Tartans come in a wide variety of colours, patterns and meanings. Some of them are available to buy “off the shelf” from Scottish weaving mills. Others, existing but less common tartans, are not stocked, and have to be woven specifically for you. But today, we are going to focus on the ones that you can’t “buy”, because they don’t exist yet! We are talking about bespoke, personnal tartans, that will be designed, created and woven just for you!
As kiltmakers, we have a deep love for kilts, obviously, but also for tartans. We have worked with dozens of them, and are always learning something new when creating a kilt with one that we have never used before! There is something quite magical about it and the way different colours of yarn, number of threads, repetition (and absence!) of stripes and blocks can change a design drastically. We had been wanting to create our own tartan designs, but had yet to find the right project for it.
Designing the H. family Tartan
At the end of 2021, we started working on our first tartan design project, for a lovely soon-to-be-married couple based in France. N. is a piper and plays in a pipeband. His future wife and him both share a deep love for Scotland and its culture. They came to us to design their own family tartan, and create a kilt, a skirt, and quite a few accessories and gifts, to reveal this incredibly special project to their loved ones at the occasion of their wedding! How exciting!
After they initially gave us an idea of what colours they wanted (and their meaning) with some structural elements that they liked, or didn’t like, in existing tartans, we had a good idea of where to start. As kiltmakers, we also had in mind to create a tartan that would not only look stunning, but also be well structured and proportionnaly adapted to the making of a traditional kilt.
Within a few days, we sent them a several tartan designs proposals. These designs all incorporated their initial instructions, but all looked intentionaly very different from one another. Some were brighter, others darker, some were quite “busy”, others had a more simple design. These obvious differences helped them understand what did or did not resonate with them. Their feedback allowed us to keep refining the design (some latest design proposals shown below).
It was really exciting to come up with new ideas, and tweak them to find the perfect balance. Adding a stripe, removing a couple of threads, changing slightly a color, or switching two blocks, all these little details offered new creative possibilities. We worked with them on the design itself for a few weeks, until we settled on a design that looked fantastic and matched exactly their hopes.
Bringing the tartan to life
Once our customers were happy with the look of their future tartan, and that we had made sure that the structure and proportions matched our standards as kiltmakers, we started working with our trusted Scottish weavers!
After adjusting the technical side of things, we had one last choice to make, before proceeding of the actual weaving. Two shades of brown yarns looked great, so the mill sent us a couple of printed versions of our design along with yarn samples, so that customers could make a final decision. We all agreed on the darker shade of brown, that was going to create some deep and beautiful contrasts on the tartan.
Two months later (which felt very long, as our excititment kept growing), 32 meters of our tartan were on our doorstep!
We could not yet share images on our social medias, as the whole project had to be kept secret until mid-September… But this was a truly magical moment, which filled us with joy and pride. The cloth was incredibly beautiful, the colours were joyful, deep, and very accurate. It truly felt as if our digital design had just stepped out of our computers’ screen to become this beautiful, striking length of wool, made with the best of Scottish craftsmanship.
From a length of cloth to a handmade kilt (and more!)
Our customers were really impatient to get their hands on it, but we were not due to go back to France to deliver it for over a month! During that time, we made N.’s kilt and fly plaid, B.’s sash, as well as keyrings, bow ties and pockets squares that were going to delight their wedding guests.
As we do with all our customers, we sent pictures and videos of the making of every garment and accessory to our customers, so they could both follow the progress of their exciting project, and make decisions to have everything made exactly as they wanted it!
In June, it was time for us to head to France, taking with us our customer’s creations and about 20 meters of their tartan. We were as excited as them to deliver this very special order! The biggest reward was to see their reaction when they discovered the tartan as well as N. trying on his kilt for the first time. Everything fitted perfectly and looked stunning on him!
After a few hours reflecting on this tartan creation journey, and discussing what was still to be made for their big day, including B.’s tartan skirt and their baby’s kilt, we left their home, with a feeling of utter contentment.
Last, but not least, we had their tartan officially registered, to the Scottish Register of Tartans. While this is not a necessity to register your tartan to have it woven, it was important for N. and B. and for us. Their tartan is now officially recorded, among over 13 000 other registered tartans!
Final thoughts on designing and weaving a bespoke tartan
Being part of these lovely people’s wedding had been an immense joy and surely one of the biggest highlight of 2022. N. and B. came as customers and became friends along the way. We are very grateful that they trused us with this lifetime project, and we cannot wait to see how they (and their family!) will keep wearing and using their family tartan in the future.
We loved guiding N. and B. through the whole process, a wonderful and rewarding journey that can be really daunting when done alone. Designing a tartan is no small project, and many parameters have to be taken in account. If you’re thinking about having your own tartan designed, let us guide you and put our expertise, creativity, knowledge and network of trusted partners at your service. Get in touch, and we’ll help you make this dream project come true!
Mathilde and Jonathan