The Highland Textile
By James D. Scarlett
Beginning with a general consideration of tartan as a native textile, entirely manufactured within isolated, self-sufficient communities, Scarlett proceeds with a critical survey of its history.
"Something of a doubtful mist still hangs over these Highland traditions, nor can it be entirely dispelled by the most ingenious researches of modern criticism..." So wrote D.C.Stewart in the Preface to the first edition of The Setts of the Scottish Tartans published in 1950. His definitive work did much to remedy the situation, but subsequent further research made the need for a new book apparent.
The author combines practical experience with a grasp of Highland social history in this book, which although aimed specifically at the amateur tartan-weaver, contains much of which will be of interest to students of either subject. The weaver is provided with precise hints on the special requirements of weaving tartan including threadcounts, accompanied by historical notes for 228 tartans, 142 of them illustrated in glowing colours which seem to reflect the lakes, sky, hills and valleys of Scotland. There are concise and informative articles on tartan pattern, colour, yarn, thread counts, yarn thicknesses and the actual weaving of the cloth.
The basis of any tartan, as the author points out, is a simple two-colour check which may be varied by the addition of over-checks, bands and stripes in contrasting colours so arranged as to give a balanced and harmonious pattern. The author's interest in tartan brought him early into contact with the Scottish Tartans Society and with the late Donald C. Stewart with whom he collaborated over several years in a serious study of the subject, collaboration which resulted in the publication of a number of books, most recently his definitive work Tartan: The Highland Textile. His advice has been sought on the design of new tartans, notably the American Bicentennial, but his main interest is in the old ones. As one of the few specialist handweavers of tartan, he concentrated on making facsimiles and wove a reproduction of a pre-1745 plaid for the National Trust for Scotland's Centre at Culloden. In 1994 he handed his extensive archive, covering about one hundred years of serious tartan research, to the Highland Regional Archive for its preservation and for the benefit of future students.
Hardcover, 204 pages, color
6.5 x 9 inches