Author Archives: Fergus

About Fergus

Technologist. Businessman. Petrolhead.

What Does Tartan Mean To You?

Ask anyone around the globe what being Scottish means to them and you’ll get any number of stereotypical responses. Bagpipes are a popular choice, naturally enough. Sports fans might tell you about golf and rugby, film buffs might shout ‘FREEDOM!’ in your face, but almost everyone will tell you that tartan is a big part of Scottish identity, on a national and international level.

Young's Tartan

Knowing that tartan is Scottish, however, is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this extremely important aspect of Scottish history and contemporary identity. There exist today just under 7, 000 registered clan tartans, and each of them is made using pre-dyed coloured strands of thread. These are then woven as both warp and weft at right angles to each other, giving the chequered effect so widely recognised.  But what do the different patterns and colours really mean?

Several Scottish clans have what is known as clan tartan, meaning that the type and colour of tartan is specific to a Scottish clan. In 1725 the Independent Highland Companies wore a uniform tartan, marking them different from their foes in a very obvious way, and after this time clan tartan became a recognised and official way of standing out from other clans, and uniting your own.

Clan tartan is special and exclusive because the only person who can make a clan’s tartan official is the clan chief. In some clans, the wearing of the clan tartan is allowed only with permission from the chief. The special quality of tartan means that through the years, dating back to Victorian times, it is acceptable (in keeping with tartan etiquette) only to own and wear tartan with which you are in some way associated. You may be the descendant of a clansman, or bear the last name of one of the great clan families, for instance, or you may hail from a country that has its own. Canada, for example, is one of the Commonwealth countries with a national tartan. Some tartans are particularly exclusive. The Balmoral tartan is only to be worn by members of the Royal family, for instance. Similarly, there exist tartans that were designed to be universal. Black Watch tartan, also known as Government, Universal, or Campbell tartan, can be worn by anyone. So too can Hunting, Stewart, Caledonian and Jacobite tartan.

Take an interest in your choice of tartan by doing some genealogical digging, and find the tartan that means something to you.

The Easy Way to Buy a Kilt

Finding your perfect kilt can be a tricky process and can daunt even the most seasoned shopper!

Thankfully, we know lots about kilts, so we can help you along that path. However, it’s important that we try to do that without confusing you with the plethora of options available!

One such confusing option is tartan cloth width. The width of a cloth is literally how wide the fabric comes off the loom. If the mill has very wide loom, you get a very wide cloth, if it has a narrow loom, you get a narrow cloth. The wider the cloth, the bigger you can make garments, without having to stitch two or more pieces together.

In reality there are very few products we sell that need a wide cloth. The most common item which needs a wide cloth is a plaid.

Traditionally, most mills used a wide loom to make cloths about 60″ wide. When making an 8 yard kilt, a kilt maker would purchase only 4 yards of this cloth and cut it down the middle to create two lengths of 4 yards, stitch them end to end and conceal the seam in one of the pleats at the rear of the kilt.

However, one of the largest mills, House of Edgar, switched to making most cloths in single width – around 30″ wide. This is fine for kilts as you just order 8 yards of fabric, but doesn’t suit anything that needs cloth wider than 30″.

We thought it was important for customers to let customers know about this when they were choosing a tartan so on our cloth selection page, we showed a swatch, the mill, the price and the width of the cloth. We also showed the actual price per metre, so single width cloths appeared to be half the price of double width cloths.

We found that this confused more customers than it helped, so have changed the layout of this page to make the width of each cloth less prominent, and have altered the price of single width cloths to display as an effective double width price.

We’ve spoken with some customers about this and we feel the new change makes the step of choosing your cloth that little bit easier. What do you think? Do you need to see the width while you’re choosing a cloth?

The change is now live on our site: check out the Macdonald Modern (my favourite… helps that I’m a Macdonald as well!) and the rest of our tartans and let us know what you think.

Tartan Finder Gets a Facelift

Our tartan finder has been given a makeover, and we think the new look is pretty nice!

So… What’s New?

We’ve put in a search box on all pages, with the A-Z navigation right underneath it. To help you know exactly what you’re searching on, we wrapped the search box in tartan!

We’ve introduced the same navigation bar showing you how many tartans are in your current selection, allowing you to view more or less per page and the page navigation section.

Now the important bit – the actual tartan images! Firstly, we’ve made them larger and square and made them the same size as our product images.

When you select a tartan, you’ll see the cloths available in that tartan. We’ve tidied that up a bit, with a cleaner design.

We’ve also done the same on the individual cloth page.

As always, we hope you like the changes and we love to hear your feedback. Let us know what you think via Facebook, Twitter or by leaving a comment below.

This post is part of a regular series about improvements to our website. Read others here.

Tartan Finder Gets an Update

Our tartan finder has been given some great new features today.

The first one is the new tartan finder homepage:

You can browse tartans by letter, or search for a particular pattern. We’ve also included some links to some of our favourite tartans.

When you’ve chosen a tartan you get a list of products available in that tartan. Our second new feature is that we now show you the important details of the tartan you’ve chosen right at the top of that page.

We hope these new features will help you find your tartan and help you choose just what products you want it to be made into!

Don’t worry… our quest hasn’t stopped here… we have lots more improvements to include in the near future. We’re always looking at ways to make our tartan finder easier to use, and more useful and I’ll make sure to write a post when we roll out our next update.

Let us know what you think of the new updates, or let us know what you’d like our tartan finder to do, by contacting us via Facebook, Twitter or by leaving a comment below.

BBC Children in Need Charity Auction

In support of this year’s BBC Children in Need campaign, we’re starting a charity auction for a leather jacket on eBay.

Children In Need100% of the final sale price will go to Children in Need so check out the auction now, make a bid and you could grab a bargain! I think it will look great with one of our fashion kilts.

It’s the first charity auction we’ve done on eBay and it’s really very easy. You just click a button to say you’d like to donate a percentage of the sale price to the charity of your choice…and it’s all taken care of. Got something to sell? Why not try it out yourself.

EDIT: We’re pleased to say that the auction ended just under £30 and we shipped the jacket off to the happy buyer in the Netherlands!

Updated Measuring Guides

We’ve just put some helpful new measuring guides online which you can find here: Measuring Guides.

We know that it’s difficult buying clothes without trying them on, especially if they’re being custom made for you! However, taking a couple of minutes to get accurate measurements before ordering means that your brand new kilt is much more likely to fit perfectly.

As always, we’d love some feedback on what you think of them. Drop us an email, leave a  comment  or give us a call to let us know how they could be improved.

Musical Partnership

We’ve teamed up with the band Cross the Border to bring you some great new Scottish music.

You can listen to and buy their music via their site here.

I’m a big fan of new artists using new methods to promote their music and you can listen to the whole album on the site for free and share it with others. If you like, you can also purchase their album via CD or download.

My personal favourite is Sake of the Blade:

The RX8 PZ at the Fintray Hillclimb

We were proud to sponsor Peter Locke in his Mazda RX8 PZ at the Fintray Hill Climb a couple of weeks ago.

Peter is a friend of mine that I know through the RX8 Owners Club, so and we were glad to do this with him and we think the logo looks pretty neat on the side of the car!

All the photos above were taken by Flat Out Photography.

A couple of shots taken outside our offices with me standing next to Peter’s car, and both our PZ’s next to each other.

If you are around the Edinburgh area over the next couple of weeks, you might just catch Peter driving around with our lovely graphic on the side of his car!

EDIT: You can view a playlist of videos of the Fintray Hillclimb that took place on 14-15 August 2010 here.

Updates to Tartan Chooser

You may remember that we introduced some changes to our tartan pricing system back in April. We didn’t stop there…we’ve been working hard on making the way you choose a tartan easier and more user friendly and I’m proud to say that we’ve launched a new tartan chooser.

When you’re viewing any product that is custom made for you in any of our tartans, clicking the ‘select a tartan’ link will now open up a tartan chooser panel on the same page. This easy to use panel will help guide you to choosing your perfect tartan.

New Tartan Chooser

To make things easier, we’ve built a help section right into it. If you need more information at any time, simply click the ‘Information’ icon at the top and a help section will slide down giving you more information on what you’re looking at.

Tartan Panel Help Section

We’re always keen to do things better so would love your feedback on how it can be improved or what you like about it.

Tartan Pricing System

This morning we’ve introduced a new system in the way we price products with custom tartans which will make it clearer and easier for our customers to use.

Due to the large number of cloths we offer, the price of our kilts is comprised of 2 factors: the cost of making the kilt and the cloth used to make it. As with all our prices, we aim to be as transparent as possible when calculating retail prices.

Our old system showed the price of products excluding the cost of the cloth. So, an 8 yard kilt would show as £188, and the cloth would add £100-£300 on top of that price. We felt that this was somewhat misleading to our customers who initially thought they might be able to purchase a kilt for £188, and not many people want a kilt made with no cloth! (although we’re happy if you want to supply the cloth yourself).

Today, we’ve introduced a change which makes this a bit clearer.

We now show the price of an 8 yard kilt as the total of the cost to make the kilt and the cost of the cheapest cloth available for that kilt. We display this as ‘From £288′ (using the £188 cost of making the kilt and presuming the cheapest cloth adds £100). We feel this gives you a more accurate starting price when viewing our range of kilts on offer, and a good estimate of what it will cost to have a kilt made for you.

Don’t worry, we’ve not limited our range of cloths available in any way, and you can still have a kilt made in any cloth. Now, when you view our range of tartans, you will see how much it will cost to have your product in that tartan, rather than the price per metre of the cloth. So when viewing the tartans for a 5 yard kilt, you’ll see the range of cloths available with how much each cloth adds to the product (eg +£10, +£50). That way you’ll be able to compare the cost of the kilt in each of the tartans, from each of the mills, a lot more clearly.

Finally, when you save a kilt in your shopping cart and log out, when you log back in again, the tartan you’ve chosen will be remembered.

We hope you’ll find this updated pricing structure useful when purchasing a new kilt outfit, or custom made kilt.

You can see all of this in action on our kilts page.