Mad for Plaid

I have only a wee bit of Scottish blood, on my mother’s side, but I still find myself drawn to tartans, especially this time of year. 
tartanware1From time to time, I happen upon some fine examples of tartanware on ebay as well as in a nearby antiques shop.  These napkin rings would be just the thing to begin a serious collection of  Scottish tartanware.  Made in the town of Mauchline in southwest Scotland, tartanware is made from the wood of the plane tree, known as the Sycamore here in the United States.  Originally, the tartans were hand-painted on the wood, a time-consuming and expensive process.   Two brothers, William and Andrew Smith, are credited with inventing the machine that was able to reproduce and ink the country’s beloved tartans onto paper.  The paper was then carefully glued onto small wooden household objects, including napkin rings, sewing kits, letter openers and knife sheaths, as well as snuff and card boxes. 

The paper seams were disguised with black paint, and then the entire item was coated with multiple layers of hand-applied shellac, creating a rich patina.  Tartanware was produced in this fashion from the early 1840s until 1933, when the equipment, and subsequently the manufacturing business, was destroyed in a devastating fire.
Although, my fondness for plaid does seem to grow this time of year, as you can see from the photo below, I like tartan well enough year round to have a family room wing chair upholstered in a cheerful Ralph Lauren plaid.IMG_2675
Last year I looked and looked for some good-looking plaid wrapping paper, but to no avail.  All I could find seemed either to have a metallic edge or to be overly red and green, kind of like the paper was trying too hard.  (And, yes, as I write this, I realize how ridiculous it is that I could even bother about such details.)  Nevertheless, this year, as I was wending my way through Target, I came upon this red wrap, which has a lovely muted plaid.  The paper itself is thin, but the rolls are large as well as wide. IMG_2768In a moment of inspiration, I used the paper to cover my Christmas binder, the notebook in which I store decorating ideas, holiday recipes, and so forth.   Looking quite festive, I think! IMG_2773And, although I’ve had them for years, I’ll be sure to don my plaid cheaters for reading Christmas novels and holiday cards.IMG_2772My last dash of plaid this season are these well-loved dinner napkins.  I’m afraid they’re no longer up-to-snuff for company, but we use them for casual family and friends suppers all season long.  Despite their being a bit care-worn around the edges, these napkins are wonderfully soft, and they make an ordinary dinner seem somehow festive.  Surprisingly, they look great with my old Blue Willow English dishware!
If you are still yearning for tartan—or perhaps for the occasion to wear it (um, yes, I have these shoes, too)--then be sure to check out Tartans & Tidings at The Entertaining House

It looks like a terrific  holiday event for  those in the MidAtlantic as well as a great fund-raiser for disadvantaged children in Baltimore.
So, tell me, does the holiday season make you mad for plaid?


  1. Even though there is not an ounce of Scottish blood in me, I adore plaid all through the year!!
    Your readers are just adorable and I know exactly what you mean by wrapping paper 'trying to hard' (maybe we both need some therapy-LOL!!)
    Thank you for the very interesting lesson on tartanware, I am on my way over to the Entertaining House right now!!
    Hope you have a wonderful week!

  2. thanks for the link! Love all things Tartan... my family has a tartan. I'm partial Scott married to an Irishman... really, WHAT was I thinking ;)?

  3. Looking forward to the St. Andrews Society Tartan Ball THIS weekend!

  4. Not ridiculous at all to have that level sensitivity to these details:). I have to say, I love how you do your house up for Christmas.

  5. I think the tartan paper I wrapped with last year was definitely trying too hard! I love the one you got from Target. I'll have to look for it...I was so excited to see your post on tartanware! I only have one piece, a tartan pen knife. I wish I could find more to collect, but it's not so easy to come by. I made a tartan frame out of old RL wallpaper in desperation!


  6. oh I have a small tartanware box from Scotland somewhere! I loved it--have no idea where it is--plaid is so great around the holidays!

  7. I have a small tartanware box I got in Scotland ages ago--plaid is so perfect for the holidays!

  8. i confess that i'm a plaid girl, too, but i
    DO have scottish blood . . . even a
    scottish castle . well, the wall of a
    castle. :)

    one Christmas i read a story about three
    young girls who lost their mother before
    Christmas. they shared how they wished
    she had made a book to tell them how
    she made her cookies, etc.

    so i promptly made one just like yours,
    but without the darling plaid. guess i
    will have to plaid it up!

    merry Christmas,

  9. Lily, glad you are a fellow plaid lover and understand my persnickety wrapping paper criteria!

    Entertaining Mom, I hope you'll write about your family tartan--very cool!

    Bevy, that sounds like so much fun!

    LPC, you are a kind soul. And, I haven't even put up one Christmas decoration yet! I'm planning to deck the halls this weekend, tho.

    HH Ramblings, I love the idea of a faux tartanware frame. I might try napkin rings if I can find some tartan paper!

    Hampton Hostess, how dear to have tartanware from Scotland--a great souvenir!

    Lea, my binder is mostly full of magazine clippings! Your story tells me I need to include our tried and true recipes and decorations rather than just those that inspired me! Thank you!

  10. Jealous of the "CHEATERS"...never saw THEM!!!

    Love PLAID too!

  11. Oh, I love plaid! Happy St Andrews Day! tIO x

  12. Oh you and I are definitely on the same page! Love tartan - as a matter of fact, I was going to do a post on tartanware as well - I'll have to think of a way to spin it a bit differently. Finding a good plaid wrapping paper can be difficult - believe me I've tried also! I've always wanted to do a tartan room but don't have that "extra" space to devote to it. Fun post!

  13. omg I love that did I miss this great post?! And did you give me an award or tag me recently? I suddenly remembered the other day and can't remember if it was you.....

  14. P.S. I'm a MacPherson on my father's side ....and some more scottish blood on my mom' wonder I'm a tartan freak....


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