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Tweed and Tartan

Tweed and Tartan – what’s the difference?

We get asked this a lot – so we thought it was worthwhile taking the time to talk about the similarities and the differences of tweed and tartan.

Harris Tweed yarn

What is tartan?

“Tartan refers to the pattern of interlocking stripes, running in both the warp and weft in the cloth (horizontal and vertical), or any representation of such a woven design in other media.”

Tartan has been around for a while – the earliest known tartan in Scotland can be dated to the third or fourth century AD! Tartan is probably most famously known for Clan/family tartans and highland dress.

However, Tartan isn’t just confined to fabric and to Scotland anymore. It is now used on a range of media, and can be found all over the world. Have you ever owned anything tartan?

DID YOU KNOW: There are well over 7000 unique tartan designs recorded.

The Scottish Tartan Museum has lots of great information on tartan if you want to know even more.

What is Harris Tweed?

Harris Tweed is a hand woven and hand dyed cloth that can be woven only in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. As one of the most famous cloths in the world, it is the only material that is protected by its own act of parliament. We’ve written a blog post with all of our favourite Harris Tweed facts here.

Similarities of Tweed and Tartan

The main similarity between tartan and tweed – traditionally, they were both fabric woven in wool.

Tartan is now woven in many different fabrics while Harris Tweed is only made from pure virgin wools.

In essence, tartan is a design (that can be used on any media) and tweed is a fabric.

‘tartan can be tweed but tweed can’t be tartan’

Tweed and Tartan - what is the difference?

Quick summary of Tartan Vs Tweed


  • Tartan can be woven in many different fabrics
  • Tartan can be printed on various media
  • Tartan is a design


  • Tweed is a durable fabric
  • Tweed is only made from virgin wools
  • Tweed is a fabric


Sources: MacGregor and MacDuff and Celtic Ranch


Harris Tweed fabric