Weaving a Plaid (Not a Tartan)

Posted by Jenni Shah on

This post originally appeared on one of my other sites Jens Dabbles in July 2013:  

Having finished my first weaving project (a patchwork TV blanket using a cardboard loom), weaving a twill was the next step.  My love of Scotland comes from many places, but mostly my grandfather’s heritage and a love of Diana Gabaldon’s books.

I spent a bit of time researching twills and tartans on the web, but my greatest discovery was that while a tartan is a plaid, a plaid is not necessarily a tartan.  Well that’s clear, isn’t it!  According to ‘The Sett and Weaving of Tartans’ by Mary E. Black a tartan is a registered pattern, specific to a clan or sept and strictly woven in a 2-2 twill, whereas a plaid may be woven in a plain or twill weave in any design desired.

I had picked out a group of yarns at the craft shop that I liked without a specific project in mind, but once the notion of tartans popped into my mind there was no going back.  I came across an on-line tartan designing program on the ScotWeb Tartan Mill website and had a play with the colours I had – here was the result:

Tartan Design

I noted down the number of threads in each colour and set about rigging up my new picture frame loom with the weft design.  There were MANY false starts – five in total I think.  My first mistake was not having enough wefts – it wasn’t dense enough and the twill pattern didn’t show clearly.  I tried a 1-1 simple weave, a 2-1 twill and the final 2-2 twill.  I doubled the warps and then finally quadrupled the warps.  So in the end I had 200 odd warp threads on my 50-nail loom.  It was laborious!  Hand threading (with my long upholstery needle) two-up-two-down took forever!  (Actually, I just looked at the date stamps on the photos and it only took two weeks!)  Anyway, here is the process and the result.

The process of weaving a plaid design on a home made frame loom


A QUICK P.S. from November 2014.

I wove this project nearly 18 months ago.  50+ projects later and I am hooked on weaving (and selling my weaving through Wrapt Weaving). This plaid remains one of my favourites, and I wanted to share as small project that I made with the fabric: an iPad sleeve!
Plaid Tablet Sleeve

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  • The Scotweb Tartan Mill site (http://www.scotweb.co.uk/tartandesign/design/) is the best place to go to design your own tartans. Take a look!

    Jen on
  • Hi. Would love to chat about this. I have the Martha Stewart loom from Lionbrand and I have four extenders. I love all things tartan and the very reason I bought this loom is to make small tartany things. Wondering if you see this if you would email me I’d love to chat about where I can get patterns for this loom to make something similar to what you have done. I am an avid knitter but have never woven before. Thanks! Love your work.

  • I love your design. If you ever check this site I would love to talk to you about weaving, possibly get more info on how to make this design.

    Lisa on
  • I love your design! I know it’s been years since you posted this but if you still go on and see this I would love to talk to you about weaving. I’m just starting out and would love some advice.
    Thank you

    Lisa on

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