Finding the Name of a Tartan using our Colour Search

Posted by admin 04/06/2020 0 Comment(s)

It happens to us a lot: you find a piece of tartan, but can’t for the life of you remember what one it is. Is that a MacDonald of Clanranald, or a Cameron of Erracht? A MacKenzie or a Robertson? To save us trawling through all the pattern books, we’ve developed a powerful programme to help identify all the commercially available tartans.


You may have used the Tartan Finder on this site, where you can fire a name into the search function and we show you all the options.



Well this system works backwards too. You’ll find the full version of the programme at Once there go to the tartan finder.

Say we used this Hepburn Muted as an example.


We can search for this using the base colours and the stripe colours. With some tartans it’s not always clear where a base colour becomes a stripe, so we’ve done our best to factor this into the programme. Here we have a dark red base, with blue, green, black and dark yellow stripes.



If you don’t get a hit first time just try changing the blue for dark blue. But, trying all these colours brings up five results first time, and, bingo, there’s our Hepburn muted.




Ok, we hear you say, that’s fine for tartans with lots of different colours, what about all those bluey-greeny tartans? Yes, that’s certainly more of a challenge. Because sooooo many tartans in the nineteenth century took their lead from the famous Black Watch Tartan (Gordon Modern, for example is essentially Black Watch plus a yellow stripe), searching for a dark green and dark blue base, with a black stripe, yields 449 results!



There’s a couple of advanced features we can use at this point to narrow things down a bit. If you click the ‘additional options’ button, we can then search via mill, weight and colourway. If you have a mystery piece of cloth in your hand, you probably won’t know the mill, but because most of the mills produce many of the same tartans you can select one of these to narrow things down. Again, you may not know the exact cloth weight of the fabric in your hands, but you might be able to tell if it’s heavyweight or not. Again, as so many tartans are reproduced between weights, it might not hurt selecting one to flush away the duplicates. Finally the colour way can be very helpful. Most Tartans are divided into Ancient and Modern. This has nothing to do with how old they are, this is a reference to the colour pallete. As a rule of thumb, Ancient are brighter, Modern darker. We’ll go into more detail on this in a separate blog.


Left, MacIntyre Hunting Ancient, Right, MacIntrye Hunting Modern, both Lochcarron Reiver Lightweight cloth.


So if we select these options we narrow things down to a much more manageable number, then you can scroll through the results until you find your pattern.



PS Still can’t find that tartan? Well there are lots of non-commercially available tartans, either discontinued ranges, special weaves, specific band or company tartans, as well as a bazillion fashion tartans that come and go. If you’ve not found it using our system, then try the Register of Tartans here. You’ll be able to find things quickly with our system, with theirs you’ll be able to pin down the more obscure things.

MKP 4 June 2020