The word tartan most probably comes from the Old French tartaine meaning the composition of a fabric i.e. a mixture of cotton and linen but by the time it was adopted in 16th Century Scotland it's meaning was already shifting to the pattern of a cloth. A Clan tartan is recognised by the pattern or sett. The arrangement of colours is calculated on a thread count, which is the same for the warp as the weft i.e. horizonatal and vertical. This means that no two pure colours can lie next to each other.

The weave used in tartan is called twill, the thread going over two and under two which, by moving along one thread of each row, produces the characteristic diagonal rib in the material. The size of the finished design varies with the thickness of the thread - silk shows a very fine pattern so that tartan made from it will have a much smaller sett than that from wool used to make kilts and skirts. The weaver can also increase or decrease the scale, provided he or she maintains the proportions.

Added to differences in size, variations in colour can be very marked as they would have been with vegetable dyes. In fact there is no correct or standard shade of red, blue or green, etc., and this can be left to the whim or taste of the wearer or manufacturer, but to give the best effect the colours should be balanced so that no one colour predominates. Nowadays the dyes are classified as 'modem' using strong colours; and 'muted, weathered or ancient' where the shades are generally dull and brownish. But for all these tartans, which may look quite different, the basic sett remains the same. Clans with bright tartans, such as the Munros, also have a dark or 'Hunting' tartan which may have a different sett and which is based on dark green or brown, and which also appears in different dyes. The Munros wear the Black Watch, 42nd, or government tartan as their Hunting sett, as do several other Clans.

The concept of a tartan used exclusively by one Clan seems to have evolved in the 19th Century, after the wearing of tartan was proscribed between 1746 and 1784. During that time only the Highland Regiments were permitted to wear tartan which may have led after 1784 to the drive for uniformity. The sett of a tartan can never have been a practical early source of identification, as the variations are too slight to have been visible at any distance. Surviving pre-1745 portraits of figures depicted wearing tartan support this, often showing the sitters wearing more than one pattern at the same time.

Specific Tartans found on Munro clan members

Munro Ancient Tartan:

(source @The Scottish Register of Tartans)
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Tartan Registration notes: This was manufactured by Wilsons of Bannockburn as 'Lochiel Tartan' (that is Cameron of Lochiel) and how it became a Munro tartan is a mystery. Despite that, this sett is usually regarded as the correct form of the Munro tartan. It is illustrated by Smibert and the Smith brothers (both works published in 1850). In early versions (as shown here) bright pink replaces the crimson between the three green lines. Munros wear the 'Black Watch' as a Hunting tartan. In their 1850 book 'The Clan and Family Tartans of Scotland' W and A Smith of Mauchline wrote: 'We give the pattern which has been longest known by the Manufacturers as 'The Monro Tartan' ' Similar to Stirling Weavers' Guild (#936, original Scottish Tartans Authority reference) Sample in Scottish Tartans Authority Dalgety Collection in which the blue bands are black. Lochcarron sample they are blue as shown here.
Munro Ancient Tartan

Munro Modern Tartan:

(source @The Scottish Register of Tartans)
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Tartan Registration notes: D.C. Stewart says, "Logan's count for the Munro is misleading, as it indicates a duplication of the group of three green lines normally centred between the main bands of pattern. Yet this duplication appears in McIan's drawing, and could be regarded as an improvement in design." Recent research into the papers of Wilson's of Bannockburn reveal that Logans sample was supplied by Wilson as 'George 4th with yellow' with a subsequent reply that Logans rendering was correct. James Logan The Clans of the Scottish Highlands, 1845-47 illustrated by McIan. Wilson's of Bannockburn a weaving firm founded c1770 near Stirling .
Munro Modern Tartan

Munro (Black and Red):

(source @The Scottish Register of Tartans)
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Tartan Registration notes: Scottish Tartans Society: The design comes from the Vestiarium Scoticum (1842). The authors, the Sobieski Stuart brothers, enjoyed a popular following among the Scottish gentry in the early Victorian era, and in the spirit of the times, added mystery, romance and some spurious historical documentation to the subject of tartan. Of the better known tartans, the book offers some minor variation, but in other cases it provides the only recorded version of many tartans in use today. Lochcarron swatch says 'Band sett'.
Munro Black and Red Tartan

Black Watch Tartan:

Clan Munro is able to wear this tartan due to Colonel Sir Robert Munro (1684-1746), the original Black Watch commander.

(source @The Scottish Register of Tartans)
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Tartan Registration notes: In 1725, General George Wade, the commander of British forces in North Britain authorised the formation of six independent companies of troops to police the Highlanders. One company was raised by Col William Grant of Ballindalloch. The companies were known locally as the 'Black Watch' and were eventually consolidated to form the 43rd (later 42nd) Royal Highland Regiment. The Independent Companies wore a dark blue, black and green plaid which was woven by over sixty weavers in Strathspey, the country of Clan Grant. A portrait of Robert Grant of Lurg, circa 1769, is in the National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle. The painting depicts the subject in a coat and plaid in the Black Watch tartan. An early sample of the Black Watch tartan labelled 'Grant' is in the collection of Lt Gen Sir William Cockburn at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. Another swatch of this 'Grant' tartan was added to the collection of the Highland Society of London in 1822.
Black Watch Tartan
Black Watch tartan in the Clan Munro exhibition at the Storehouse of Foulis