Tartan today is one of the most easily identified symbols of Scottish heritage, recognized the world over. While there is no law preventing someone from wearing any tartan they chose (as our ancestors hundreds of years ago would have), today tartans do have a symbolic meaning, and most people prefer to wear a tartan that represents a part of their heritage and has personal meaning to them,
Tartan in Scotland is far from mass produced and lovingly and skilfully woven by traditional mills that have been running for a very long time. From dyeing the yarn to weaving every stage must be done with a huge amount of care and attention.
We often get asked – why is tartan so expensive. To visit the mill helps you understand the work that goes into weaving it
Weaving Tartan Today
The basic process for weaving tartan is as follows:
Ecru yarn (ecru is the natural creamy white shade of wool) os wound onto special flexible cones which are used for the dyeing process.
They dye colours are applied in water
Once drained, the yarn in placed into a spin dryer for 12-15 mins
It is then transferred to a drying oven
The temperature is kept at 160 degrees to ensure consistent coverage
The dyed yarn is kept at around 10% moisture which helps make it more pliable for the next stages of production
the beginning of the weaving process a strip of woven fabric is cut off and inspected by the “darners” to ensure each colour and each thread is in the right place and that the weaving structure is as it should be. If it’s ok then the rest of the fabric can then be woven, this ensures faults are kept to a minimum. If not the fault must be fixed before the weaving can continue. At the end of the weaving each piece of woven fabric is then inspected throughout so if there were any problems these can be mended before the fabric moves onto the finishing stage.
When the fabric comes out of the loom it can go through a variety of different processes to achieve the finish required. They are all washed to remove any natural lanolin from the wool yarns and to close up the fabric structure to make it more appropriate for its intended end use. This can be achieved through other process such as milling, pressing, brushing or teasling (where the nap of the top of the woven surface is raised and sometimes drawn out to create a soft ripple like appearance) before finally being dried. By using a variety of finishing processes we can create a wide range of fabrics and accessories for many different uses.