Hailing from an Aussie family with Scottish heritage, we here at Picnic Season HQ have long been baffled by how a simple and traditional pattern came to be standard on the picnic rugs of today, from Glasgow to Geelong and everywhere in between.
So, with the greatest of r-e-s-p-e-c-t to our ancestors we set out to update the humble picnic rug to reflect the colourful and unique lives we modern Aussies live, and learned a lot about its origins along the way.
TARTAN: A HISTORY LESSON
Harking back to the days of traditional Scottish dress (Outlander, anyone?), woolen highland tartans were woven to be worn as kilts used as travel blankets. Rather than different tartans being associated with specific Scottish clans or surnames as they later would be, tartans showed unique variations the country over owing to skills of weavers and regional availability of different coloured natural dyes.
Tartan travel blankets were used for many purposes, one of them as a handy picnic blanket when feasting in the elements - minus the champas or gourmet platters, we suspect.
In an attempt to bring the highland warrior clans under the control of the Scottish government, tartan was made illegal in Scotland in 1746. Highland dress went underground.
By the time the law was repealed in 1782, tartan was no longer commonplace. In the years that followed, calls to honour its historical importance saw the once uncivilised trademark of mountain thieves revived and identified for the first time with individual clans.
Advances in fabric manufacturing technology meant tartan became a hell of a lot easier to produce en masse and it was later claimed as the national dress by the whole of Scotland.
But how did it get so darn popular the world over?
THE MEGHAN MARKLE EFFECT
In a nutshell, an old-school version of the Meghan Markle effect.
Several mid 1800’s visits to Balmoral Castle by Queen Victoria saw her fall in love with the local tartan travel blankets and bring them back to England. Picnicking was gaining popularity amongst the high society and a tartan picnic blanket soon became a coveted item. What’s good for the goose, right…?
And the rest as they say, is history.
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