Plaid Pattern Definition and DesignBrittany Wittman McLaughlin
In its simplest definition, the plaid is a box layout of stripes, usually horizontal and vertical, and almost always crossing at right angles. The simple definition of a check-like arrangement is scarcely descriptive, but plaids have been produced in such a variety of layouts for centuries that a more searching definition might not cover them all. Their origin is in the threads of the loom, the warp set up lengthwise in the weft filling it in horizontally.
Tartans are plaids with a particularly strong association with Scotland. The word ‘plaid’ comes from the Scottish Gaelic for a blanket. Throughout history, Scottish clans have been fiercely proud of its particular woven wool tartan, including a dress tartan and a hunting tartan. This makes tartan plaids unique in the realm of geometric-patterned dress goods, for other geometrics gratify the eye but tend to leave the heart unmoved. Tartans are worn for dress occasions, in mourning, and hunting.
Using plants, roots, and berries to dye the yarns, early tartans were simple patterns of only two or three colors. The people of the district in which they were woven wore these simple plaid patterns. With the evolution of synthetic dyes, weavers were able to produce more elaborate patterns that included vivid colors. Tartans evolved over time by adding an over stripe to the basic design of the parent clan.
In 1822, there was a great tartan revival when King George IV visited Edinburgh and suggested that people attending official functions wear their respective tartans. Today tartans now require registration in the Registers of Lyon Court.
Many tartans are new inventions, capitalizing on an authentic look but lacking Celtic ancestry. Although many plaids are yarn-dyed and woven, many others are printed on cotton and other base fabrics that give the look of a more expensive woven fabric.
Print designers building on the tradition of woven plaids can make patterns into fantasies that the loom cannot manage. Many printed plaids come into their own in bright and witty patterns and color combinations that a weaver could never attempt.
Plaids have been popular for generations and continue to be on-trend in fashion and home furnishing fabrics even today.
See and shop modern plaid pattern designs for interiors on Design Pool Patterns.
Textile Designs: Two Hundred Years of European and American Patterns Organized by Motif, Style, Color, Layout, and Period, Susan Meller and Joost Elffers