Thursday, 1 February 2018

Sámi Tartan and shawls

This lovely cushion is made by Stoorstalka.  The colours are delightful and it brightens up the room. It is very comfortable.

A beautiful cushion from Stoorstalka

Tartan as a fabric has travelled around the world, not least because of the entrepreneurial spirit of Scottish men. On our travels in Finland, we discovered in 1820 James Finlayson established a cotton mill because he recognised the potential of the fast flowing river.  We started to notice the number of times in the history of places we visited the importance of Scottish immigrants.

Close up of the material

A postcard from the Stoorstalka shop shows the delightful shawls which look just the thing to wear in such cold weather. Shawls are such a practical and yet decorative item. Their brightness is very visible in northern climes when sunlight is very low in the winter.  I think it is a shame that scarves have taken their place.

Bright cheerful shawls

Addition to post

I have had some beautiful pictures sent tome by a friend who is cruising the Norwegian coast.  here is a great picture of a Sami shawl.


First Nation and Métis women across Canada also took to wearing tartan shawls which were worn up until the 1950's. The wearing of shawls was also very meaningful in other ways. With a shawl, you can lift it up to hide or conceal your face which can indicate a willingness or unwillingness to communicate. Shyness, modesty and concealment can all be conveyed with a simple gesture of the shawl. With the lower part of the face concealed behind the shawl, eyes alone can communicate and can show emotion surprisingly well.
Look at this web site for a picture of the tartan shawl being worn by a Métis woman.

The Aran Islands

Inishmaan in the 1940's
The women of the Aran islands off the coast of Ireland, also appreciated the bright tartan patterns. The black and white photograph cannot show us the colours of the tartan but the pattern is clear. Tartan travels everywhere.


In the wonderful textile museum in Prato, Italy  which I visited last year, had a book about tartan which was written to accompany an exhibition in 2004 (See my blog entry for June 1st 2017). The booklet is called, 'Tartan: the Romantic Tradition - Plaid, a fabric and a cultural identity.'

The exhibition was 'a gesture of gratitude towards a textile design that accompanied, from the mid 18th century, the destiny and success of our industry and thus of our company'. They describe the long and intense bond which grew up over the decades between a fabric and a distance culture:

 'The tartan is a reference point in western taste and for the aesthetics of all time.'

Tartan is everywhere.  


This week in my Sunday newspaper, The Observer,  there is an article by Morwenna Ferrier about tartan with the headline;

 'Loud proud and rebellious: tartan is back as designers celebrate the spirit of punk.' 

It seems that fashion has appropriated the tartan yet again, with labels such as' Balenciaga to rising star Loverboy.' The article finishes with this:

'Wilton believes that the resurgence in popularity of tartan reflects something deeper than a designer's heritage, or even a colour scheme. "It represents rebellious youth but, at times of uncertainty, people want to feel like they belong. Tartan is a good visual identifier - and provides a sort of security."
The Observer, 11.02.18 pages 16 - 17.
You can read the article here: 

Tartan is back.

Susan J Foulkes Feb 2018