Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tartan vs Plaid vs Gingham

I opened a total can of worms when I mentioned in my last post that I was trying to mimic a tartan design with my paper weaving. First, I must designate that the terms that I am using are based in America and have a totally different meaning in the UK. In the UK, tartan is the pattern and plaid is a piece of tartan fabric that is worn over the shoulder.

In the United States, I was told that plaid is a pattern that uses two colors usually in consistent perpendicular patterns. Sometimes, the patterns can be different of different widths. When I think of plaid, I think of the buffalo plaid that is common in flannel. Below, is an example of a plaid.

In this case, the widths of the stripes are consistent. When the stripes are the same color and when they appear on a white base (sometimes the base will be a color other than white), I was told that this was classified as a gingham. Usually, the stripes in both directions are the same width, although the widths can be different.

(l) small weave gingham pattern.
(r) large weave gingham pattern.

Tartan, on the other hand, are more than two colored stripes that appear on a solid background. The widths of the stripes are different widths. When we think of tartan, we think of kilts. The patterns below are examples of tartans.

Tartan images courtesy of Plaids and Gingham images courtesy of


  1. Haha, I am thankful for this post. I just googled "Plaid vs. Gingham vs. Tartan" and yours popped up first. Not quite word for word, but close. Thanks for the explanation. I thought I loved plaid, but apparently I love Tartan.

  2. I wondered about those... now I know. Thanks for the very clear explanation.

  3. Thank you so much! I actually wanted to know if I had a gingham shirt on or a plaid one... turns out, it was tartan! Yay!