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Tartan Ferret


When we talk about hose there are four different types: diced, tartan, Argyle and Plain. Normally - unless you're in a Scottish regiment or a re-enactment group - you will only come across the full length hose complete with feet. We're very grateful to Corgi Hose, Kilkeel Knitwear and Henderson Highland Hose for allowing us to use images and technical explanations.

Diced hose

Hose tops. Hose has been worn down through the years and indeed up to the present day by all the Regiments. Invariably "Diced Hose" was worn in Red/Black or Full-length diced hoseRed/White dicing, usually as "hose tops" where the heel and foot were missing and ordinary socks could be worn underneath with "gaiters" covering the join. This provided a much needed economy measure. In Ministry of Defence terminology these are called "Diced Hose, Footless". Incidentally those knitted "mittens" without fingers worn by the Band members and greatly important in cold weather are called "mittens, musicians .......". Full length diced hose (that is - complete with feet!) were worn usually by officers and sergeants at Mess nights and for Regimental Balls.

Tartan hose tops

Full length tartan hose

Tartan hose tops as distinct from diced hose tops, in designs matching their own tartan would often be worn by Regimental Pipers.


Argyle hose topFull length Argyle hose

Argyle hose are a simplified version of tartan hose in cases where the pattern is too intricate to replicate exactly. It became more usual (and sometimes more pleasing to the eye) if the tartan design was imitated but not copied exactly.


Hose - full length stockings
Hose tops - footless, from turnover to ankle only
Diced Hose - normally two colours only but with marl
Argyle - pattern designed to imitate a tartan
Raker - technical term for criss-crossing line on tartan design
Split diamonds - where the large diamond is split into two colours to add more variety to the design
Diamond within a diamond - small diamond superimposed in the centre on the large diamond.
Marl - two threads of the basic colours twisted together, can be single marl or double.
Intarsia knitting:- a knitted fabric containing two or more colors, each area of color knitted from a separate yarn which is contained entirely within that area

Structure of Knitted Hose

The conventionally woven tartan check is the result of the interaction of the multiple warp and weft threads in the weaving process. In knitting however only one thread is used in a plain fabric, or one thread in each colored area in an intarsia (see terminology) fabric. It is therefore impossible to copy the checked structure of the cloth in a knitted fabric. The nearest approximation is to replace the undercheck with diamonds of solid colour and marls.

In knitted hose, the main colors of the undercheck are represented by solid diamonds along the front and back of the leg, and the marls are the diamonds on the sides of the leg. The diamonds also have overchecks to match the tartan.

If the tartan has more than two colors in the undercheck, it may be necessary to have "split diamonds" in order to incorporate all the solid colors. Similarly if there are multiple colors in the overcheck, it may be necessary to make a two color check. Both these operations involve significant extra work and therefore cost more.

Types of knitted hose

There are two types of hose, seamfree and fully fashioned.

Seamfree hose are produced on a cylinder machine with a fixed number of needles, this type of fixed needle machine is normally used for sock production. It produces a tubular hose and the calf muscle being accommodated by loosening the stitch size. It is suitable for juveniles and young ladies where the difference between ankle and calf circumference is not too great.
Mabel on seamfree machine

Fully fashioned are made on flatbed machines so that the number of stitches can be varied to allow for the shape of the leg. These are then sewn together and have a seam along the back of the leg. These are more suitable for men's hose since there is normally a large difference between the ankle and calf circumference requiring extra stitches to accommodate this difference. If a seamfree hose were to be stretched over this difference it would distort the diamonds and detract from the appearance.

© Scottish Tartans Authority
Scottish Tartans Authority (Scottish limited company no. 162386), c/o J & H Mitchell, 51 Atholl Road, Pitlochry, PH16 5BU
Scottish Charity Number SCO24310

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