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A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Making the Kilt (the Sequel)

A. The old kilt with it's blue sett.
This is an article on how to pleat a formal kilt with sewn-in pleats. For information on how to pleat a great kilt you'll have to go elsewhere.

I've decided to bite the bullet and fix my formal kilt. I made this thing a couple of years ago (see the previous kilt article on this blog) and it hasn't fit right from about the 2nd second I wore it. I could never get it to sit right. I was determined to force it to work and lose about 4 stone of hippopotamus weight so it would work. Who was I kidding? Now I'm being realistic. If I suddenly lose half a person, I'll probably be overjoyed but very sick. At any rate, this is the less deluded me, going to work to re-do the $100+per foot tartan so I'll stop looking like a piano in a moving blanket.

B. A green sett
 The original pattern was mostly blue. The heather-y purple and green and white part didn't show as much. When you lay out a kilt and choose where to put the pleats, you choose the part of the sett you want to show. (A sett is one chunk of the full pattern.) When I changed it this time I didn't actually expand it at all. I just moved the pleats. I don't know how that worked out, really, other than good ol' Scottish pixie magic.
C. A blue sett

So this is a different sett. It shows more of the blue. The original way I had it was almost all blue. This time I opened it out and moved the pleat included more of the black part of the sett. I made the aprons slightly smaller too. They were much too broad before.

D. The outer apron and the sett I chose
This is a view of the sett I chose plus one of the aprons (there are two, one which folds beneath the outer apron).

E. The inverted box pleat
It's very important to have an inverse box pleat next to each naprún (apron) or the kilt won't sit right. I'm holding open the two "lips" of the inverted pleat. The pleat should butt right up against the apron like in view D.

F. Pinning the kilt
When I pin this thing I like to lay it out on the carpet and very carefully match every single pleat. I pin it three different places on the pleat--top, middle, and bottom. For the initial pinning I stuck the pins right into the carpet. Don't walk on those. They hurt.

G. Under apron and first row of pins
This is the under apron and the first row of pins. Notice the inverted box butted up right next to the apron. You can barely see part of it peeking out between the apron and the pleats.

The next brilliant idea is to iron in the pleats when you have them all pinned. I hate ironing more than I despise turnips so I didn't do it, but I will eventually have to trot out the old iron and iron it to set in the new batch of pleats. Until then, I run in the sun and enjoy life.

H. Sewing in the pleats
Believe me, you don't want to start sewing in the pleats until you are more sure they are in the right place than you were about your choice of a spouse. I've pulled the sewing on the pleats out three times and it truly sucks. If you aren't careful you can cut the material. So make absolutely certain the bearránach (annoying) thing fits and every pleat is exactly where you want it. Then you sew about six inches starting at the top and going down each pleat.

I do a blind stitch, going back and forth between the two layers. It leaves less thread visible. The knots I hide inside where they can't be seen from either side of the kilt.

I. Forming the waistband

Make sure you have enough material to make the básta (waistband). It's got to include both aprons with a little left over to fringe on the end. I somehow lucked out in that my kilt actually fit the same waistband the second time around. I didn't even have to cannibalize my gairtéirs (garters) or one of the boys' ties. I still can't figure that out because the whole thing fits perfectly now. Thank you, Kilt Sidhe. Take the long piece and fold the two edges to meet in the middle (View I). Again, ironing this sucker would be an intelligent idea.

J. Fringing the edge
Then you fit it right over the top edge of the kilt. Hopefully the inside edge and the outside edge will be about the same length. I sewed through the inside, kilt pleats, and outside of the band all at once by hand. If you're really in a hurry and don't care that it's all hand-sewn, you can do this bit on the sewing machine. I like more control, though. Things can get all Raggedy Andy on a sewing machine, and then swearing results. I fear the swearing.

K. Sewing on the waistband
 I wanted a long kilt because I'm like that. 
 If you want a shorter kilt, make sure the part you cut goes under the waistband or it'll fray so much you end up with a two inch skirt and they'll call you a fraochÚn (hooker).

I don't know about your tartan but my material frays like a mother. It's wool. Every time I turned around there was another string coming out. So I used the original selvage edge for the under apron and hem. 
To add a fringe on the top apron I folded the leading edge and folded the piece I was adding into the fold. I'll do a diagram later.

What this does is allow a fringe without it raveling your kilt away to a washcloth.

M. That final pleat--YEAH!!!
If it weren't for the inverted box pleats you could have a reversible kilt complete with a whole different sett. I had enough material left over to make garters, a plaid (long scarf in your tartan which goes over the shoulder) for me and for two of my daughters, and ties for two of my sons and the Hubs. I either wear it with a jacket or a black medieval vest which laces up the front.

I fringed the plaids too. They look really nice and are a cheap way for my daughters to wear my clan colors.

N. Pinning on the kilt pin
Unfortunately I don't have the airgead (money) to buy one of our clan's really nice clan brooches. I do have some really slammin' pennanular brooch pins and the regular plain kilt pin.

I'd also love a nice Sgian Dubh (knife) even though it's really a guy thing.

 So this is the finished kilt. Please keep in mind that it isn't ironed and that I'm still wearing my jeans under it. Sometime I'll add a picture of me in full regalia. For now, though, it's safely put away. 
O. The finished kilt
Oh. By the way, it's a good idea to store you kilt in a way that it won't get munched on by moths. I have mine in a hanging bag and I put oxygen absorbers in the bottom of the bag. So far that's worked for me. (Knocking on wood.) I don't like how moth balls smell (Do they even have those anymore?) thus the O2 absorbers. If you just hang it, you'll find hundreds of tiny holes. Then there will be more swearing than if you had to pick the whole kilt out and re-sew it.


  1. One of the reasons I don't sew anymore. My old lady figure doesn't fit the patterns anymore. Gah!

  2. That's totally AWESOME!!! You are a marvel, Heidi. You never cease to amaze me. Pretty cool.