Traditional Scottish Tartans Made Into Modern Quilts

Posted by Kathy Allen on Aug 22nd 2018

Scotland is a magical place decorated in tartan, or what we Americans call plaid. Their walls, their carpets, their clothes, their everything! After my husband and I visited in 2014, I knew I wanted to make a tartan quilt. Alas, there were no patterns, and I couldn’t figure out how to get around the complex geometry without sewing individual pieces together.

Then, at a 2015 quilting retreat in Bodega Bay, California, the technique struck me like a lightning bolt! When I returned home, I made a table runner to see if the idea worked, and if I liked it. It DID work! And I DID like it! I scoured the registry of Scotland’s tartans, and picked out seven that would lend themselves to becoming quilt patterns. Then, with my newly-defined algorithm, I did the math so that other tartan quilters wouldn’t have to. Shown here, top to bottom, left to right, are Hannay (my husband’s favorite), Maitland (a derivative of the Lauder clan’s tartan), Barclay (hugely popular in Britain for coats and boots), and Maxwell (my sister-in-law’s clan).

There are eight patterns in my book, Modern Scot Patchwork, and three of these can easily be made by beginners. Each pattern has instructions for several sizes from table runners to king-size quilts. I also introduce a new size: the sports lap quilt, which is perfect for a cold night in the bleachers.

It’s not necessary to stick with traditional colors, as my niece, Sydney Wright, can attest. Evidence: below, on the left is my quilt in traditional colors for the Macrae of Conchra and on the right, Sydney’s version. Both are square lap quilts. The beauty of Sydney’s quilt is that it appeals to younger quilters.

I invite you to join me in a little Scottish quilt-making.

Of course, while I was in Scotland, I wasn’t always thinking of quilting.

For more on traveling, quilting, and a bit of history, follow Quilts by Kat on Facebook and Instagram, or go to my website at www.Quiltsbykat.com . If you have any questions while making one of these tartan-inspired quilts, just message me on any of these social media venues.

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