While we refer to the colder months as “plaid season” thanks to the warm and homey atmosphere it creates (and the fact that it pairs so well with a crackling fireplace), it is a wonderful and stunning fabric to use year-round.
Classic plaids have a traditional feel but can be modernized depending on the chosen color palette.
We have Scottish families living in the 1600s to thank for popularizing the plaids (technically, “tartans”) we know and love today, who wore the patterns and colors to identify their family name and show off their heritage. The history of tartans goes much earlier than the 1600s, in fact, as far back as the third and fourth centuries, according to The Scottish Tartans Museum and Heritage Center.
We don’t know how many different patterns may have truly existed, but quite a few have survived and become quite popular. Let’s dig into a few of our favorites!
Tartan plaid is most certainly the most famous and recognizable member of what we consider today as the plaid family. This pattern is most likely the first that comes to mind when thinking of plaid since we see so many historical tartans and variations of them in the world today. This pattern is comprised of stripes (both vertical and horizontal or diagonal) that cross each other to form different-sized checks.
While generally known today as a more casual fabric (at least here in the U.S.), the addition of metal studs, festive tassels or elegant trim can turn this everyday beauty into a wonderfully highbrow statement for furniture and home accessories.
One of the most recognizable tartans is the Royal Stewart version, which is comprised of contrasting stripes of bold red, bright yellow, blue, green and white. Another popular version is the Black Watch Tartan, which is easily identified by its black, navy and hunter green tones.
Tartan is available in colors outside of these and can be recognized by its uniquely symmetrical pattern. I could go on and on about tartans, but for the sake of this column, I will try to keep it short!
Glen plaid, named after the Glen Urquhart Valley in Scotland, is a style most commonly found in menswear and well-tailored items. This twill pattern consists groups of alternating four light and four dark stripes that cross each other to create its mixed pattern of houndstooth and pin checks throughout the design. This is a fabric you will most commonly find in muted colorways, like black and light gray. We love using this pattern in larger upholstery pieces such as sofas so the small scale can be truly appreciated.