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Highlandwear

Chalk Tartan Design and Custom Weave

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

Stephen Chalk and his family Commissioned Ewan to Design and weave this unique tartan for his 50th
What a great Birthday present!
One of the most technical tartans Houstons have ever designed with fire orange and Lurex woven through the weft to match his motorbike!
We hope The family enjoy their tartan for generations to come 
A stunning tartan and over a year in the design phase. The kilts will turn out great.

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Highlandwear Kilt Kilts Made In Scotland Paisley Scotland tartan

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 is passionate about Highlandwear & Tartan, and this has led him to roles as Vice Chairman of The Scottish Tartans Authority and Deacon of the Incorporation of Weavers of Glasgow.

We discussed with him how he got started in the Highlandwear industry and his passion for Tartan.

Ken MacDonald and his son, Ewan - 3rd and 4th Generations to work at Houston Kiltmakers

Tell us about yourself and your journey – how did the shop start, and what has been your role in the industry?

The shop was founded in 1909 by my grandfather William Houston as a gentlemen’s outfitters. Over time it developed to supplying Highlandwear and now that’s what we focus on. Houston Kiltmakers is now a 4th Generation family run business as my son, Ewan, has recently joined us in the shop. Using only the best materials sourced in Scotland where possible, our garments are tailored specifically for the customer by craftsmen & women with many years’ experience. This ensures the finest quality products that will last a lifetime. As we have grown over the years we have expanded and now ship Kilts all over the world!

The store is located in Paisley, Scotland (A town right next to Glasgow), where I was born. From a very young age I received my first Kilt and also wore a Kilt to school. I have always had a passion for Highlandwear and I’ve been lucky enough to have an opportunity to work in this industry. I have been involved in Kilt making and Tartan Design for almost 40 years now.

Pictures of Houston's Shop from the early 20th century to the present day

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.

Left: Ken presenting a 'Glasgow's Miles Better' Tartan Kilt to Prince Charles, Right: A note of thanks from President George W. Bush

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.

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Visit our Buy site at Kiltmakers.com and our Hire site at KiltsForHire.com

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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/