Unbe-weave-able Facts About Tartan...

Posted on July 14, 2017 by Kirstin Gault

10 interesting facts about Scotland's famous fabric...

Fact 1: The word tartan dates back to the late 15th century. Like many English words, we took the word ‘tartan’ from the French. The name comes from the word tiretaine, which stems from the verb tirer (to pull). The term also has links to the Gaelic breacan, meaning plaid or speckled, and to the Spanish word tiritaña, a type of silk cloth.

Fact 2: The earliest documented tartan in the UK, known as the "Falkirk" tartan, dates from the 3rd century AD. It was discovered in a jar of coins near Falkirk in Scotland.

Fact 3: The first colour photograph was taken in 1861 by James Clerk Maxwell. The subject was a colored ribbon, usually described as a tartan ribbon. 

Fact 4: The only tartan to have been to the moon was a piece of MacBean tartan, taken there in 1969 by Alan Bean, an American astronaut of Scottish descent.

Fact 5: Japan is the largest international importer of the Outer Hebrides’ famous Harris Tweed, and tartan is a staple of Japanese street and runway fashion. In 2014, Lochcarron of Scotland even designed a tartan for Sanrio who produced Hello Kitty - a fictional Japanese character.

Fact 6: The Dress Act was part of the Act of Proscription which came into force in 1746. The act made wearing the Highland Dress illegal. The ban of tartan and kilts was an attempt to control the Highland clans that had supported the Jacobite Risings.

Fact 7: Black and white checks can be seen on police uniforms all over the world, but did you know the design is technically a type of tartan? Named 'Sillitoe Tartan', the checks were first used by police in Scotland in 1932.

Fact 8: Elvis Presley is said to have roots in Lonmay, anAberdeenshire village, and in 2004 a local designer created an official 'Presley of Lonmay' tartan in his honour!

Fact 9: Peebles Woolen Merchants Holland & Sherry are the proud creators of the world’s most expensive tartan – a luxury blend woven from pure Mongolian cashmere!

Fact 10: Tartan is the correct word for a specific pattern unique to each Scottish clan or region. But the term plaid comes from the Gaelic word, plaide, which referred to the actual blanket or outer layer that kept Scots warm during bad weather. Though the terms are often used interchangeably, it's worth noting that while all tartans are plaids, not all plaids are tartans.


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