How To Make a Kilt

Scottish kilts

A kilt, a Scottish wrapped skirt, the front apron half of which has two overlapping panels and the back has many pleats, is essentially made with about nine yards of tartan cloth. A true handmade kilt is quite an expensive one and often an investment of a lifetime.

To start to make a kilt, one needs to gauge the length of material needed. A single pleat contains the width of a full “sett”, with a regular one-inch pleat showing. If the sett size is 8 inches, one pleat would need 9 inches of cloth. So, for example, four yards of double-width tartan would be required for a kilt with the hip measurement of 42 inches. Children or dancers’ kilts need less material.

For the actual process to make a kilt, measurements of the hip and waist establish the required amount of pleating. A kilt’s length is calculated from the waist to the middle of the knee, keeping an extra couple of inches for a higher waist with a broad kilt belt. The finished selvage side of true tartan should go to the kilt’s lower hem. Then, slice the cloth into two pieces broad enough to cover waist down to the bottom hem, leaving an extended centerpiece for the waistband. Match the sett pattern and sew together the two broad hemmed strips. Serge in the upper side of the cloth, stitching zigzag style, or using an anti-fraying liquid.

For marking the outside apron, which buckles on the right side, the tartan pattern has to be correctly centered. Fold under a minimum of 6 inches initially, and then create on the left, a deep, double-width pleat. Fasten with a safety pin. Repeat this process and measure the inside apron to match the apron outside, and fasten the end.

To pleat the kilt use a piece of cardboard to duplicate the pleat pattern of the tartan in each sett, fastening each time with a pin at the hip. Repeat this process till required width is pleated. Now, to stitch these, use a blind (felling) stitch, beginning at the pleat’s “hip” and then take the thread straight up to the pleat’s top edge. To add fringe and waistband, use 3 inch and 5 inch wide cloth pieces respectively. For adding the lining, remember that it should be as deep as the sewn down pleat. For adding buckles and straps, available easily at online stores, punch holes to leather straps and sew them on the inside near the fringe, so that it stays just under the waistband. Velcro can be a good option to hold the cloth safely even without a belt.
On the whole, try to stick to quilter’s safety pins and threads, which are perfect for kilt-making. To make a kilt for rough-use, use wool blend plaids of the largest patterns for easy sewing.


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