Picture of How to make a Cargo Kilt

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Step 1: Step 1: Measurements

Picture of Step 1: Measurements
First you will need to make a couple measurements to calculate the amount of fabric you need. Make sure you write these down as you will also need them when we start pleating the kilt. Make sure you are using a fabric tailors tape, not a metal carpenters tape.
The only 2 measurements you will need are waist and knee length.

First is your waist measurement (measurement A in the picture). Don't use your pants size, kilts are worn much higher on the waist so measure around at your bellybutton, with the tape measure as parallel to the floor as possible. (This number will be divided by three and used extensively throughout this instrustable so if you want to round your numbers up to make the math easy go ahead. The difference can be covered by the front and under aprons.)
(Note: If your hip measurement is larger than your waist measurement then use your hip measurement. The belt will bring in the waist, or if you know how, go ahead and taper in the waist while pleating.)

Next is to measure your knee length (Measurement B in the picture). Kilts should go down to your kneecaps, ending right about the middle of your kneecaps. The best way to measure this is to kneel on the floor and measure from your waist line, at your bellybutton, down to the floor.

Record these measurements
1/3rd Waist:

For example: my measurements are
Waist: 45 Inches
1/3rd Waist: 15 inches
Length: 24 inches

Now a few definitions:
Front Apron: The non pleated front of the kilt that shows when you wear the kilt.
Pleated Length: The heavily pleated length that comprises the back of the kilt.
Under Apron: The non pleated portion that wraps underneath the front apron when you wear the kilt.
Waist Band: The very top, unpleated portion that runs the length of the kilt.
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CherylTX made it!12 days ago

Mike, thank you so much for this excellently-written instructable. Every step went smoothly and easily. And the fit was perfect thanks to your efforts. I used your instructable 4 years ago to make my son's first kilt for his senior prom, at his request. It still makes appearances to this day at college functions. I have also made a faded camo cargo kilt, using your instructions, that we like even better. He gets compliments and admirers everywhere he goes in these kilts. Thanks again!

mmunoz201 month ago
thanks, I got my sister to sew it for me and it came out great! I wore it to a beard competition in Houston and got a lot of good responses.

These are awesome instructions! I have made two so far and am about to make a third one. Thank you so much!

jsudar2 months ago

Thank you for an easy and well described process. I've sewn for um ... 44 years, and this was well done. I made my S.O. a kilt. He didn't want pockets as he has a pouch.

Utility kilt1.jpgUtility kilt2.jpg
cemama2 months ago

Thanks for the detailed instructions! I whipped this up last night for my five year old son who feels that clothing should be optional in the summer. I'm going to have to play with it a little to make it work better for playing but so far we're both happier! I'm happy he's decent, he's happy to be as little clothed as possible. My son spends his day in the dirt and rocks and so forth and the kilt kept up with him.

I didn't have any interfacing (and it being the middle of the night when I decided to do this, I couldn't go buy some) so I finished the waist with grosgrain ribbon I had leftover from another project. I used long strips of Velcro to fasten instead of snaps, which would have made it adjustable except that I made it exactly his size rather than too large as I should have. I kept the 2" pleats and really liked how they came out. A nice over sized look. The total time from googling "cargo kilt" to admiring the finished product was a little over two hours, but I didn't do any belt loops or pockets (all the reasons why little boy pockets are classic are also good reasons not to provide them!)

uglymike (author)  cemama2 months ago

Wow, 2 hours, that's fast! I glad he enjoys it. I know Utilikilt has optional "modesty snaps" that snap the front to the back for working high up or on ladders, that may help with mishaps during play. Though at 5, I'm sure he's still outgrowing his cloths pretty quickly.

cemama uglymike2 months ago
Well, the two hours was because I skipped the pockets and waistband and belt loops, which all take a lot of time, and he only needed seven pleats and I did simple rather than box pleats (I'll probably do more pleats on the next one to give him more coverage for playing). I want anyone else considering this for children to go ahead and try it... If it took me five hours to make one he'd just outgrow in a few months, I'd probably not bother! Now my hubby wants one and I'm fine spending more time on his.

I asked my son last night if he liked his kilt. He said, "I love it! I want to have trillions so I can always wear one!" It's honestly a little mystifying to me (he has never once used the word love in connection with clothes) but I see that there are lots of men who love them. No reason to leave boys out of the fun.

I'll definitely check out the modesty snaps, thanks!
zdeklown3 months ago
cant wait to try this. nice job ugly mike. got any sugestions for fixing loose pleats in a factiry made camo utilakilt?
uglymike (author)  zdeklown2 months ago

I can't speak from experience as I don't have a Utilikilt, but several commenters here have mentioned using "crease savers" (low temp plastic fishing line) ironed along the crease to make it keep it's shape. I haven't tried it yet, but plan to on an older kilt. Otherwise I just use plenty of heavy starch when I press my kilts. It works fine, until I sit down.

kd0afk3 months ago
why don't you taper the pleats from the waist to the fell line?
uglymike (author)  kd0afk2 months ago

I know that's correct traditional way to do a kilt, but I was trying to make the project as simple as possible for those without a lot of sewing experience. I also was trying to make it easily adaptable and easily modified for those with more experience, or more daring.

GreenWenonah3 months ago

I made it... but my camera isn't working :( I didn't do my math right and had to sew on both an apron and under apron to get adequate length but that worked out alright; I left a small gap in that seam, hidden at the deep crease of a pleat, for a hidden pocket that hangs off the back of the inner apron. If you do this, make the pocket deep enough to fall between your legs when you sit. I also did away with the hold-down snaps since it seems pretty secure as is and a pin is so much cooler. One last modification is a box pleat (1 inch overlaps) down the middle of each pocket front and back with the creases sewn in and gussets on the edge of the pockets, creases also sewn in. This ensures the pockets will lay flat when empty but can expand significantly as needed. I'll take some pictures of the pockets when my phone decides to talk to my camera again.

I plan to iron in some crease savers (like a low temp fishing line) from the uniform shop on base to more firmly fix the pleat creases and stitch down the inner creases of each pleat (one line of stitching 1/8" in from the crease) to reinforce the crease and encourage the pleats to fall properly.

My next kilt will have much deeper pleats (probably all boxed) to allow a better fall and a slight scallop off the top of the aprons so my belt can ride down in front a little without bulging out below the waist.

uglymike (author)  GreenWenonah2 months ago

I'm happy to hear you pleased. I love hearing about all the different modifications people do with this project. I'm totally stealing the box pleated pockets for my next kilt.

simboka1 year ago
I've been having issues with my pleats and fabric that I have to assume somebody's figured out a solution to already. But using the Jo Ann's heavy cotton duck, my pleats when I sit get splayed out. But when I stand back up, they don't fall back into place and I'll have to almost individually crease them back in proper form. Any thoughts? My thinking was to wash it more, because it does seem rather stiff still and maybe if it was more broken in, it'd fall into place easier.
uglymike (author)  simboka1 year ago
I used the same fabric from JoAnn's and have the same problem. I always use heavy starch when I iron my kilts, which gives a good crease but doesn't compleatly take care of the problem. I've taken to placing a couple of baste stitches where the kilt is pleated on the inside. Each pleat has a crease that shows and one that doesn't when you wear it. It's that crease that doesn't show you can stitch. Just go in about a 1/4 inch and hand stitch it close to the bottom. This keeps that part of the pleat from splaying out and helps everything to fall back into place. It's not perfect and if you find anything else that works let me know.
I brought this up on reddit's r/sew and starch was the initial idea too. I made a little stitch inside the pleat already to help me just to line it up better when ironing. But it's right on the edge, I'll consider moving it in more. It just seems like the fabric itself is a very stiff fabric. But since this instructable is 4 years old, I assume you've washed it enough that any amount of loosening up would've been achieved by now.

I also may try experimenting with both a heavier and lighter fabric.
opticalfx simboka6 months ago
to keep the crease in my uniform i used to iron a piece of monofilament fishing line in the crease. it would melt and "lock" in the crease
Iridium73 years ago
Is there any way to weigh down the Kilt so it won't flutter in the wind?
kmegamom Iridium76 months ago

You can simply add the weights they put inside of light weight curtains, you can buy them at any fabric ship, you sew them in and no one would see them, I will probably do that on my son's so it doesn't fly up! That way we don't have to deal with chains. Weights are much easier and less expensive and I already have them in my stash!

The way Coco Channel and a lot of the other high end fashion houses used to do it on women's jackets was to use beaded chain (you can get it at Home Depot- it's the stuff they use to keep pens from wandering off at banks and such), and put it in the hem. A few hand stitches every so often keeps it in place so it doesn't make any noise or shift, In jacket fabrics or any fabric sturdy enough to use as a kilt, you'll never notice it, but it will make the garment hang better. Hope that's helpful!
uglymike (author)  madpiratebippy9 months ago
That's a great tip. Thanks, I'll have to try in on my next kilt.
You could also purchase a kilt pin. It's a heavy pewter pin (most of the ones I've seen are shaped like a sword) that attaches to the bottom right hand corner of the front apron.

And when I say right-hand I mean your right.
Supposedly, the custom of using the kilt pin arose when Queen Victoria was reviewing a Highland regiment an errant gust came along and exposed a private's---er, PRIVATES. The young man, it is said, blushed as red as his hair, but Her Majesty's only reaction was to pluck a pin off her dress and fasten it onto the kilt's apron; the weight was enough to hold down the fabric. Given the Sovereign's sanction, this custom spread throughout the Highland Regiments, and later into the civilian population.
its not really neccissary because it falls down easly but i use a big saftey pin on mine because i can use it for quick repairs if neccissary
uglymike (author)  Iridium73 years ago
I suppose you could sew in some small weights (like fishing weights) into the bottom hem. Otherwise you could go the Utilikilt route and add a "modesty snap" that snaps the front to the back between the legs. They use it for their painters kilt to use while on a ladder, but it will also keep the kilt down in the wind. Plus you can always unsnap it on calm days.

kmegamom6 months ago

Thank you SO MUCH for adding your really good instructions, with pictures to this web page for the cargo kilt! My middle son is getting married in May and is having a Celtic/Scottish wedding and his Groomsmen need to wear a black utility style kilt and his brother is one of the grooms men and I have looked absolutely every place for patterns or instructions and have not been able to find them until yours!! And you make it very easy to follow! I am a very experienced sewer, but the easy instructions makes it that much quicker for me to make this along with some other items I am making for the wedding such as the bride to be will have a dress that has a corset, covered with a stamped brushed leather, with a short skirt and that will take some time! Thank you again! I will send a picture when it is done!

Pheline7 months ago
Generally "we're" supposed to trim the selvage (the edge of the fabric where the weft, or threads going across the weaving hit the end of the warp (those threaded onto the loom, across which you weave) and head back the other direction) off machine woven fabrics before hemming. It seems like a handy finished edge but it can behave differently than the rest of the fabric, usually by shrinking and tightening up over time. Sometimes the selvage uses thread that's different than the body of the fabric, even by as few as one thread. In general, it seems safer to trim that edge, even if you're trimming less than a cm.

You did a great job on this Instructable and it's a pleasure to see the work of someone who knows how to to really sew. My Norwegian-Scottish-American boyfriend needs me to make him a kilt… but did you really show only one view?? I want to see how the completed pleats look on the model! (or is it a mobile view altering it?)
rwarden11 months ago
Can u send the how to and pic to me in mail
Okara1 year ago
So glad my brother-in-law hasn't seen this great tutorial. He'd be banging on the door begging.
On the other hand, I might just make one for myself. Pockets ... lots of pockets. I love pockets.
RichyUK1 year ago
Hi I found the solution to the pleats dropping out.
Stitch them from top to bottom. Bit more work but its worth it!
NetWt4Lbs1 year ago
OOOOH Thank you thank you thank you!!
I've found several 'how to's on utilikilts/cargo kilts but NONE had pictures!
Now I can make one for my husband...if I can actually convince him to wear a kilt anyway!
But, I'm glad, now I don't have to fork out 150$ or more if he decides he wants one

Thanks again!!
rnorton31 year ago
so visualizing the measured dimension has me stumped can some one post a finished kilt open and laid out front and back picture please. i could also benefit from a brief explanation of where to start the pleats. i incorrectly started with the pleats on the outer third from each side of the fabric and not quickly enough realized that my kilt would open from the back if i sewed it this way ( i felt quite silly discovering this) also this is my first time making a full article of clothing, before all i have ever done is mending, so i am very much a beginner. thanks
ata1anta1 year ago
Thank you very much! I found a big hunk of navy fabric in my stash that I hope is enough to try this out. I saw a long skirt on a kilt website that looked like it was based on a cargo kilt pattern but I can't afford the $$$ (and I'm perfectly capable of making my own!) I think it will go great with to start to get my outfit together.

I'll be sure to post pics when I finally have it done.
greedypaul1 year ago
successfully made my first kilt of urban camo flannel. it was just a trial effort. going to take on a heavier material next with 3" pleats overlapping to only show 1" of each. i dont know if that has a specific name, but i like the idea. also, rather than pleating one drecton continuously, i pleated to the mid point each direction so pleats would meet at the center of the back. i like the way it turned out.
faeriegrove2 years ago
You all made this sound so easy and since I have a lot of sewing experience, it seemed do-able. It was looking great right up until the trying on part, only to find that there was not enough overlap of the apron part. The finished waist measurement is spot on, and I thought I was following all steps correctly, but now I will have to add about a 6-8 inch panel to the under apron for adequate "coverage". Where do you suppose I went wrong? Too many pleats? It does seem a bit narrow overall. Thanks for your help!
uglymike (author)  faeriegrove2 years ago
Without seeing what you have I really can't speculate on what may have gone wrong. I can say that if you were going with the 2 inch pleats, the number of pleats in your finished kilt should equal your 1/3 waist measurement. In my example above, my 1/3 waist measurement is 15 inches and I have 15 pleats in my finished kilt. (I didn't plan that, it just works out that way) If you still need help feel free to PM me.

thank you for the reply Mike!
Waist 31, so 1/3 is 10.3, so I "should" have 10 pleats, but there are only 9...
which would seem like that would make the kilt extra roomy, not less!

I did add the 6 inch panel to the under apron/waistband, so the waist is a bit, loose, and through the hips a bit tight.

Overall, it turned out fine and my son LOVES it! (he wore it to his high school Winter Formal dance!)

Thank you very much for the instructions. Is there a way to download them? (When I clicked on download PDF, nothing happened.)
Hey that looks awesome!
uglymike (author)  faeriegrove2 years ago
Looks great! Congrats!
I'm glad you could make it work.

You actually need to be Pro Member in order to download the PDF.

I dont know what I did wrong since I followed everything to a cue but it didn't work out? Can you help me I'm kinda pissed (not at anyone)
Photo on 1-23-13 at 5.59 PM.jpgPhoto on 1-23-13 at 5.59 PM #2.jpg
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