As a child growing up, I used two terms for fabric with a pattern of squares - checks or checkered, and tartan. No one ever explained the difference, and I never thought to ask. Basically, if it was a simple pattern with no overlapping squares, I called them checks, and if the pattern was more complex, with overlapping squares and lines, to me the fabric was tartan.
In recent years, I'vs seen another term added to the mix - plaid. I've seen fabrics labelled as plaid, when I thought they were checkered. And I've also seen fabrics labelled as plaid, when I would have called them tartan. My childhood perceptions needed questioning and research, to find the correct terms.
According to Wikipedia...
A check is a pattern of modified stripes consisting of crossed horizontal and vertical lines forming squares.Tartan is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours.
Plaid is a cloth made with a tartan pattern wrapped around the waist and cast over the shoulder and fastened at the front.
Apparently, plaid is the North American word for tartan.
Therefore the shorts above would be checkered, while the 60s skirt below would be plaid if you live in North America, and tartan for the rest of us. I'm not sure if the 60s dress comes into the tartan/plaid category.
However, it seems it's not that simple. There's lots of discussion online, with varying opinions.
- Whether the vertical and horizontal stripes are the same or not, determines whether a pattern is a plaid or a tartan. House Beautiful Interview
- Tartan is the name for the cloth and plaid is the name for the particular pattern. - Dictionary.com
- Plaid refers to the clothing, no matter what the pattern of the fabric is. Tartan is the pattern. - Xmarksthescot.com
- Checkered is usually squares of two different colours. Plaid is a pattern consisting of crossed horizontal and vertical bands... Tartan is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands... Enjoy Bedding
- Tartan plaid is the pattern that is most often found on Scottish kilts. Alexander West
- Plaid is a garment. Tartan is the actual pattern of cloth the garment is made from. - The Dainty Dollhouse
It seems that over time, meanings have changed depending on location. Originally, plaid was a blanket type garment wrapped around the waist and draped over the shoulder. Plaids were usually made from a fabric with a tartan pattern.
Tartan is a particular pattern that we associate with Scotland, from whence it originated. The method of weaving forms lines where different colours cross, which give the appearance of new colours in squares blended from the original colours.
Over time and depending on location, plaid and tartan have become interchangeable.
Checkered fabric is woven in such a way that the pattern is made of solid squares, without separate lines. Although I have seen checkered fabric and plaid called the same thing, I have been unable to find any references while researching this post.
Language is continually changing and evolving. Location is a big factor in how words change in meaning. For example: flip flops in the U.S. are thongs in Australia. Thongs in the U.S. are G-strings in Australia.
I'd like to open this topic up for discussion.
- How do you define checks, plaid and tartan in your corner of the world?
- What would you call the patterns on each of the three garments on this page?
This is most definitely the last pair of shorts I'll be making for several months. The weather is rapidly cooling down!!!
These shorts have been made using the Mud Puddle Splashers by Fishsticks Designs. I modified the pattern to add a band at the hemline. There's an option in the pattern for a cuff, but I wanted a contrasting fabric. It was just a matter of shortening the pattern and adding the band, the same as when I modified the Sunny Day Shorts to add a band.
- shorts for charity sewing
- denim shorts with stitching
- shorts refashioned from pants
- shorts with fabric designed at Spoonflower
- board shorts refashion
- decorative stitching on pockets and hem
Language changing and evolving is not a new thing. We no longer speak as Shakespeare did. I suspect that our online world today will make the changes take a new direction.