Choosing a Tartan

Posted on September 13 2016


Which tartan can I wear? The short answer is: ‘Any one you like!’ Some folk prefer to choose their tartan by family name, others choose by historic connection to a name or place, while the rest simply choose a tartan in colours that take their fancy.

See our page on 'Which Tartan Can I Wear' for more info.


The easiest way to find our tartan is to perform a search for your family name, or related clan. For example, a search for 'Macdonald' reveals all the variations of the numerous Macdonald tartans available. We've also included an A-Z reference if you want to browse our full range of tartans. When you've chosen a particular tartan, such as Macdonald Modern, you will be able to see the different cloths available in that tartan.

Weights of Tartan

The weight of the tartan refers to the thickness of the yarn used to weave the cloth. The thicker the yarn, the wider the tartan pattern (sett) and the heavier the cloth.

A standard dress kilt is usually made in 13oz material, with 11oz offering a lighter weight alternative and 16oz/18oz offering a heavier and more durable garment.

Tartan Photos

The photos we have are supplied by the mills that produce the cloths. As such, the way they are photographed varies from one mill to another, and you may find that two Macdonald Modern tartans look very different in the photos, but in reality they will be quite similar.

The amount of the tartan sett shown in the photo does not relate to the actual size of the tartan sett. The size of the tartan sett is controlled by the thickness of the yarn used to make it.

Virtually all House of Edgar images are computer generated, not actual photographs of the cloths; this means that the colours can appear brighter or more saturated than the actual cloths.

Differences Between Mills

All tartans from all mills will follow the same colour pattern as registered with the Scottish Tartans Authority and therefore should look very similar. Slight variations will occur from selection of substances used to dye the yarns that each mill uses, and even in different batches of cloth from the same mill.

We work with a number of mills to offer a large selection of cloths. Each mill produces a slightly different quality of cloth, and this is reflected in the price that they charge. Lower priced cloths may be made from recycled yarns which over the lifetime of your kilt, may not wear as durably as some of the higher priced cloths. While this is unlikely to make much difference for the occasional kilt wearer, it may be noticeable over time if you wear your kilt regularly.

Single Width vs Double Width

Traditionally mills produced cloth in looms over 50" wide, resulting in cloths of 55" to 65" wide. When making a kilt, the 60" cloth is cut down the middle resulting in two lengths of cloth of roughly 30" wide (hence the name double width). Some mills are now producing cloth in single width of around 30". Although this cloth is cheaper per metre (as it's only half as wide), it takes twice the length of cloth to make a kilt from a single width fabric. We use approximately 7.4 metres of single width fabric or 3.7 metres of double width fabric to make an 8 yard kilt.

The only difference in the finished product will be that all kilts made from double width cloth will have a seam to join the two bits of cloth together. This is usually in the middle of the 8 yards, and ends up being hidden by a pleat. This was standard practice, until single width cloths starting becoming more popular.

The downside of single width fabrics is that some products, such as plaids, cannot be made as the cloth is not wide enough. A plaid usually features the full width of the fabric, so plaids made from single width cloths have a seam down the middle, and as such, are not recommended.


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