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Regions and clans in Scotland have their unique tartan, and so do Canadian provinces to express their heritage through these distinctive designs. A tartan is not merely a pattern but a woven narrative of a place and its people.

Today, we invite you to journey with us through Alberta’s tartans’ captivating hues and patterns. A province with its roots steeped in diverse cultures, Alberta offers a vibrant tableau reflected in the warp and weft of its tartans. We will delve into the origin and symbolism of Alberta’s official tartan and its dress tartan, providing a glimpse into the heart of this remarkable province.

Tartan Tidbits

Alberta proudly boasts two official tartans representing the province’s rich heritage. The Legislature officially recognized the Alberta tartan on March 30, 1961. A few decades later, the Alberta dress tartan joined the ranks, being formally adopted in 2000.

The original Alberta tartan was the brainchild of Alison Lamb, the director of the Edmonton Rehabilitation Society, and Ellen Neilsen, the Society’s weaving instructor, back in 1961. On the other hand, the Alberta Dress Tartan was designed in 2000 by 12-year-old Ashley Stokowy and her Highland Dancing teacher, Gail Danyst.

Each tartan showcases a palette of symbolic colours. The Alberta tartan combines green (forests), gold (wheat fields), blue (skies and lakes), pink (wild rose), and black (coal and petroleum). The Alberta Dress Tartan includes these colours and introduces significant sections of white, symbolizing Alberta’s bright, snowy days.

Historical Background and Creation

Alberta is a province that seamlessly blends the old with the new, natural beauty, human innovation, diverse cultures, and a unified community spirit. The echoes of its Scottish heritage resonate strongly, a testament to the Scottish settlers who helped shape Alberta’s identity, especially in the early 19th century. Today over half a million Albertans can trace their ancestry back to Scotland.

Tartans hold a significant place in this cultural milieu, emulating Alberta’s vibrant past and promising future. The conception of Alberta’s official tartan has a fascinating history. Born out of an initiative by the Edmonton Rehabilitation Society (now Goodwill Industries of Alberta) in 1961, the tartan’s creation was more than just a design project. It was a project from a charitable organization that was trying to teach valuable skills to people with disabilities, such as operating handlooms.

The tartan was created by the Society’s director, Alison Lamb, and Ellen Neilsen, the weaving instructor. This dynamic duo was instrumental in crafting a design that would represent the Alberta province. With their vision and effort, the tartan was adopted as the official emblem of Alberta in an Act of the Legislature on March 30, 1961. This tartan can be found in the Scottish Register of Tartans under number 2055.

Years later, Alberta’s official dress tartan would emerge. At the turn of the millennium, the province embraced a second tartan – one designed for more formal occasions. This dress tartan was the creation of a young, 12-year-old Ashley Stokowy and her Highland Dancing teacher Gail Danyst, with help from Lochcarron of Scotland. Unveiled at Scotdance 2000, the North American Highland Dancing Championships, this tartan complements the original Alberta tartan. Recognizing its significance and beauty, the Alberta Dress Tartan Amendment to The Emblems of Alberta Act (Bill 205) adopted it as the official dress tartan in 2000. It was also registered under number 4218 in the Scottish Register of Tartans.

Through these tartans, we see a reflection of Alberta’s history and its ties to Scottish heritage. They symbolize Alberta’s values, its landscape, and its people – a vibrant testament to Alberta’s past, present, and future.

Design of the Tartans of Alberta

In every tartan, colours are not merely aesthetic choices; they convey profound meanings about the land and its people. The Alberta tartans are no exception, weaving together a vivid portrait of the province’s natural beauty, resources, and symbols.

Official Tartan

The official tartan of Alberta utilizes five distinct colours, each signifying an element of Alberta’s identity. The green represents the province’s vast forests, a tribute to the verdant wilderness that stretches across Alberta. The gold is a nod to the wheat fields, the lifeblood of Alberta’s agricultural industry. The blue reflects Alberta’s clear skies and sparkling lakes, highlighting the province’s picturesque landscapes. The pink captures the colour of the wild rose, Alberta’s provincial flower, and a symbol of the people’s tenacity and grace. Lastly, the black stands for coal and petroleum, acknowledging Alberta’s rich natural resources.

Alberta official tartan – wool fabric

In terms of the design, the tartan follows a specific ‘sett,’ the sequence of coloured threads that create the tartan’s pattern. The Alberta tartan’s sett is (half sett with the full count at the pivots):

  • Yellow 32
  • Black 8
  • Blue 16
  • Black 8
  • Coral 8
  • Black 8
  • Green 104

The hex colours used are:

  • Black 101010
  • Coral E87878
  • Blue 2474E8
  • Green 006818
  • Yellow D8B000

Dress Tartan

In addition to the official tartan, Alberta also has an official dress tartan, designed to complement the original and intended for formal attire and special occasions. It incorporates the same colours as the Alberta tartan but adds substantial sections of white, symbolizing Alberta’s bright, snowy days.

Alberta official dress tartan – wool fabric

The sett for the Alberta dress tartan is (half sett with the full count at the pivots):

  • White 8
  • Green 6
  • White 38
  • Green 16
  • Black 2
  • Dark Red 8
  • Black 2
  • Blue 36
  • Black 2
  • Yellow 4

The hex colours used are:

  • White F8F8F8
  • Green 006818
  • Black =101010
  • Dark Red 880000
  • Blue 2C40A0
  • Yellow D09800

Each thread of the Alberta tartans paints a vivid portrait of the province’s beauty and bounty. The designs are symbolic, reflecting Alberta’s rich heritage and natural splendour.

Usage and Significance of the Tartan

Tartans are far more than just colourful patterns to the people of Alberta; they embody a sense of identity, heritage, and community pride. Wearing a tartan is a tribute to Alberta’s history, its geographical beauty, and the resilience of its people.

Alberta’s official tartan and dress tartan are versatile, finding their use in various forms of clothing and at numerous official events. The tartans lend themselves to multiple styles, from traditional Scottish kilts to modern fashion accessories like scarves and ties. During public ceremonies, community gatherings, or Highland Games, the sight of these tartans is not uncommon, adding a dash of colour and a sense of belonging.

Alberta’s tartans are not clan-specific, making them accessible to everyone, irrespective of their ancestry. It contrasts the Scottish tradition, where certain tartans are restricted to specific clans. Alberta’s tartans, therefore, represent a sense of collective identity, offering a unique opportunity for anyone who wishes to wear them to embrace the province’s shared heritage.

Every year on Tartan Day, celebrated on April 6, Albertans proudly don their tartans. This day is a tribute to Scottish heritage, where tartans take center stage, reflecting the enduring bond between Alberta and Scotland.

The selection of the date, April 6, is deliberate, aligning with the momentous event in 1320 when the Declaration of Arbroath was signed, marking a critical step in Scotland’s history of independence.

The tartans also make a notable appearance at various Scottish-themed festivals and games across the province, such as the Water Valley Traditional Celtic Folk Festival, the Canmore Highland Games, the Edmonton Scottish Society Highland Gathering, and the Sherwood Park Highland Gathering. These events uphold and celebrate the Scottish heritage that is an integral part of Alberta’s identity.

In essence, Alberta’s tartans are not just fabrics. They are pieces of cultural heritage, the province’s pride, the threads that bind its people. Through these tartans, the spirit of Alberta lives on, woven into the fabric of everyday life, connecting its people to their roots and each other.

Product ideas with the Alberta tartan – Credit ScotlandShop

Purchasing and Crafting with Tartan

Embracing Alberta’s tartan heritage doesn’t just stop at appreciating the designs. The absolute joy begins when you hold a piece of tartan fabric. Several options are available for those inspired to own or craft with Alberta’s tartans.

Locally, some stores throughout Alberta carry fabric and tartan-related products, from full kilts to tartan scarves, ties, and even tartan blankets. For example, you can check ‘The Scottish Shoppe,’ ‘The Highland Shoppe,’ or ‘Forever Tartan.’

Renowned tartan manufacturers and suppliers in Scotland, such as ‘Lochcarron of Scotland’ and ‘ScotlandShop,’ provide a more extensive collection. Both have a long history of producing high-quality tartan products and are the places where I buy my tartans. They offer tartan goods, including clothing, accessories, homeware, and fabric by the meter, for those who wish to craft their tartan creations.

With tartan fabric at your disposal, the possibilities are endless. Sew a throw pillow for a pop of colour and heritage in your living room. Create a tartan table runner to bring a sense of occasion to your dinner parties. Design a tartan scarf to wrap yourself in Alberta’s warmth on chilly days. Make a tartan bow tie for a touch of provincial pride at formal events. Even small scraps can be used for crafting, perfect for bookmarks, patchwork, or decorations.

Crafting with tartan not only allows you to embrace Alberta’s cultural heritage but also gives you the freedom to add a personal touch to the items you create.

Conclusion

From the emerald-green forests to the golden wheat fields, from the azure-blue skies to the importance of natural resources, Alberta’s tartans artistically capture the essence of the province in threads. More than just vibrant fabric patterns, they are a visual narrative of Alberta’s heritage, capturing its history, diversity, and spirit of resilience.

Whether draped over shoulders at festivals or adorning homes in unique crafts, the tartans reflect a shared identity and collective pride. They offer an accessible, colourful symbol for anyone who wishes to embrace and celebrate Alberta’s rich heritage. Whether it is the official tartan with its earthy tones reflecting Alberta’s landscapes or the dress tartan with its added whites representing the province’s bright snowy days, they stand as vibrant emblems of Alberta’s spirit.

As we conclude this journey of threads and patterns, may it inspire you to appreciate these tartans as more than just material. Let them remind them of the pride, history, and community they represent. And, if you feel moved, share this post with others who might also be fascinated by Alberta’s tartans — these unique, beautiful pieces of heritage continue to weave the story of Alberta.

Sources

  • The Scottish Register of Tartans
  • Emblems of Alberta (Alberta Dress Tartan) Amendment Act, 2000, SA 2000, c 5