an apprentice under his father, who was a silk gauze weaver.
Upon completion of his apprenticeship, Tannahill left Paisley to work in Bolton, Lancashire, where he stayed until 1801. He returned to Paisley to take care of his family, with his father passing not long after his return. It is during this time that Tannahill writes the letter to his friend discussing how him and his brother are the sole carers for their mother, and how not many years ago the family used to share happy times over the dinner table.
Tannahill’s works date to his return to Paisley, and one of his earliest poems is “The Fillial Blow” where he discusses the raw emotions of caring for an elderly parent from the perspective of both parties ; “but mostly this o’erclouds her every joy, She grieves to think she may be burthensome, now feeble, old, and tott’ring to the tomb” and Roberts experience of care-taking is heart-wrenching and universally relatable “Tis mine, to hand her down life’s rugged steep: With all her little weaknesses to bear,
Attentive, kind, to sooth her every care. ‘Tis nature bids, and truest pleasure flows, from lessening an aged parent’s woes”.
Despite the lack of fame and admiration whilst he was alive, after his suicide his significance in our culture grew; from annual concerts at the Gleniffer braes to raise money for his statue in Paisley centre, to being included in the Wallace monument’s Hall of Heroes. The quality of his work transcends centuries, and the experiences he speaks to are universal to many.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog post 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Recently a customer came into our shop with material he had collected from his recent trip around Africa. He asked if we could make the traditional cotton African cloth into a traditional Scottish Kilt, and we accepted the task!
(Click on the Images to Enlarge!)
There were a few challenges to overcome to make this African Kilt a reality – the material provided wasn’t in the usual dimensions we use to make a Kilt, so the Kiltmaker had to carefully work out the best way to cut and restitch the cloth back together in an easier to work with shape.
The material was different to what we usually work with. Instead of a heavyweight wool this cloth was a lighter-weight cotton.
The unusual design on the cloth meant that working with it was quite different from Scottish Tartan, but there were still similarities. As you can see from the reverse of the Kilt, the Kiltmakers has still managed to incorporate the pattern of the cloth into the pleats on the rear.
We think that turned out great, a very unique look! What do you think of this different take on the Scottish Kilt?
This article examines the Anderson Clan, looking back at their History, studying their Clan Crests and a glimpse at the associated clan tartans!
The Anderson Clan has links stretching back to St. Andrew, the Patron Saint of Scotland. Anderson literally means ‘Son of Andrew’. The name Anderson was recorded as early as the 13th century. As the name Anderson is so wide spread in Scotland, it is hard to narrow down to a specific area where the Anderson’s originally hailed from. It is generally agreed that the region they most likely call ‘home’ is the traditional district of Badenoch.
Clan Crest and Motto
The Clan Crest of the Anderson Clan is of an Oak Tree and their motto is ‘Stand Sure’. The motto reflects both the Oak Tree and the lasting of the Anderson name – the Oak Tree grows strong and lives for a long time, similar to the Anderson Clan.
The Anderson Tartan is a particularly popular design. An elaborate tartan, it incorporates several colours and many thin stripes. Mainly a blue design, it also features green, red, yellow, white and black.
Other Useful Links
The Anderson Clan Society is a useful place to start if you are looking for more details about the clan.
You can see the full range of Anderson Tartans that we stock here!
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 heir 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’.
We offer a wide range of Highland Wear products, customized with your own Clan Crest. From Sporrans and Kilt Pins to Hip Flasks and Sgian Dubhs, we can customize most items with a Clan Crest.
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.
Other Useful Links
MacDonald remains the most common ‘Mac’ name is Scotland, with Houston’s owner Ken MacDonald being part of the Clan.
The Clan Donald Centre on the Isle of Skye is an estate around Armadale Castle where you can learn more of the history of Clan Donald.
Clan Donald USA has several regional divisions across the States where you can meet and associate with others carrying the MacDonald name.
You can learn more about Clan Donald and its heritage on a dedicated site here: Clandonald-Heritage.com.
Walk The Past of Paisley
Houston Kiltmakers store is located in the historical weaving town of Paisley. 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 posing great cultural and historical significance.
What to see in Paisley
Paisley’s history is vast and varied. From witch hunts in the 17th century to the world-renowned Paisley Pattern, there are pieces of history sprinkled all throughout the town.
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.
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!
Paisley Museum and Art Gallery
Closed for refurbishments: Set to re-open 2022
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 artefacts as well as reminders of our industrial past and our cultural 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
Many Paisley buddies know that their great-grannies and grannies (sometimes even mammies!) worked in the mill. Undeniably it was a huge part of the towns economy and generations of families worked there throughout the years. 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 includes photographs, mill machinery, samples of products made there as well as sewing artefacts.
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. Most recently,14th Century tunnels have been rediscovered underneath 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. The iconic organ found in the church is one of a few originals found in Britain that have not since been modified.
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!
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!