It’s that time of year again…time to get out the wool and get cozy. We’ve just received an order from Scottish knitwear and textile designer Donna Wilson, including her whimsical fox scarf made from a newly created tartan pattern.
Earlier this year, Donna was asked to design an exclusive tartan for Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the area where she grew up. Her creation is fresh and contemporary, yet grounded in the heritage and traditions of tartan as an iconic Scottish design.
Donna Wilson’s tartan fox available at Galerie CO (source: Donna Wilson)
When people think of the tartan, most think of the colourful pattern of the iconic cloth of the Scottish Highlands. It is a wool-woven cloth with a horizontal and vertical criss-cross design in multiple colours. Highland tartans are associated with specific clans, regions, districts and even families and institutions associated in some way with a Scottish heritage. In Canada, most provinces, territories and several counties and municipalities have an official tartan. So does the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
A display of highland dress (source: Visit Scotland)
Originally, the word “tartan” described the way that the thread was woven to make the cloth: each thread passed over two threads then under two threads, and so on. The pattern is formed by woven bands of different coloured yarns crossing each other and forming intermediate shades. With six yarns this will produce a total of 21 different colours – the pure ones where the same colours cross each other and complementary half tones where each colour crosses another.
The attributes of tartan are thus well-suited to the talents of a textile designer who understands design structure and can combine colours with artistic flair. Add to that someone who is fully aware of the important role that tartan plays as a quintessential and iconic symbol of Scotland, its national dress, and in the family histories of the Scottish people and their descendants around the world–and a perfect designer for tartan emerges.
So it make complete sense that Donna Wilson would be asked to design the exclusive tartan for her home county of Aberdeenshire.
Designing a tartan for Aberdeenshire is a huge honour, especially as a Scottish designer,” said Wilson. “Tartan is such an important part of our tradition and heritage, and we should never lose that. I hope to be able to make a difference to the manufacturers who will be weaving it and create something that will be a lasting symbol of Aberdeenshire.” (Uppercase Magazine)
The Aberdeenshire Council asked her to create a tartan fabric that celebrates the area’s craft heritage.
Donna displaying the finished product (source: Donna Wilson blog, Twigs and Leaves)
Donna set about the task, first by collaborating with Aberdeenshire school children. She ran a series of workshops with local school children and asked them to identify colours that they felt best represented the area they lived in. She combined these suggestions with colours she drew directly from Aberdeenshire’s cultural heritage and natural surroundings to create the patterns in the material.
Some colourful submissions from the children of Aberdeenshire (source: Donna Wilson blog, Twigs and Leaves)
To be a true Aberdeenshire tartan, the design needed to have input from local people to find out what colours really represented the area and who better to do that than our young people? I loved working with them and I hope that being part of a process like this will inspire them to think about the possibilities of a career in the creative industries.” (Donna Wilson in The Scotland Herald)
You can see the process unfold here:
As a result of the workshops, the following seven colours were selected for the final design, a palette that reflected the natural beauty of the region:
Final colour choices to feature in the tartan (source: Donna Wilson blog, Twigs and Leaves)
Old Meldrum: A gold/copper inspired by the stills at the Glengarioch Distillery, and as one pupil pointed out—it’s also the colour of whisky!
Stonehaven: A pinky red seen in Aberdeenshire sunsets, and a colour often spotted at the infamous ‘Aunt Betty’s’ sweetshop in Stonehaven.
Aboyne: A frosty lichen green found in the Ladywood Forest.
Fraserburgh: A lilac/blue symbolizing the seas and skies around Fraserburgh.
Kintore: A forest green from all the woodlands around Kintore.
Harvest: A barley colour that reminded Donna of the farm where she grew up, and her favourite time of year.
Peterhead: A minty green from the seas and sea spray of Peterhead.
An inspiration for “Harvest” (source: Donna Wilson blog, Twigs and Leaves)
The tartan is woven from 100 % lambs wool in a Scottish mill, which spins its own yarn directly from the fleeces and uses it to weave the textiles.
The tartan that emerged is a beautiful representation of the region. It is available to purchase by the metre from Donna Wilson. It’s also available in her whimsical fox-shaped scarf, which is available at Galerie CO.
Donna Wilson’s tartan design for Aberdeenshire (source: Donna Wilson)