Your Guide to Plaids
What’s the difference between “tartan” and a “plaid”? Tartan is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. Tartans originated in woven wool, but now they are made in many other materials. Tartan is particularly associated with Scotland, and Scottish kilts almost always have tartan patterns. “Plaid” is the North American term for this textile pattern.
Common Plaid Patterns:
Glen Plaid: Glen plaid (short for Glen Urquhart plaid) or Glenurquhart check is a woollen fabric with a woven twill design of small and large checks. It is usually made of black/grey and white, or with more muted colours, particularly with two dark and two light stripes alternate with four dark and four light stripes which creates a crossing pattern of irregular checks. Glen plaid as a woven pattern may be extended to cotton shirting and other non-woollen fabrics.
Tartan Plaid: Tartan is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. Tartans originated in woven wool, but now they are made in many other materials. Tartan is particularly associated with Scotland. Scottish kilts almost always have tartan patterns. Tartan is often called plaid in North America, but in Scotland, a plaid is a tartan cloth slung over the shoulder as a kilt accessory, or a plain ordinary blanket such as one would have on a bed.
Window Pane Plaid: The windowpane check is a pattern that resembles the pattern of panes on a window. The stripes that cross to form windowpane checks are often thicker and farther apart than the pattern found in graph checks.
Check Plaid: Check-patterned fabrics display bands in two or more colours in woven cloth. Checks are traditionally associated with Scotland where woven dyed wool was, at one time, a principal cloth. District checks were created as camouflage for moving inconspicuously on the laird’s lands. The checks are associated with a specific area as opposed to the tartan of a family or clan. Checks are also used as distinctive patterns for woven cloth in modern designs.
Houndstooth Plaid: Houndstooth originated in woven wool cloth of the Scottish Lowlands, but are now used in many other materials. The traditional houndstooth check is made with alternating bands of four dark and four light threads in both warp and weft/filling woven in a simple 2:2 twill, two over/two under the warp, advancing one thread each pass.
In an early reference to houndstooth, De Pinna, a New York City–based men’s and women’s high-end clothier founded in 1885, included houndstooth checks along with gun club checks and Scotch plaids as part of its 1933 spring men’s suits collection.
Gingham Plaid: Gingham is a medium-weight balanced plain-woven fabric made from dyed cotton or cotton-blend yarn. It is made of carded, medium or fine yarns, where the coloring is on the warp yarns and always along the grain (weft). Gingham has no right or wrong side with respect to color.
Tatersall Plaid: Tattersall describes a check or plaid pattern woven into cloth. The pattern is composed of regularly-spaced thin, even vertical warpstripes, repeated horizontally in the weft, thereby forming squares.
The stripes are usually in two alternating colours, generally darker on a light ground. The cloth pattern takes its name from Tattersall’s horse market, which was started in London in 1766. During the 18th century at Tattersall’s horse market blankets with this checked pattern were sold for use on horses.
Today tattersall is a common pattern, often woven in cotton, particularly in flannel, used for shirts or waistcoats. Traditional shirts of this cloth are often used by horseback riders in formal riding attire, and adorned with a stock tie.
Madras Plaid: Madras is a lightweight cotton fabric with typically patterned texture and plaid design, used primarily for summer clothing such as pants, shorts, dresses, and jackets. The fabric takes its name from the former name of the city of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. This cloth also was identified by the colloquial name, “Madrasi checks.”
Madras today is available as plaid patterns in regular cotton, seersucker and as patchwork madras. Patchwork madras is fabric that is derived from cutting several madras plaid fabrics into strips, and sewing them back together as squares of 3 inch sizes, that form a mixed pattern of various plaids crisscrossing. As a fabric, it is notable because the front and back of the fabric are indistinguishable.
(Definitions sourced from Wiki.)
Image via Tweed Fox