The earliest looms used in Scotland were probably the very plain, old-fashioned vertical (upright) looms, similar to those used quite recently by the Navaho Indians in North America. Threads (the warp or the length of the cloth) were fixed, with short spaces in between, along a frame of wood, and were held with a weight at the base. The thread (weft) could then simply be darned across this. Of course, this made very slow work. These "vertical" looms were replaced in Europe by "horizontal" looms from the 19th century. The horizontal warp threads were used with treadle & foot pedals - leaving the weaver's hands free to throw the shuttle across and through the bridge of warp threads.

Eventually, the making of tartans became a cottage industry - as in the villages of Kilbarchan, near Glasgow, and Comrie in Perthshire. Tartan was made on hand looms in many of the cottages. It was sold to customers all over the country. However, the cottage weaving business soon became less important during the mid-nineteenth century, with the beginning of power-looms. These were used by firms like Wilson's of Bannockburn, one of the main tartan makers of the 19th century.