During the very first Christmas of our #SeaAndBeScene adventures I was invited to be on CTV Atlantic Morning Show (back then it was called Breakfast Television) to do a 4 part series on Celebrating the SEAson. My mission was a truly merry one, and given that we were already showcasing all the wonderful things found on Canada’s East Coast throughout the year – finding festive ways to incorporate them into the Holidays was simply the best. Everything from traditional recipes and cool craft ideas to cocktails and great gifts to give – it was lots of fun! You’ll can watch all those fun segments in our #SABS10 Video Vault here or click on the picture below. It was in putting that series together that I discovered my true love of those traditional patterns and came up with 10 Twists on Tartan for the Holidays!
The Story of our Provincial Tartans
Each of the Four Atlantic Provinces has it’s own signature tartan. The history and meaning behind each pattern can be found on-line through our Canadian Heritage site – here’s a smidge of that detail…
“The Newfoundland and Labrador tartan was designed by St. John’s businessman Sam Wilansky in the early 60’s. The tartan has the colours of gold, white, brown and red on a green background.
The gold represents the sun’s rays; the green represents the pine clad hills; the white represents the cloak of snow; the brown represents the Iron Isle; and the red represents the Royal Standard for which our fathers stood.” source
“The New Brunswick tartan was designed by the Loomcrofters of Gagetown, New Brunswick. The design was adopted as the official tartan by Order in Council in 1959. The tartan is registered at the Court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms of Scotland.
Represented in the design are the forest green of lumbering; the meadow green of agriculture; the blue of coastal and inland waters; and an interweaving of gold, symbol of the province’s potential wealth. The red blocks signify the loyalty and devotion of the early Loyalist settlers and the New Brunswick Regiment.” source
“The Nova Scotia tartan was designed by Mrs. Bessie Murray. It was registered in the books of the Court of the Lord Lyon on March 7, 1956, and adopted as the official tartan of the province under the authority of the Nova Scotia Tartan Act in 1963.
Represented in the design are the blue of sea and sky; the dark and light greens of evergreens and deciduous trees characteristic of the province; the white of rocks and coastline surf; the gold of Nova Scotia’s Royal Charter; and the red symbolizing the lion rampant on the Nova Scotia crest.” source
“Mrs. Jean Reid of Covehead designed the Prince Edward Island tartan which was adopted after a province-wide contest of June 16, 1960.
The reddish-brown signifies the redness of the soil; the green represents the grass and trees; the white is for the caps on the waves; the yellow for the sun.” source
Our Provincial Tartans really are rich in meaning and are now available wide variety of material. We’ve loved coming up with some truly fun and festive spins on the traditional patterns – we even showcased “10 Twists on Tartan for the Holidays“ in SEA AND BE SCENE TV’s 2013 Holiday Special. You can watch that full episode here and see the written version of those tips below. I sure hope they inspire you to find a spot in your SEAsonal celebration for our Provincial Tartans. Not covered below but included in our 2016 IN THE WORKSHOP segment of our Christmas Special – The Sidekick’s sweet tartan apron and our keepsake sachet take away ornaments. Just watch.
Here are our 10 Twists on Tartan for the Holidays
#1 – Wrap it Up in Tartan
With books written by Newfoundlanders the Newfoundland tartan is a perfect fit – I mean now the gift wrap tells a story too! Of course any gift from anywhere would look absolutely lovely wrapped up in a tradition-rich fabric like tartan. I used a medium weight material here, folded neatly and tied up with ribbon for a ‘tapeless’ approach, but you can actually get tartan paper by the roll now too! Top it off with a spring of holly (real or faux) and you’re good to go! PS – You can get your copy of “Facing the Sea: Lightkeepers And Their Families” by Harold Chubbs & Wade Kearley through our friends at Flanker Press here.
#2 – Top it off with Tartan
As a salute to the origin of this jam made in Mahone Bay we’ve used the Nova Scotia tartan to top it off perfectly, but truth be told adding a material topper to any jar of jam gives it that ‘homemade” feel. Making your own topper out of any material couldn’t be simpler
1. Using the appropriate tartan for your jam, jelly, pickles, preserves, etc. etc. turn it wrong side up on a flat surface.
2. Using pen, marker or material chalk, trace a side plate or plastic tub lid with a diameter of approx 6 inches.
3. Cut out the circle with pinking shears if you’ve got them as it gives a great zigzag pattern and saves on fraying.
4.Flip right side over and and evenly secure with a thin elastic band around the lid (note – if you had a glue gun and would rather not use a an elastic band – you could run a line of glue around lid and secure your topper just be really sure you’ve centred up your circle on the lid)
5. Cut string, twine, ribbon or yarn to about 20 inches, then wrap around jar neck (covering the elastic if used) leaving equal ties on either side. Then tie off in bow or secure with knot and faux greenery.
6. For additional charm using your ties to thread cranberry beads or glue in beads to knot using hot glue gun.
#3 – Take on a Tree Skirt
How about this for a wonderful way to incorporate your East Coast ‘roots!‘ Your Christmas tree will look right at home with tartan wrapped around its base and making it couldn’t be easier. A tree skirt is really just a circle with a line cut from one side to its centre, but if you’re in a rush to get it ready for company just do what I do. I used a large square of a heavier weight tartan and cut a diagonal line from one corner to the the centre, wrapped it around the base of the tree with that slit towards the back, and tucked the points under for a no-sew version with a more ‘rustic‘ feel. That’ll be our little secret.
#4 – Make it into a Pillow
Tartan fleece makes for the comfiest holiday pillows – coordinated with a matching fleece throw and you’re all set. My easy-sew instructions are as follows.
1. Buy an inexpensive sleep pillow and cut in half – then sew the rough ends up – leaving you with two new cushy pillow forms. NOTE – you can leave them at this size or cut further to make smaller pillows – your call.
2. Cut tartan fabric or fleece to the desired size (include extra for seam allowances). Some people will cut 2 squares but I cut a piece big enough to wrap around pillow eliminating the 4th side of sewing – your call.
3. With wrong sides facing, sew up sides turn right side out then insert pillow form. Use a hidden stitch to close the opening.
Alternatively – you can just make tartan cases/envelopes to go over existing pillows/cushions at Christmas time.
#5 – Line Your Gift Baskets
It’s the perfect way to amplify your offering from Canada’s East Coast. I loved putting this gift together for the show and not just because I LOVE COFFEE!!! Although if there’s a spirited coffee lover on your list you really should check out the Signature Blends on the go at Newfoundland based Jumping Bean Coffee. This wonderful reindeer basket from our friends at Oceanview Garden Centre looked even lovely filled with our caffeinated collection. Simply cut a square of tartan to fit, fluff it up with tissue paper underneath to cushion and adorn your offering with a few tree coordinating ornaments. Who wouldn’t love to wake up to this one on Christmas morning?!!! Oh and YES that reindeer is wearing a tartan scarf – which leads us nicely into #6 on our list.
#6 – Make No-Sew Scarves
I have a VERY big family and how lucky am I do say that we don’t really “need” anything come Christmas time. Still I’m a giver and while I’m not entirely sure everyone appreciates the patterns I’ve picked from year to year – every year at Christmas my family gets a fleece scarf. I make myself and The Sidekick one too so our growing collection is a reflection of Christmases past and a tradition I hope to take well into the future. Oh there have many patterns over the years but it all started with the Provincial Tartans from right here on Canada’s East Coast. You can spot my New Brunswick tartan scarf throughout the entire 2013 Holiday Special for SEA AND BE SCENE TV. I tell ya – using tartan fleece (or any plaid pattern) is not only festive but the lines make for an easy cut in this no-sew solution to your gift giving this holiday season.
#7 Table Top Tartan
There’s something warm and cozy about a tartan on a table top – it’s a wonderful way to incorporate the colours of the season and keep your theme flowing into the kitchen too! We’ve used the New Brunswick Tartan for our table runner which goes so perfectly with our Christmas Tree Truck cookie jar. We were lucky enough to be gifted these reversible place mats featuring the Cape Breton tartan. You can find a pattern for reversible place mats & napkins here. AND JUST AS A WARNING – Since you’ll be wanting to wash whatever you put on your table top, be sure to use colour-fast tartan material – so your patterns stay true to tradition wash after wash.
#8 – Cover it Up Completely
Go all in with a full table cloth to cover your table all season long. Simply cut a square or rectangle big enough to cover the top of your table with a suitable length of over hang, then just finish the edges with a simple hem. Again as noted above, you’ll definitely want to make your table cloth out of washable colour-fast tartan fabric so you can quickly launder as needed throughout the holidays.
#9 – Picture Perfect Tartan Project
Here’s a picture perfect project for tartan lovers of all ages. We found these inexpensive wooden frames at Michael’s and wound Nova Scotia tartan patterned ribbon in a two-corners tie/diagonal style and then finished in a bow. On the opposite corner we glued on some sweet sea shells collected on our nearby beach to created the loveliest reminder of time spent in Canada’s Ocean Playground. Just add your favourite photo and you’re good to give – and what a thoughtful gift it would be!
#10 – Wrap a Wreath in Tartan
And finally, how about this quick way to salute your home province?! This approach is great on an evergreen wreath too, but we went with this beautiful burlap from our friends at Oceanview Garden Centre. It’s set off sweetly with the PEI plaid. We actually used a strip of the heavy weight tartan left over from making our tree skirt, as we were looking to give it some substance since this wreath will be hung outdoors, but again you could use a tartan ribbon so long as you can find it in the desired width.
We’re always looking to build on our list of “10 Twists on Tartan for the Holidays” so please let us know if you’ve used tartan in another fun and festive way. We love to hear from you.!