Do I need a sewing machine?
Nope! The instructions in The Art of Kiltmaking are for a traditional kilt that is stitched entirely by hand.
What if I’ve never sewn anything before?
A kilt is sewn entirely differently from most other garments – there are no pattern pieces to cut out and sew together. A traditional kilt is made from a long rectangle of tartan, with the sizing and shaping done as the pleats are stitched. Having prior experience sewing garments from printed patterns therefore isn’t much of an advantage. Many, many people who have never sewn before have successfully made kilts using the instructions in The Art of Kiltmaking.
How long will it take me to make a kilt?
The first time you make a hand-sewn traditional kilt, it’s likely to take you about 40 hours. It takes an experienced kiltmaker 18-20 hours to hand-stitch a traditional kilt that has all of the interior construction shown in The Art of Kiltmaking.
Should I make a practice kilt with cheap material?
My recommendation is to make your first kilt out of wool. First, it is much easier to make a kilt from wool than it is from other fabrics – it’s easy to stitch by hand, shapes well with steam, and holds a good press. Other fabrics are more difficult to work with. Although any wool fabric is better than cotton or poly cotton blends, you’ll have better results if you work with the best kilting tartan you can afford (see FAQ below on kilting tartan). Second, you’re going to put 40 hours into your first kilt, and that’s a lot of time to put into something that is just practice. And, if you’re not happy with what you’ve done at virtually any point, you can simply take out the stitching and re-do it – there are only two places in the whole process where you can’t recover by simply un-doing the stitching.
What is kilting tartan?
Although kilting tartan is available in weights ranging from lightweight (11 oz) to very heavyweight (18 oz), all are heavier than shirt- or tie-weight fabric. A combination of the weight, relatively stiff “hand”, twill weave, and 100% worsted wool makes a kilt that swings well (isn’t flippy and skirt-like), holds a good press, shapes easily using steam during construction but doesn’t stretch out of shape when worn, and doesn’t pill. Medium- and heavyweight kilting tartan (and some lightweight kilting tartan) has a kilting selvedge – a selvedge that looks good enough to be used as the bottom edge of the kilt (i.e., no hem needed).
Where can I get kilting tartan?
Many Scottish shops (both online and brick-and-mortar) sell tartan by the yard at retail prices or can order tartan for you from one of several mills in the UK that weave kilting tartan. The online Scotweb site in Scotland is an excellent place to browse for and purchase tartan at retail prices – they list, all in one place, a vast range of tartans in a variety of weights from a variety of mills. You can also find out whether a particular tartan is unavailable as a stock weave and would have to be custom woven. Wholesale prices are generally available directly from the weaving mills, but many do not sell wholesale outside the trade.
Are there any alternatives to wool?
What if you want genuine tartan but don’t want wool? Try Marton Mills in England - they have an extensive list of tartans available in medium weight polyviscose, which makes an excellent kilt that is machine washable and dryable.
Are there any workshops I can go to in order to learn kiltmaking?
Barb teaches one traditional kiltmaking workshop a year in collaboration with Steve Ashton, owner of Freedom Kilts. Steve teaches a companion workshop on contemporary kiltmaking. Kilt Kamp 2018 will be in Victoria, BC from July 30 - August 4. Information on cost and registration can be found in the online forum X-Marks the Scot.
Do you have any how-to videos?
Not at the present time. Maybe if they ever invent a 30-hour day!
Are there other kinds of kilts than the ones described in the book?
Yes – there are several kinds of traditional kilts. The style that we think of as a traditional kilt (8 yards or more of tartan, narrow knife pleats) actually dates from the late 19th century and evolved from earlier styles of kilts. Box pleated kilts appeared in the late 18th century and were made from about 4 yards of tartan with wide box pleats instead of knife pleats. A Kingussie kilt (pronounced kin-you’-see, not kin-gus’-ee) is a rare 19th century style with knife pleats facing opposite directions on each side of a central box pleat. You can find instructions for making a box pleated kilt in a free pdf supplement that Barb co-authored with Matthew Newsome, former curator of the Scottish Tartans Museum.
What if I want to make a kilt for a woman?
Although a kilt is historically a man’s garment, women have worn traditional kilts for over half a century as pipers, drummers, and Highland dancers, and their kilts are absolutely identical in construction to those made for men. The Art of Kiltmaking provides instructions for shaping a traditional kilt so that it fits well, regardless of a person’s shape or gender. The book does not, however, provide instructions for making a woman’s kilt skirt, which contains less yardage, is typically machine stitched, and does not have the interior construction of a traditional kilt. If you are interested in making a kilt for a woman but would like an alternative to a traditional kilt, you can see my post on the topic in the online forum X Marks the Scot.
What about kilts for kids?
The Art of Kiltmaking contains instructions for making a kilt with a hem and a hidden (growth) pleat, both of which are useful in a kilt for growing child. The instructions can also be easily modified for a toddler’s kilt by shortening or eliminating the rise and using less robust interfacing.
Where can I find out more about kilts and tartan?
The online form X Marks the Scot is one of the most useful and friendliest resources for information and answers to questions about kilts, kiltmaking, and wearing kilts. For authoritative information on kilts, kilt history, and tartan, try Matthew Newsome’s blogs, the Scottish Tartans Authority, and The Scottish Register of Tartans.
Do you have any information on properly wearing and taking care of a kilt?
You can find lots of advice by going to the online forum X Marks the Scot. You can also download the pdf that I send out with custom-made kilts, which has the critical pieces of information.
Do you make custom-made kilts?
Yes, I do. Please contact me.
What if I have other questions?
You can find answers to lots of common questions by searching the online forum X Marks the Scot. If you can’t find the answer there, just contact me.