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Fabric Friday: District checks

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Workshops - specialty vintage topics' started by denisebrain, Nov 19, 2021.

  1. denisebrain

    denisebrain VFG Vice President Staff Member VFG Past President

    Just the way clan tartans as we know them were a product of the 19th century, district checks were as well. Yes, Queen Victoria again. She loved Scotland, purchased Balmoral, and saw the need for protective clothing for the gillies, game keepers and foresters of the estate. It became the fashion for the large estates to have their own check.

    The basics: District checks are distinctly patterned fabrics with small checks and groups of checks, woven in a right-hand twill weave and mostly of one color with an undyed light color. Some have up to three dyed colors. Historically made of wool, now the patterns can be found in any fiber.

    In 1949 American Fabrics showed a number of these checks with some history of each. These checks were promoted as a possible inspiration for American fabric weavers. Some of these are much better known now than others, but I thought I'd show them all. I don't know about you, but I like being the nerd that knows the names of things.

    The Shepherd Check (Shepherd's Check, Shepherd's Plaid)

    The original district check—shepherd’s check, or shepherd’s plaid—is white and one dyed color (usually black) in a simple uniform check pattern. The pattern is traditionally small (about 1/4” per color), and of wool in a right hand twill weave. The pattern may now be woven of any fiber, but still is often of wool or a wool blend.

    This is the check that truly dates from before the Victorian era. It was worn as a plaid (the large shawl wrapped over the shoulder) in the Scottish Borders, by shepherds in the Cheviot Hills. It eventually traveled northward into the Highlands of Scotland and became just as well known there.

    The shepherd check is one you often see used for clothing, and I haven't many times seen the distinction made between black and white and red and white or other colors. In other words, it seems like the name shepherd check has often been the norm for all twilled 4 x 4 weaves in two colors.

    The Ing

    This one was woven just like the shepherd check, only with a red-brown color replacing black. The color was created using a lichen.

    Below you will see many other derivatives of the shepherd check. Each has its own 19th-century history, and the histories are painstakingly noted in American Fabrics. If you are interested in who designed what and where, please ask and I will copy that out.

    The Seaforth

    The Dupplin

    The Kinlochewe

    The Lochmore

    The Fannich

    The Ballindaloch

    The Glen Moriston

    The Gairloch

    The Brooke

    The Coigach

    The Dacre

    The Russell

    The Glenfeshie

    The Strasthpey

    The Glen Urquhart

    is the Gaelic word for valley, and in the rugged Highlands of Scotland the valleys were where most homes were established. Glen plaid, as it is usually called in the United States, is synonymous with Glen Urquhart. In the UK it is called glencheck or glen check. Castle Urquhart overlooks Loch Ness in the Great Glen of the northern Highlands.

    This check, which the American Fabrics article calls "the greatest single development in woolen designing," dates from 1848. Originally it was blue and white, but eventually settled into black and white.

    There are some derivatives of the Glen Urquhart—

    The Small Glen Urquhart

    The Benmore

    The Mar

    The Invercauld

    The Prince of Wales

    This one assumed fashion importance at the ascent of Edward.

    The Scots Guards

    There are some regimental district checks, used as civilian clothing for officers of these regiments.

    The Horse Guards

    The Erchless

    This is also called a district check in the American Fabrics article. I am guessing that this is because it served the same purpose, that is being worn by those who lived and worked around Castle Erchless.

    The American Fabrics article does not include houndstooth. This is the Fabric Resource photo.

    Houndstooth is a crooked check made in a twill weave and usually of one light color and one dark. The yarns are arranged in groups of four. The name derives from the pattern’s resemblance to a canine tooth. The pattern occurs in glen plaid, Prince of Wales and other district checks.

    This is a houndstooth-derived check that is shown in the article:
    The Guisachan

    Any thoughts?
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2021
  2. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix VFG Member

    Thank you, Maggie!
    denisebrain likes this.
  3. Vinclothes

    Vinclothes Alumni +

    Marvelous! Thank you so much. There is so much to know.
    denisebrain likes this.
  4. Vintagiality

    Vintagiality VFG Treasurer

    So interesting Maggie! Some of them to be honest I can’t tell the difference at all.
  5. denisebrain

    denisebrain VFG Vice President Staff Member VFG Past President

    Victoria, the text (which I did not copy out) helps distinguish these by naming the colors. Some are really similar to one another.
    Vintagiality likes this.
  6. Vintagiality

    Vintagiality VFG Treasurer

    Thanks Maggie! I really need to study this a bit further. Sometimes to be honest I am not sure what’s a pattern and what’s the weave.
    And since we are talking about check and so many guests to the VFG forums visit us to ask about Burberry, I thought this was an interesting article about the Burberry check
  7. denisebrain

    denisebrain VFG Vice President Staff Member VFG Past President

    Wow, I was just looking at that article!
    Vintagiality likes this.

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