Tartan and Tweed

There is often confusion about the difference between tartan and tweed. Both tartan and tweed are hand woven fabric, made of hand spun and dyed wool. Is that where the similarities begin and end? Let's look a little closer.

From Wikipedia: Tartan is a pattern consisting of crisscrossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours.

Tartans originated in woven wool, but now they are made in many other materials. Tartan is particularly associated with Scotland. Scottish kilts almost always have tartan patterns. Tartan is often called plaid in North America, but in Scotland, a plaid is a tartan cloth slung over the shoulder as a kilt accessory, or a plain ordinary blanket such as one would have on a bed. Tartan is made with alternating bands of coloured (pre-dyed) threads woven as both warp and weft at right angles to each other. The weft is woven in a simple twill, two over—two under the warp, advancing one thread at each pass. This forms visible diagonal lines where different colours cross, which give the appearance of new colours blended from the original ones. The resulting blocks of colour repeat vertically and horizontally in a distinctive pattern of squares and lines known as a sett.

Also from WikipediaTweed is a rough, woollen fabric, of a soft, open, flexible texture, resembling cheviot or homespun, but more closely woven. It is usually woven with a plain weave, twill or herringbone structure. Colour effects in the yarn may be obtained by mixing dyed wool before it is spun.[1] Tweeds are an icon of traditional Irish and British country clothing, being desirable for informal outerwear,[2] due to the material being moisture-resistant and durable. Tweeds are made to withstand harsh climate[3] and are commonly worn for outdoor activities such as shooting and hunting, in both Ireland and the United Kingdom. "Lovat" is the name given to the green used in traditional Scottish tweed.

In Ireland, tweed manufacturing is most associated with County Donegal. But, according to Gentleman's Gazette: The wearing of tweed entered a new phase when in the first half of the nineteenth century many estates in Scotland were acquired by English noblemen wishing to expand their life of leisure. In 1848, Prince Albert ignited a rush on Scottish estates when he purchased Balmoral. Although the foundation of the castle wasn’t laid until September 28, 1853, he designed The Balmoral Tweed earlier. Blue with white sprinkles and crimson in color, it was no coincidence that it looks gray from afar resembling the granite mountains of Aberdeenshire around Balmoral because it was designed for deer stalking in the area. As such, one of the first Estate Tweeds was born, and subsequently it became all the rage among estate owners to commission their special tweeds. 

Two of the main families of tweeds are Clan Tartan Tweeds and Estate Tweeds, but what’s the difference? Think of it this way:
  1. Tweed is the general category that includes both varieties.
  2. A Clan Tartan identified the members of the same family no matter where they live. (Family based)
  3. An Estate Tweed used to identify people who live and work in the same estate, regardless of whether they are related or not. (Location based)
So, do you understand the difference between tartan and tweed?

In short, both tartan and tweed are twill fabrics and both are woven in the Outlander Tartan Shawl tradition. The two fabrics are woven in traditional patterns that have meaning to a particular house, estate, region or clan. A tartan can be a tweed, but most tweeds are not tartans. Tweed or tartan, you can not go wrong with a well made wool scarf, hat, bag or kilt.

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