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Tartan Weaving in Highland Life








Originally the only recording activity would be similar to those in other cultural activities such as musicians and storytellers. Patterns would spread by diffusion according to interest and popularity.

Recording would be through memory, cloth samples and possibly threads tied to sticks (used warp beams). Types of tartan would not exist, and the local wool and dyes available would limit the ambition of a weaver and wearer to certain colours.

Rescuing Tartan from Extinction

After the rebellion of Charles Edward Stuart, Highland expression and the Tartan in particular was prohibited by law. The growing Highland Regiments were amongst the few allowed to wear it, largely in new patterns.

Weaving became commercial at Wilson's of Bannockburn where fortunately many older designs survived on their books. As tartan became legal, the gentry responded to the impending loss of Highland traditions and sponsored a number of institutions, fashions and research activities that coincided with a burgeoning Romantic movement which was driven on by Sir Walter Scott's writing.

Not only were many traditional tartan designs "saved" through these recordings but also many invented patterns, new colourings and new concepts such as Clan Tartans arose. Most traditional tartan patterns became fixed and named at this time.