Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Plaid revisited

1. A rectangular woollen scarf of a tartan pattern worn over the left shoulder by Scottish Highlanders.
a. Cloth with a tartan or checked pattern.
b. A pattern of this kind.

Tartan and plaid wool fabrics go back a long way in British history - the ancient Celts of Boudica's Iron Age era wove checked textiles, which we think they wrapped and draped around their bodies and shoulders very much like the Scots wear their tartan fabric in kilts today. 

Top fashion designers, too, periodically use checks in their collections. Vivienne Westwood has always been fascinated by tartan, from the original punk designs for her Sex shop in the 70s to the Anglomania collections. Westwood even designed her own tartan, Mac Andreas, named for her husband, in 1993. Seen represented in a UK stamp design, this outfit is famous for Naomi Campbell's fall from grace on the catwalk.

The Pre-Fall and Winter 2013/4 collections are full of the look - lots of tartans and draped check fabrics worn on top of each other from Chanel, and angled checks from Junya Watanabe. I love these multi-layered tartans and pattern mixes - it's probably a throw back to my days as a punk.

Chanel Pre-fall 2013
Chanel Pre-fall 2013
Watanabe A/W 2013/14

But what if you want a simpler look? To give a more sophisticated nod to the story, my tartan and kilt inspired Plaid Scarf gives an understated extra layer. Focusing on texture in one colour, with an interesting-to-knit angled construction, it was designed for Knit Now magazine, for their Best of British issue, where the magazine celebrates all things home-grown and sheepy.

Photo by Dan Walmsley 
It suits both men and women, and I love that Knit Now magazine have shown it on a man. It’s a really versatile design that can also be draped and fastened with a pin - try a lucky heather brooch or traditional kilt pin.

A little bit about the yarn - Blacker Swan Falkland Islands DK is a joint venture between Blacker Yarns and the Swan Inlet Farm near Stanley on the Falkland Islands, where Andrez and Ali Short herd their merino sheep on horseback across the tree-less landscape. It is a beautifully soft and squishy yarn to knit with, highly recommended for when you need good stitch definition, and comes in a range of natural-inspired colours. Loads more information and a list of stockists are available from the Blacker Yarns website.

And, to end with more stamps, these from the
Falkland Islands in 1976 show the sheep
farming industry there at the time

Knit Now issue 19 is due out 7th March 2013.

Buy Knit Now magazine from all good newsagents, supermarkets or direct from the website, here. Or alternatively, you can now buy a digital copy via the new app for iPhone and iPad. 

See the whole range of Great British Fashion stamps, issued in 2012, here.

Vivienne Westwood's 1993 tartan design Mac Andreas can be seen at the Tartan Register, here.


  1. I love reading about / seeing your inspiration for this scarf. I am knitting a giant checked blanket at the moment, so tartan is very much on my mind. I will definitely be making this scarf once I find some suitable squishy red wool

  2. Ooh, wonderful - I wouldn't mind seeing your finished blanket. Are you working to a published pattern, or your own design?

  3. The next one along is definitely about memory and loss..............saw your work at Slack Space, liked it.

  4. Hi Anni, Julie Howe sent me and glad she did. An interesting pattern and I like the name for obvious reasons. Are you on 'Ravelry'?

  5. Hi, yes I am annihoward on Ravelry, and a page of my latest designs can be seen at http://www.ravelry.com/designers/anni-howard. I have started a group - not much going on there, admittedly, but I do post up details of new designs when they are published. http://www.ravelry.com/groups/anni-howard--friends
    Thanks for popping by. x