I have no way of researching this, but I think I might just be the first science fiction author with his own official, registered tartan.
For those of you who have no idea what that means, a tartan is a plaid pattern, each unique and distinct (and registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans), used in kilts and other Scottish, Irish, and English garments. Different clans, regions, organizations (and now science fiction writers) have their own tartans, and others exist just to show association with a cause or idea.
So if you’re one of those people who has always longed to wear Highland attire but never knew what tartan you should be wearing, you can now sport mine!
Now, before I go any further, let me back up and give you some history.
An organization I’m involved with is currently considering registering its own tartan. I’m hoping they will do so, and if so I will name them and proudly tout the virtues of their tartan. But until it makes a decision on whether to proceed or not, it is not my place to discuss their internal goings-on. However, as one of the kilt wearers in the organization, I got drafted to help look into what would be involved in creating and registering said tartan.
My family is of Irish, German, and English extraction (mostly). Like most Irish-Americans, we have no idea where in Ireland we came from, so I tend to wear what are called “universal” tartans — those not associated with a specific clan or region. I’ve often joked that I should create a “Clan Aisteach” tartan. Well, doing this research, I learned how the process worked. And I came up with a design that I rather liked. So I thought, “What the hell?”
I need to be clear, though, that there is no such thing as “Clan Aisteach” and as such it was not permitted to register a new clan tartan. Rather, the committee in charge of tartans suggested that we register it instead as what’s called a “fashion” tartan, one that is basically designed for use in garments without linking to a real organization or region — in other words a “universal” tartan. And that means that anyone may wear it, including you!
And before you ask, yes, this is a real tartan. But, no, it does not physically exist yet. Between deciding to register it and the registration coming through, my father passed away, necessitating a very expensive emergency trip back east, which ate up my discretionary budget for the year (and then some). So barring some unexpected income, I probably will not be sporting the new tartan next time you see me.
But there is a mill in Scotland, DC Dalgliesh, that produces tartan to order — basically the milling equivalent of print-on-demand. Well, they pride themselves on producing (very high quality) fabric in every tartan, and they’ve got “Aisteach” available in three different palettes: “Modern” (what I designed), “Ancient” (a midcentury invented palette designed to make tartans look older), and “Reproduction” (an attempt to recreate the dyes that were available in Scotland before modernization). All three are lovely. Scotweb can take an order today for a woven-to-order kilt, cap, skirt, etc. I’ve been very happy with the kilts we’ve ordered from them in the past, and I’m sure that once my finances recover I will be taking them up on that, myself.
However, there are other options available if, as I say in the title of this post, you want to “join my clan.”
The Aisteach tartan was registered as “unrestricted,” which means that any mill may produce it without permission from me. Yes, that means you weavers out there can request the thread count from the Scottish Register of Tartans and make yourselves some Aisteach tartan. (And I’d love to see what it looks like if you do! Every mill and weaver has their own palette.)
But more than that, any kiltmaker is free to order the tartan in bulk (thus reducing the cost of production, like doing a real print run of a book instead of print-on-demand) and sell kilts made in that tartan. In other words, if there’s demand, we can get the costs down.
So, my friends, my family, my readers, do you want a kilt (or other garment) that you can wear, showing the whole world that you’re part of the Aisteach clan?
From our talks with kiltmakers as part of the project that launched this whole thing, I have an idea of what sorts of numbers are necessary to make it financially viable for them (and it’s surprisingly low for wool kilts), so if I get enough “yea” votes, I’ll reach out to them. (I don’t want to reach out to them, get them on board, and then not be able to place an order, so please let me know how serious you are if responding). To get an idea of what a kilt costs, check out USA Kilts as well as Scotweb (bearing in mind that the prices you find immediately are for the cheapest and most popular fabrics). Seriously, get in touch with me if you’d be interested.
This, of course, is great for those of us who don’t really have a clan or a region of our own. And even those who do, you can wear Aisteach, too. After all, we need kilts for all occasions, right? I personally think it would be a hoot to march into a highland games with a group of people sporting Aisteach and get to pitch my book to anyone who asks what tartan we’re all wearing.
So that’s the news from the land of Kyle Aisteach. I’ve got a tartan. I’ve got my own tartan purely because I’m a little bit crazy.
And being a little bit crazy isn’t a bad thing.
Come be a part of my clan!