Thursday, November 1, 2012


A tea caddy from

You know you will always see

a lot of plaid here at the Polohouse. 

To say I love it is an understatement.

Napkin rings of various tartan patterns. Source

A tartanware clock box found at

So let's talk about Tartanware...
which are souvenirs of Scotland. 

A brief 
history lesson. 

Always fun to know 
what you are "crushing" over, right!?

A little notebook set from

A letter box from

In the early 1820's, King George IV paid a famous visit to Edinburgh and arrived fully outfitted in Highland Dress. This gesture set off a major revival in the popularity of the Scottish Tartans. Soon after this, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert fell in love with Scotland and all things Scottish to such an extent that their new home at Balmoral was decorated using tartan materials throughout its interiors.

Tartan became the most popular decoration for souvenirs of Scotland and the box makers of Mauchline soon invented machines to rule the multi-coloured clan tartans with many traditional plaid patterns and a few non-traditional variants too. The original pieces were all hand-painted.

A thimble case found on

Another tea caddy found on

The new machines were able to speed up the production of these tourist trinkets by printing clan tartan designs onto paper and the box makers then applied the paper to the wooden articles. They generally hid the joints by first black painting the wood where the adjacent pieces of paper came together at corners, edges and on round objects. Wavy gold lines were often added over the paper joints and the tartans named in tiny gold letters before varnishing and polishing.

When you find a piece with miniature landscape or hunting scenes painted on the lids or sides, you have found a piece of the most sought after Tartanware.  Later less rare pieces have transfer and photographic portraits and scenes added. The wide range of different articles and decorations illustrated the ingenuity of the Mauchline Ware makers as well as their ability to produce beautiful products of the highest quality.

Here is what Wikipedia said about Tartanware:
"Clever Victorian entrepreneurs not only created new tartans, but new tartan objects called tartanware. Tartan was incorporated in an assortment of common household objects such as snuffboxes, jewelry cases, tableware, sewing accessories, and desk items. Tourists visiting the Scottish Highlands went home with it, and Scottish-based businesses sent tartanware out as gifts to customers. Some of the more popular tartans were the StewartMcDonaldMcGregorMcDuffMacBeth and Prince Charlie. Today tartanware is widely collected in England and Scotland and around the world."

So if you find a piece 
of Tartanware or Mauchline, 
try to see if it has a painted pattern,
(these are the older pieces)

or if it has been printed 
and applied onto the wooden box or item. 
The older the pieces, the higher the price. 
Someday, I would like to have a little collection
of these pieces....
even just a tiny one! 

Wish I knew the source of this photo!
Antique score keeper found on Ebay here.

What would you 
like to start collecting?


Janette - The2Seasons said...

What a great post!!! I'm a fan of all things tartan.

NanaDiana said...

Oh- What great things to collect- I hope you CAN find some wonderful samples somewhere along the way.

As for collecting- I am trying NOT to collect anymore want to be a rolling stone (or a semi-rolling stone anyway). That will necessitate doing a bit of purging on my part- xo Diana

At Rivercrest Cottage said...

I'd love to have a collection of tartan and plaid to use during Christmas season.

Your post made me long to start a collection, but too many things to get rid of being adding anything else.

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...


I am a huge fan of Tartan plaid items as well as tartan ware, unfortunately I have been unable to find many pieces of tartan ware that are not an arm and a leg!

I hope you have a great weekend, Elizabeth

Salmagundi said...

In my dreams, I would love to collect Tartanware. The budget declines to cooperate, however! I'll just enjoy posts like yours. Thanks for sharing. Sally

Pura Vida said...

As a mural artist my number one request...plaid my walls

Debra@CommonGround said...

these are gorgeous, and love learning the history of these wonderful collectibles!

Sarah said...

Alison, you know I'm a fan of tartan. I found a tartan tin box at Round Top this spring. It was my favorite buy of the day! Thanks for this great post and history lesson. The new Nov.-Dec. issue of Victoria has a nice article on tartan for Christmas.

debra @ 5th and state said...

i have an obsession with tartanware and do not own a single expensive!

maybe in my spare time (never) will put paper on boxes and create my own.....sure......

great post alison!

Terri~terrileeauthor said...

Thanks for the little primer on Tartan. I've always had a fondness for it too, but now I'm more informed!! Ha ha.