Scotland’s oldest tartan recreated

Scotland’s specialist manufacturer and distributor of tartan fabrics and Highlandwear accessories, The House of Edgar, has recreated the oldest-known piece of Scottish tartan ever found, which was buried for centuries. Discovered approximately forty years ago in a peat bog, the Glen Affric Tartan underwent testing organised by The Scottish Tartans Authority last year to confirm it was the oldest surviving piece of tartan, dating from 1500-1600 AD and went on to be exhibited at the V&A Dundee. Although earlier cloths have been discovered in Scotland, this is the first to show a distinctive tartan pattern with multiple crossing lines of different dyed yarns.

The team at Macnaughton Holdings have reconstructed the Glen Affric tartan to continue to its legacy.

The House of Edgar, home to some of the finest and most respected craftspeople in the industry, worked under the guidance of Peter Macdonald, tartan historian and Head of Research & Collections at the Scottish Tartans Authority to recreate the Glen Affric tartan for people to wear as it could have been when it was first dyed then woven. It features the colours that dye analysis of the original tartan had confirmed – this included the use of green, yellow and red, which would have come from woad or indigo to create the green along with other natural dyes. This, along with the determined thread count, helped The House of Edgar bring this piece of Scottish history back to life.

Emma Wilkinson, the Designer for House of Edgar who worked on the project commented: “I create new tartans every day but this project is truly special – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to recreate a piece of history. Tartan is such an iconic piece of Scotland’s identity and it has been a true pleasure to see this fabric come back to life to be enjoyed for generations to come.”

Reach back in time and touch history

Emma Wilkinson, Designer, House of Edgar & Peter MacDonald, Head of Research & Collections, The Scottish Tartans Authority.

Peter E MacDonald, Head of Research & Collections at The Scottish Tartans Authority, said: “It was a privilege to examine the Glen Affric specimen which represents an extraordinary survivor of our textile history. The dye-analysis, Carbon14 dating and a detailed study of the piece, together with a collaboration with House of Edgar, has brought back to life a tartan that allows us to reach back in time and touch history. It is quite special to see the tartan remade as it could have been 500 years ago.”

The reconstructed tartan is included along with 28 contrastingly new tartans in The House of Edgar’s new collection entitled Seventeen Eighty Three, the year in which the company first started textile production. James Wylie, Assistant Curator from the V&A Dundee, added: “The Glen Affric tartan took the world by storm when it was revealed prior to the opening of V&A Dundee’s Tartan exhibition and continued to be a major draw for many visitors over the months. I am delighted that V&A Dundee could contribute to the preservation of this significant artefact. More so, I am excited its legacy can now live on through the studious efforts of The Scottish Tartans Authority and House of Edgar in reinterpreting its design, for the enjoyment and interest of all who cherish tartan’s historic allure.”

The new Glen Affric tartan is available for businesses to purchase from The House of Edgar and the public can request it from any Highlandwear supplier, with a percentage of all sales going to The Scottish Tartans Authority to support its work preserving the fabric of the nation.

Main photo: From left to right: James Wylie, Assistant Curator, V&A Dundee; Peter MacDonald, Head of Research & Collections, The Scottish Tartans Authority; Nick Statt, Sales Director, House of Edgar; John McLeish, Chair, The Scottish Tartans Authority and Emma Wilkinson, Designer, House of Edgar.

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