How to make a Kilt

How to make a kilt

The making of a Kilt

Lets get a few facts under our kilt to get us started.

  • The first mention about sewing kilts comes from c1792
  • The kilt in its original form was a basic garment which didn’t require the trouble of tailoring.
  • The tartan cloth formed of a piece of material approximately 2 yards in width by 4 or 6 yards in length. It could, by the mere undoing of the belt, provide adequate overnight blanketing.
  • It was also said that The kilt is male attire and should NEVER be worn by the ladies, except Highland dancer lassies.

So with those little pearls of wisdom in mind, I’ve decided to make something that flies in the face of most of them, however I do think it looks pretty darn cool.

I chose to make Gemma a ladies kilt, putting in practice all that I learnt during episode 4 of the Great British Sewing Bee. The design is a little shorter on the leg than a traditional male one, it wraps around the other way, and therefore buckles up on the other side. I’ve also decided that as a design statement not to make a waistband (yes Patrick, it really was a design statement!). There was a pretty cool fray on the selvedge so I’ve decided to keep that on the upper edge.

Tartan has what is called a “sett”, that is, in laymans terms the pattern repeat of the vertical lines. This is what makes the pattern appear different when pleated.

I begin with working out the desired seat width. Yep, you can imagine the look I got when I had to ask Gemma, “can I measure how wide your bum is?”

This seat measurement is going to be the pleated portion of the kilt. Which begins at either end with a box pleat.

Making the pleats:

With this pleat start point noted, I then work out that the length of the front outer apron, this is the section that starts from the right buttock comes around to the front left hip bone.

From the other end of the pleats I calculate the under apron, that is the section that begins on the left buttock and comes around to the right hip bone.

With these measurements noted I get into pleating mode.

The seat measurement now entails pleating underneath at one “sett” intervals, in my case the repeat is every 4”, and the vertical line I want to be prominent is 1” wide, so that leaves 3” under pleating. Make sense?

So essentially if the required seat is 18 inches wide, you’d need 72 inches of fabric to cover it.

Once I have this pinned (like it’s going out of fashion) I begin securing it in place. For this I use a matching colour thread and do a long stitch all the way along the pleats on the first horizontal check. I then do the same along the pleats at the desired seat depth, meaning how long I want them to be secured in place. For this you should be looking to end the securing at the fullest part of the buttocks.

Once I have these secured I edge stitch vertically down each of the pleats between the two horizontal stitch lines.

This is by far and away the trickiest bit of the make. Its also quite hard to explain too ;o)

The aprons:

As this is a ladies kilt, and they tend to have more curves that a man, I’ve added some darts in the front, just one on either side to give it a slightly more elegant and pinched in look at the waist. These sit approximately on the hip bone.

The aprons come around the front as I mentioned earlier, and require some form of securing, this is done on the outer apron with two leather buckles and on the inner with a hook and eye. In order to give these both a bit of stability I fold under and hem the raw vertical edges of the aprons giving them a nice smart finish.

General stability:

The kilt is something that requires a bit of structure to keep it looking smart each and every wear. In order to keep those crisp lines and neatness I apply some canvas to the inside. Be warned some of the traditionalists wont like this next bit. This comes in so many forms nowadays, you can use lightweight ones, heavyweight ones, hair, synthetic, stitch in, iron on, the list goes on.

I’ve opted for a fusible medium weight one to ensure that the garment keeps looking neat even when my little lassie does have a twirl. It’s super quick to apply and can always be bulked up at a later time with something more structured if need be.


Right, I’m off to book Gemma those highland dancing lessons now…


We need those dancing lessons!

The stitcher. A magnet for foolery & prankster at heart. Loves being creative, whether with some wood and a saw or with a needle and thread. Attempts to disguise his past time activities as manly pursuits, but is actually pretty handy at sewing!


  1. Meghan 4 years ago

    Love it! Where do you get the fabric from?

    • Author
      Matt 4 years ago

      Hi Meghan, Sadly I’m not allowed to share where I brought the fabric under BBC rules…V sorry! I would recommend you giving it ago 😉

    • derek 4 years ago

      lochcarron sells tartan, fabic is very good, sales are difficult.
      other tips, for fitting use the first and last pleats plus two others at the back of the hip to fit, sew these as a dart, all the rest straight. also put a pocket in the first (reverse hidden) pleat – so you can wear it day to day without a sporran.

  2. Sam 4 years ago

    Thanks for this post, and well done with your kilt this week! I found it really interesting to see how a kilt is made… sadly by husband who was watching with me now wants me to make him one!

    • Author
      Matt 4 years ago

      Thanks Sam, I must say I did so enjoy structure week. Why not make yourself a kilt and tell your hubby that blokes can sew too 😉 He should give it a try…a sewing machine is a power tool after all!

      • Sam 4 years ago

        Ha ha! No, he might make me do the gardening if I try to get him to sew!

  3. Josie 4 years ago

    Now I’m all for equality, but not at the cost of quality, so I’m delighted with your fantastic sewing abilities Matt and those of the other two chaps still in the running! Neil’s kilt was beautifully constructed and I was sew impressed(!) but I would actually wear yours. Tell Gemma her legs looks stunning in hers and she should wear it everyday!

    • Author
      Matt 4 years ago

      Thanks Josie, haha I try and get Gemma to wear a skirt every day 😉 Neil’s kilt was amazing, we were all in awe of it.
      Glad you are enjoying the series, this week is a cracker with lace, leather and rubber!!!!

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