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Tartan, brought home

The Winning EntryLast night saw Scotland’s most glittering event in living memory… well, mine anyway… when around six hundred of the world’s most glamorous… plus me… saw the winner announced of the Bringing Home the Tartan! design competition. Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Paul Smith - they were all there. Seldom have I shared a room with such smart clobber.

For any of you less fortunates, perhaps stuck in Novosibirk or even Edinburgh, Tristan da Cunha, where global fashionista buzz may fail to, well, buzz, or who were unable to beg, steal, or borrow a red hot ticket for a show A-Listers will recall with reverence for years, you may need reminding that this was the competition promoted by the National Archives of Scotland to mark the launch of its official Scottish Register of Tartans. Entries flooded in by the dozen (indeed three figures, I heard) from all over the world of Scottish art schools. And by all accounts, a jolly fine lot they were.

The Creator Ms MacIverBut as with any such Great Race, a winner must emerge, and rise to tower frothily above the rest. And in this case first prize went to Heriot-Watt University’s Maxine MacIver for a close-fitting catsuit from her Melvina collection. So hearty congratulations Maxine. I’m certain the feline community will think it just purrfect.

Katherine the Quite GoodKatherine Butler, also from ‘the Watt’ ran up in second place with a sort-of-male outfit for everyday workwear, or perhaps just slopping about in your typical minimalist steel-and-glass loft apartment, entitled Urban Reiver. Personally I can see her collection filling the terraces of every football stadium in the country before long, as the look catches on. What do you think?

The show did in fact feature a few finalists that might be worn by mere mortals from time to time, some of which looked rather fabulous. Though clearly not fabulous enough to wow the judges. Bad luck guys. But console yourself that you may have a future in clothing design.

Seriously, it was a great night, and major congratulations are due to all involved.


Essential Scotweb - the quality you expect, at prices you don't!

Essential Scotweb Casual KiltI’m delighted to announce the launch of our new Essential Scotweb range. Responding to the economic mood, this fiercely price-competitive range gives a real choice to consumers who would prefer properly made heirloom garments but have reluctantly turned to the ‘Tartan Tat” vendors to save money. Both budget conscious and environmentally concerned customers can afford to invest in lifetime quality garments, suitable even for landmark events like weddings.

Essential Scotweb kilts, tartan skirts, and tartan homewares are made locally to authentic standards by traditional producers, without compromising the top quality materials and tailoring for which Scotweb is known. They are priced to compete fiercely with the infamous ‘tartan tat’ merchants importing substandard copycat products from cheap labour economies. So for example the Essential Scotweb complete formal Prince Charlie kilt outfit is priced at under £500, for a package normally retailing at £750 or more.

Crucially, garment quality is not compromised. The Essential Scotweb 8 Yard Kilt is actually made by Balmoral Kilts and Highland Dress kiltmakers who produce Scotweb’s flagship garments. So it is always custom made to measure for each customer, from locally woven pure new wool tartan fabrics. This exquisitely tailored kilt is available in a range of the most popular tartans.

Scotweb already offers the world’s largest range of tartan fabrics and garments, backed up by expert personal service. Founder and Managing Director Dr Nick Fiddes is a governor of the Scottish Tartans Authority, and the company is committed to offering authentic products made locally by traditional producers. By retailing mail order by phone and on the internet, Scotweb saves the overheads of high street premises, and passes on these savings to its customers. It is one of the few heritage retailers anywhere in the world that promises to shun imported copies with their inferior production standards.


Moon Landing - by a Scot who boldly went

Moon Landing TartanIt’s said that there are at least ten times as many Scots living beyond our shores than on our wee island itself. We’ve spread far and wide, and done some pretty cool stuff along the way… Wherever you turn, you’ll find our mark on history, whether it’s writing the US Constitution, setting up the Bank of England, or inventing television.

But this seems a good time to remember One Small Step that was also taken by a Scot, one Neil Armstrong, as he stepped down from Apollo 11. Indeed in 1972, Neil Armstrong was made a freeman of Langholm in the Scottish borders, the tradition seat of Clan Armstrong - and he is now considered the town’s greatest son.

So what better way to mark this 40th anniversary of that great day than to design a tartan in honour of NASA’s incredible achievement. Based on the Armstrong sett, the Moon Landing tartan uses the colours of space, the blue earth, and the distant glow of the moon.


Make History! Design your own unique tartan - free!

It’s not often we can claim something historic, but this time it’s true. Tartan is one of Scotland’s iconic treasures. But it’s always been the preserve of experts. The recording and weaving of family tartans has long been mostly for those who could afford expert tartan design fees, and expensive weaving in large volumes.

But now Scotweb is putting tartan design into anyone’s hands. We’re inviting a wave of creative possibility. And we’re making it affordable for any family, business, club, or other group to design and produce their own unique and distinctive tartan, and have it produced in short lengths even for individual garments. Just how great is that!

Or else just play and have fun. (It’s all free!) There’s no better way to understand the principles of tartan design than to look at existing designs and see how they work. Our tools make this easy, letting you change any tartan’s colours or arrangement in an instant.

Before you start, it may help to read the rest of this posting. There are a lot of nice features to the new facility. You should work most out for yourself, but have a quick look now to see the sorts of thing you can do…

Click to read more ...


Design your own Tartan - have a sneaky peek!

Here’s something pretty wonderful for anyone who likes tartan. Our amazing tech team has been beavering away for months on a new (free) online Design-your-own-tartan feature. And it’s now ready for limited **Invitation Only ** beta launch.

So what’s new, you may ask. There have been online tools letting you create tartans for years. Well, yes, sort of… But this one’s different. Very different. Firstly, it far easier for the ordinary person to use than any that’s gone before. But the intuitive and user-friendly front gives access to some very powerful tools…

For example, you can load any existing tartan, and modify it! This applies both to officially recorded tartans, and ones that other Scotweb members have designed and published in the new Gallery feature.

We also give you access to not one but three colour palettes. There’s a simple one for designing tartans you wish to record in the traditional way with only broadly defined colours (or perhaps for schoolchildren to use). There’s a “Weaver’s” palette, where you can even see photographs of the actual thread cones our weavers use to produce tartans. And there’s a “Pro” palette for corporate users wishing to define their brand shades precisely.

The tools let you add colours from those or from a ‘working shelf’, then pull levers, drag entries, key in numbers, and various other ways to add and re-order your chosen shades. All great fun. And uniquely (and we’ve patented this bit) it all happens instantly on your screen, without having to click and wait for a graphic image to be produced like all other systems we’ve seen. (You can, if you wish, do this too, for an even higher quality photorealistic image.)

You can also save your designs. Give them names. Give them descriptions. Explain the rationale behind their creation. Comment on other users’ designs. And (very soon) you can request an expert review of your tartan design (for a reasonable fee) from one of the world’s leading tartan authorities.

But we’ve saved the best for last. And this really is unique. You can also get your tartans woven! Yes, with just a few further mouse clicks you can order fabrics, kilts, skirts, and dozens of other products in your own unique tartan designs, in a range of top quality wools produced specially for you at one of Scotland’s most traditional mills. Many more fabrics like polyviscose or polycottons are coming soon, all in short length runs, or with bulk discounts. Pricing is much the same as our other custom-weave fabrics (i.e. a massively good bargain!). And we even give you back 10% of every sale of your tartan (either to you, perhaps your club members, or anyone who likes your design if you’ve published it in the Gallery) in the form of Scotweb Points. What’s not to love!!

There’s just one small catch. The Tartan Design facility is only available by Invitation Only [EDIT: now publicly available!], whilst we beta test the features, and finish off some of the remaining design improvements. Once you’ve been invited, you in turn can invite a few other friends (up to 5) who you think might like it. But we want to keep numbers limited until we have all systems functioning smoothly. We’d also appreciate if you let us know about any confusions or problems you come across meanwhile, in return for being let in early.

But as an esteemed reader of this blog, I’d be happy to invite you personally. Contact me via the “Want to Contribute” link to the right. But note, first you should register with the Scotweb membership system (which is free). And when contacting me, include the email address you used to register there. That’s necessary as I have to send the invitation to the same address.

Hope you think it’s as cool as we do. This is going to be big! So why not be one of the very first to explore it?


Images of Scotland

Anyone interested in Scotland is likely to like this: is a unique new images resource drawn from Scotland’s national collections: The National Archives; The National LIbrary; the National Museums; the National Trust for Scotland; and the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments. Between them they ought to be able to rustle up a few good pics!

From my brief but highly enjoyable looks around so far I have to say it’s a far superior site than one has come to expect from official bodies. Usage is licensed, so the larger sized images are understandably watermarked. But you can search and browse freely without having to register. And anyone can register free for extra facilities. In other words, a big thumbs-up.

It’s one of those things I liked so much I just wanted to share. Enjoy.


Harris Tweed is back: a national scandal, now with a happy ending!

For anyone who has followed the outrageous story of one Englishman’s single-handed efforts in recent years to destroy one of the most cherished and beautiful parts of Scotland’s national heritage, namely Harris Tweed, purely for personal gain… read on. There’s great news!

Firstly, let’s briefly recap. Harris Tweed has a history quite unlike any other woven textile. So rare and unique is it, that the British Monarch has decreed, by special Act of Parliament, that to carry that name, Harris Tweed may only ever be handwoven by the islanders of Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra, in their homes, using pure virgin wool that has been dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides, which lie many miles into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Scotland.

The exceptional character and beauty of Harris Tweed can be attributed to the fact that it is the world’s only fabric produced in commercial quantities by truly traditional methods. Hundreds of distinctive patterns have evolved over the centuries, each unique in appearance but unmistakable as Harris Tweed. Its characteristically coarse but subtle designs in complex natural shades have traditionally gone mostly into gentlemen’s jackets and ladies skirts. But latterly this fabric had been finding a new market in the high fashion world, the artisan crafts world, and even in such landmark products as the famous special edition Nike Harris Tweed training shoe - now a valued collector’s item.

So far so good. An exceptional product with an exceptional history and an even more exceptional future, one might presume.

But sadly, no. A few years ago, along came a Yorkshireman who owned, amongst other things, a large business selling jackets. He sold a lot of Harris Tweed jackets, and presumably didn’t like to do so in a competitive market where other people could also sell Harris Tweed jackets at a price that they considered fair. It seems he preferred the idea of being the only person in the world who could sell Harris Tweed jackets, which would mean he could put his prices up and make a lot more money. So he bought the entire industry.

Yes, that’s right. He took over the entire production of Harris Tweed. And overnight, he cut off supplies to almost everyone else who had been buying it. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, he slashed the range of patterns produced to… four. At a stroke, centuries of tradition was wiped off the face of the earth.

To the many lovers of Harris Tweed, and of Scottish heritage, this came as nothing less than an outrage. It has been compared to the idea of one supermarket chain buying up every whisky distillery in Scotland, closing all but a handful regardless of the huge and much loved diversity of flavour that exists amongst the hundreds of rare malts, and selling these few only through their own checkouts. A scandal, indeed.

And there this wonderfully special chapter of Scottish history seemed to die.

But it didn’t. Fortunately, this much-reviled individual had not been able to buy the rights to Harris Tweed itself, but only to the existing output. And enough strength of spirit (and eye for their real long-term future) existed amongst some of the Islanders, that almost immediately moves began to be made to initiate new sources of independent weaving on the Islands.

Here at Scotweb we are proud to have played a small part in this vital process of restoring our ancient traditions. We had built up a substantial physical archive of rare Harris Tweed fabric samples, for the dozens of patterns that we had been marketing through our web site. We were delighted to be able to share these with the rebel weavers, to form the basis for their new recreated ranges.

It’s been a slow process. But we’re delighted to announce that we are at last, again, able to accept orders for authentic Harris Tweed products. Currently we are taking orders for Ladies Skirts in Harris Tweed, but soon we will also be able to offer fabrics, and many other items too. Delivery of fabric lengths and garments may initially be a little slower than before. Whilst our independent weavers rebuild their stocks of fabrics, each pattern ordered will have to be specially woven to order, with a portion going to the purchaser and another part going into stock for off-the-shelf dispatch.

So not only are we delighted to announce the return of Harris Tweed. But by ordering, you can feel good for playing your own small part in protecting and restoring Scottish heritage. So long live the Revolution! Long live the independent weavers. Long live Harris Tweed.


Over 25% Discount for Americans!

All this talk of economic crisis can be a little depressing, can’t it? And we offer all our sympathies to anyone in real difficulties.

But have you noticed how the media always prefer to focus on the bad-news side of things? The truth is that every cloud has a silver lining. So first-time house buyers are now finding it a little easier, for example. And here’s another major plus for Americans buying authentic Scottish goods from the UK…

Less than one year ago, the British currency was ridiculously over-valued, trading at over 2.10 US dollars to the UK pound. Well, recently it’s been falling rapidly, and as I write is trading at 1.55 dollars to the pound (£0.64 to $1). This means that all our prices are more than 25% cheaper in real terms than they were a few months ago!

Let me repeat that: all Scotweb’s prices are

more than 25% off

the cost to American customers earlier this year!

So if that’s not something to smile about, I don’t know what is!!


Jokes only understood by Scots...


I liked these…

Teacher to class: ‘Two negatives make a positive. But two positives never make a negative.’ Pupil: ‘Aye, right.’

A Glasgow woman goes to the dentist and settles down in the chair. ‘Comfy?’asks the dentist. ‘Govan,’ she replies.

A pregnant teenage girl phones her dad at midnight and says: ‘Can you come and get me? I think ma water has broken’ ‘Okay,’ says her dad. ‘Where are you ringing from? ‘Fae my knickers tae ma feet. ‘

What did the male Siamese twins from Glasgow call their autobiography ..? Oor Wullie.  

A guy walks into an antiques shop and says: ‘How much for the set of antlers?’ ‘Two hundred quid,’ says the bloke behind the counter’ ‘That’s affa dear,’ says the guy. ‘Aye yer right!’ replies the bloke  

Did you hear about the fella who liked eating bricks and cement? He’s awa’ noo.

After announcing he’s getting married, a boy tells his pal he’ll be wearing the kilt. ‘And what’s the tartan?’ asks his mate. ‘Oh, she’ll be wearing a white dress,’ 

Ten cows in a field. Which one is closest to Iraq ? Coo eight.

Three wee jobbies sitting on the pavement. Which one’s a Musketeer? The dark tan yin. 

A Scotsman in London is having trouble phoning his sister from a telephone box. So he calls the operator who asks in a plummy voice: ‘Is there money in the box? ‘Naw, it’s just me,’ he replies. 

While getting ready to go out, a wee wifie says to her husband: ‘Do you think I’m getting a wee bit pigeon chested?’ And he says: ‘Aye, but that’s why I love you like a doo.’  

What was the name of the first Scottish cowboy? Hawkeye The Noo.  

What do you call a pigeon that goes to Aviemore for its holidays? A skean dhu.  

How many Spanish guys does it take to change a lightbulb? Just Juan. 

‘What’s the difference between The Rolling Stones and an Aberdeen sheep farmer? The Rolling Stones say: ‘Hey you, get off of my cloud.’ And an Aberdeen sheep farmer says: ‘Hey McLeod, get off of ma ewe. 

‘What do you call an illegitimate Scottish insect? A wee fly b*d. 

Did you hear about the BBC Scotland series that features the queue for the toilets at Waverley Station? It’s called The Aw’ Needin’ Line.  

Why was the Chinese restaurant so bad? Because the chef was Lou Ping. 

While being interviewed for a job as a bus driver, a guy is asked: ‘What would you do if you had a rowdy passenger?’ ‘I’d put him off at the next stop,’ he says. ‘Good. And what would you do if you couldn’t get the fare?’ ‘I’d take the first two weeks in August,’ he replies. 

A Glasgow man - steaming and skint - is walking down Argyle Street when he spots a guy tinkering with the engine of his car! ‘What’s up Jimmy?’ he asks. ‘Piston broke,’ he replies.. ‘Aye, same as masel…


Baby Talk

As some of you may know, my fellow Scotweb Director, Adele, and I have recently taken delivery of a brand new package. And eventually we even managed to give her a name: so say hello to Amity. I’m delighted to say that not only does she enjoy a full set of fingers, toes, and all the rest, but she seems generally very happy with her life in this world, and so has been quite a delight to (start to) get to know.

Anyhow, my sincere thanks to all who’ve been sending their well-wishes, and apologies to anyone who has been waiting to hear back from me and hasn’t - thanks for your patience! I’m slowly getting back to work, but it’s hard when home is so rewarding! Please bear with me if I”m even less efficient than normal… I trust you’ll understand.

Oh, and by the way, as anyone who knows us will perhaps not be surprised to hear, she’s already been earning her keep! Check out her first modeling session (and probably not her last!) playing a starring role on the homepage of our Scottish Cashmere site. The silky-smooth Alpaca blanket is genuinely a huge favourite of hers already. So sorry for the tacky advert, but if you know any new mums and want a pressie they’ll really adore, take a tip from a proud new dad and look no further. Really - hugely recommended!

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