McCandlish/McCandless Tartans


[Image: Example of kilt in McCandlish red tartan]
Kilt in McCandlish red

The McCandlish tartans are family tartans, loosely based on Black Watch (also known as Old Campbell), with an influence from Gordon. McCandlish departs from other Black Watch-inspired tartans by having the “tram track” lines (the black over-check or over-cheque) in different widths. These tartans are also rare in having multiple tones of the same basic colour, and it may be the only family or clan tartan to do so with the dominant colours of the tartan (the under-check). The result is a pleasing subtlety and understatedness. Like most tartans, these are symmetric – the pattern is repeated in mirror image in all four directions (a handful of tartans, such as Buchanan, are asymmetric and repeat without mirroring).

The yellow stripe in the tartan represents the “bright line” events of history – Jacobite uprisings, Highland and Lowland clearances, plantation of Ulster, British colonialism, and potato famines in Ireland and in Scotland – that led to the Gaelic Diaspora. Yellow was selected, as well as black and red (in the original/base version of the tartan), from the colours of the earliest known McCandlish blazon (coat of arms). The blue represents the sea, as the vast majority of McCandlishes, McCandlesses and related are among the diaspora, especially in North America and Australia & New Zealand, and it is again a reference to that blazon, which features a ship. The increasing width of the black stripes from 4 to 8 to 24 threads (or 2-4-12, in smaller weavings) represents the continuing worldwide growth of the name from a once very small family.

The McCandlish/McCandless tartans were devised by Stanton McCandlish, in 1992, because there was no tartan for the name, and the name is not considered a sept of any clan. They were developed with advice and assistance from the late J. Charles “Scotty” Thompson, a Fellow of the Scottish Tartans Society and author of So You’re Going to Wear the Kilt. They are registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans and the Scottish Tartans Authority. They’re registered as McCandlish but are also for McCandless, Candlish, McCanlies, and the other spellings. They are not copyrighted, and are free for personal or even commercial use; you do not need to ask for permission.

Chiefs of various clans have issued declarations regarding who is considered entitled to wear particular tartans such as MacGregor (and McCandlishes, not being a formal sept of any clan, won’t qualify). No such restrictions exist regarding the McCandlish tartan, which is intended for all who are connected to a Cuindlis family.

McCandlish being a scarce name (even including all the variant spellings), the tartans are not kept in stock by vendors, but can be special-ordered from kiltmakers and weavers.


Click any image for a larger, higher-resolution version. The close-up versions are nearly photorealistic.

All of these images are free for personal and even commercial use, within the permissive license conditions. Feel free to use them as computer desktop images, for website backgrounds, on letterhead, or whatever you like.

The “Regular” Tartans

Each image can tile horizontally and vertically.

Red Green (Hunting) Grey (Dress)

The Arisaid (Dance) Tartans

Arisaid1 tartans, typically featuring white as a major (under-check) colour, traditionally developed for ladies’ wear, but in modern times have also seen some use in men’s formal wear (e.g. matching men’s kilts and women’s dresses for a wedding). White-bearing arisaid tartans have, starting in the 20th century, also often been used for special Highland dancer kilts regardless of gender2. Each image can tile horizontally and vertically.

Arisaid red Arisaid green Arisaid grey

Approximate Colour-scheme Variations

[Image: McCandlish ted kilt, in a relatively muted palette, with brown leather belt and sporran.]
Kilt in a lighter palette of the red version
(photo by Ben McCandless)

The illustrations above are of “modern”, i.e. fully saturated, colours. A number of woolen mills produce reduced-saturation colour schemes under various names such as “muted”, “faded”, “reproduction”, and “ancient”. Based on samples of popular tartans in these more subtle palettes, tartan software can estimate the look of a new tartan in them. See notes below on ordering such a tartan. These sample images are just of the more distinct variations, and are not tiling.

Red “antique”
Red “faded”
Red “modern”, extra-dark
Red “muted”
Red “reproduction”
Green “ancient”
Green “antique”
Green “faded”
Green “modern”, extra-dark
Green “muted”
Green “reproduction”
Grey “modern”, extra-dark

If you have your heart set on something like one of the above, please be aware that there is no guarantee that the above examples would closely match what a woolen mill produced if you simply told them you wanted McCandlish in a “muted” or “ancient” style. You will need to supply either an illustration (such as a good print-out of one of the above, perhaps after colour adjustment to account for monitor versus printer colour differences), or to supply yarn samples in the approximate colours you want. The author recommends doing both, actually. For more detail, see “How can I get cloth or a kilt in this tartan?

Thread Counts

[Image: Example of towel in McCandlish green tartan]
Tea towel in McCandlish green,
woven with a halved thread count,
by St. Croix Weaving, Wisconsin

A thread count is an alphanumeric code that represents a particular tartan, and it can be used by any weaver to reproduce a tartan accurately.

Consider the thread counts below to be “official” and correct. In at least two cases, tartan databases have gotten certain McCandlish thread counts wrong, and some vendors still do. Do not trust that your kiltmaker or weaver has the correct thread count until you supply it to them yourself. Check that the cloth is correct (have the kiltmaker send a picture) before making the kilt.

These thread counts are given over a half sett with full count at the pivots, and the tartan is mirrored in all directions. These details will be important to your kiltmaker or weaver.

Linear Thread Counts

The numbers in a thread count can all be halved or doubled for different weaving needs.

Some registries and databases will provide the thread count starting from a different position, or even reversed, but for a symmetric tartan of this sort, the woven end result will be the same as long as the proportions are correct.

Red:Ye4 Bk4 Rd48 Bk24 Cr4 Bk8 Cr4 Bk4 Cr48 Bk4 Az12
Green:Ye4 Bk4 LG48 Bk24 Gn4 Bk8 Gn4 Bk4 Gn48 Bk4 Az12
Grey:Ye4 Bk4 GL48 Bk24 GD4 Bk8 GD4 Bk4 GD48 Bk4 Az12
Arisaid Red:Ye4 Bk4 Wh48 Bk24 Cr4 Bk8 Cr4 Bk4 Cr48 Bk4 Az12
Arisaid Green:Ye4 Bk4 Wh48 Bk24 Gn4 Bk8 Gn4 Bk4 Gn48 Bk4 Az12
Arisaid Grey:Ye4 Bk4 Wh48 Bk24 GD4 Bk8 GD4 Bk4 GD48 Bk4 Az12

Colour Key

Hexadecimal colour codes are provided for suggested matches in a “modern” colour scheme.

  • Ye = yellow, #d09800 (standard tartan yellow)
  • Bk = black, #101010
  • Wh = white, #f8f8f8 (standard tartan white, actually an off-white)
  • Gn = green, #003c14 (standard medium-dark green)
  • LG = light green #006818 (as used in Galloway Hunting and a few other tartans)
  • Rd = red, #c80000 (standard vibrant red)
  • Cr = crimson, #880000 (dark red, as used in a few other tartans)
  • Az = azure, #48A4c0 (light blue as in Anderson tartan and a few others)
  • GL = light grey, #c0c0c0 (as used in Balmoral and a few other tartans)
  • GD = dark grey, #646464 (standard grey as found in many tartans)

The names of the colours may vary from registry to registry. For example, in the Scottish Register of Tartans, the typical tartan yellow is called “medium yellow”, azure is “light blue”, and crimson is “dark red”.

When providing the thread count to a kiltmaker or weaver, spell out the words in the colour names, since abbreviations vary: “Yellow 4, black 4, light grey 48 ….” Specify that it is a half sett with full count at the pivots, mirrored in all directions. You can also just direct them to this webpage, or the correct page at the Scottish Register of Tartans website.

Thread Count Table

This is just for informational and comparison purposes; you do not need to provide a copy of this table to a kiltshop or weaver, just one of the linear thread counts above.

Threads per colour
Tartan 4 4 48 24 4 8 4 4 48 4 12
“Regular” versions
Red version Ye Bk Rd Bk Cr Bk Cr Bk Cr Bk Az
Green version Ye Bk LG Bk Gn Bk Gn Bk Gn Bk Az
Grey version Ye Bk GL Bk GD Bk GD Bk GD Bk Az
Arisaid versions
Red version Ye Bk Wh Bk Cr Bk Cr Bk Cr Bk Az
Green version Ye Bk Wh Bk Gn Bk Gn Bk Gn Bk Az
Grey version Ye Bk Wh Bk GD Bk GD Bk GD Bk Az

The table is read, for example, “yellow 4, black 4, red 48, black 24, crimson 4, black 8, crimson 4, black 4, crimson 48, black 4, azure 12” for the red “regular” version.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have questions about the McCandlish tartans, including why they exist, how to get a kilt made, what organizations they are registered with, why they are not copyrighted, etc., please see the Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers) page.


1: The arisaid (also earasaid, earrasaid, or arasaid) is a large ladies’ belted or unbelted plaid worn as a wrap or a dress; the female equivalent of the great kilt. The term “arisaid tartan” has come to refer to tartans intended specifically for such ladies’ wear, and they typically though not always feature white as a colour in them.

2: See this list of dance tartans: – nearly all of them use white.

Last modified 2023-05-30 by SMcCandlish.