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)
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.
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…