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

Tweed and tartan are two classic fabrics that have been around for centuries. While they may look similar at first glance, they have distinct differences in terms of their history, patterns, and uses. In this article, we’ll explore the unique characteristics of tweed and tartan and how they have evolved over time.

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.”

It is often associated with Scottish culture and is commonly used in kilts, scarves, and other traditional clothing items. The pattern is created by weaving different coloured threads together in a specific pattern, resulting in a unique design.

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 Tweed?

Tweed is a rough, woollen fabric that was often used for outerwear such as jackets, coats, and suits. It originated in Scotland and was traditionally made from the wool of sheep raised on the Scottish islands. Tweed is known for its durability and warmth, and was mostly woven in earthy tones such as browns, greens, and greys. Unlike tartan, tweed does not have a specific pattern or design, but rather a textured appearance created by the weaving process.

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

While tweed and tartan may look similar at first glance, they are actually quite different. However, there are a few similarities between the two fabrics.

Both originated in Scotland and are made from wool. Additionally, they are both associated with traditional Scottish clothing. However, tartan is known for its distinct plaid pattern, while tweed has a more textured appearance.

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