Mad for Plaid

Linda Seeger Interior Design designed this bench with some really amazing plaid (or shall we say tartan) fabric. It is the small details, like petite polished nickel nailheads at the base and COM legs in a portobello finish that adding to its uniqueness and beauty!

Are you ready for this weeks lesson? What is the history of plaid?

To be precise, the pattern we know as plaid is actually called “tartan.” Tartans are weaves of alternating bands woven at right angles, while “plaid” originally referred to the heavy woolen clothes that bore this pattern. Scots would use them as blankets or would sling them over their shoulders. When tartan crossed the sea to the New World, “plaid” and tartan became synonymous.

Tartans are older than you think. In The Mummies of Ürümchi, archeologist Elizabeth Wayland Barber describes the discovery of the Cherchen Man, a corpse unearthed from the mountains of Central Asia. Surprisingly, the mummified body was found in well-preserved textiles in a very familiar pattern. He wore “a twill tunic and tartan leggings,” and could be dated back to the 8th century BC.

Plaid as we know it, however, emerged in Scotland in the 1700s. Geographically separated weavers produced different patterns based on which dyes and materials were available. The specific associations with families and clans came much later—and after that they grew to have political significance, too.

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