How to make a Cargo Kilt

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.
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.
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
Iridium72 years ago
Is there any way to weigh down the Kilt so it won't flutter in the wind?

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)  madpiratebippy4 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)  Iridium72 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.

kmegamom1 month 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!

Pheline2 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?)
rwarden6 months ago
Can u send the how to and pic to me in mail
Okara9 months 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.
RichyUK10 months ago
Hi I found the solution to the pleats dropping out.
Stitch them from top to bottom. Bit more work but its worth it!
NetWt4Lbs10 months 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!!
rnorton310 months 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
uglymike (author)  Mayhem_mike1 year ago
It's a little hard to tell by the pictures but I'm going to guess the fabric wasn't wide enough before you started pleating. It also looks like you may be using a knit (stretchy) fabric which is hard with a project like this. You can probably salvage this by removing the first and last pleats. This will give you a wider front apron and you will have to make a new, wider waistband, but the alternative is to start over. If you try to salvage this one use a seam ripper (you can use a razor or x-acto knife if you're very careful) to remove the waistband and cut the stitching along the first and last pleats. Hold the de-constructed kilt around you're waist to make sure you have enough "coverage" in front. If it's good then measure the new width of the kilt and use that measurement to make a new waistband.
If you're up for giving this another shot from scratch PM me your measurements and I'll double check the math. There have been a handfull of people I've heard fom that have had some problems with that.
I'm sorry this project didn't go well for you and I've screwed up enough on my own to know how you're feeling. If you have any other questions or need any more help feel free to shoot me a message.

Thanks for the great instructions!!  With little sewing experience (but direct supervision from my wife) I was able to make a kilt for my 6 week old son.  I only had two modifications from your design (Other than reducing the size) and they were to use velcro to fasten it closed and the other was to work the pleats back from both the front apron and under apron.  When my store bought kilt wears out, I will probably be making my own (if I even wait that long)

ctine11 year ago
I could not find in the instructions where you hem the left and right side of the kilt. I am guessing it is before you sew on the waist band. Do you just fold each part over once or do the double fold over like the bottom?
uglymike (author)  ctine11 year ago
You are correct in hemming the sides before adding the waistband. Double-folding the edges will keep the edges from fraying and will look much more professional, but it's a personal preferance.

rdailey42 years ago
About how many hours does it take to make one of these kilts?
uglymike (author)  rdailey42 years ago
4 to 5 hours if I don't get sidetracked and take a bunch of breaks. The first one I did over the course of 2 days and corrected a couple mistakes along the way.
Thank you!
im finaly getting in to making one.... and now there making it to where i cant view every photo.... this sucks... cause i needed those photos to help with knowing how to make it... i got 5 yards of fabric... im useing duck cloth... (dark blue) found at joanns in there Dectorative cloth area... for houses..... is there any way i can get this set of instructions emailed to me in a PDF... or something cause it wont let me download them... my email is
jward32 years ago
Just stopping by to say thanks for this. I had a failed attempt at making a kilt (traditional method) years ago but your instructions inspired me to give it another go.

> I made mine to sit just above my hips. I didn't attempt a "beer-gut cut"; for now it just sort of heads that way naturally. Hopefully when the beer-gut's gone it'll still fit nicely.
> Drawing on experience from my previous attempt, I tapered the pleats slightly from hips to waist. I didn't quite get them even, but it certainly fits well. The initial build was based on my hip measurement to allow tapering.
> Having done the tapering the waistband had to be curved, so I made it from two curved peices (following the top of the kilt as a guide) stitched back-to-back.
> Pockets are sewn on. I also added a pleat detail to the front of them and they only have one snap on the flap. And, having lots of "belt loop" left over, I put a tool loop on too.
> I stitched up the inner pleats. It certainly helps the way it hangs.
> I wasn't going to bother with the apron snaps, but having the front and under held together has vastly improved the way it behaves in motion.

So, thanks again. Another very happy customer. :)
uglymike (author)  jward32 years ago
Great looking kilt!! Glad to see you didn't give up. I know how difficult traditional kilts are, not a great project for a beginner, but they look awesome.
I love seeing the modifications everyone does to their kilts. It's one of the reasons I made the instructions so simple and plain. That tropical print pattern on your kilt look totally cool.

Great job.
Iridium72 years ago
So if I wanted to make a traditional Scottish kilt then do I take my waist and divide it by 2 and not 3?
uglymike (author)  Iridium72 years ago
Actually making a traditional kilt is quite a bit different than what I have here. There are several good sets of instructions on the net so I'll just do an overview of what you'd be in for. Yes, the front apron is about 1/2 your waist measurement and the pleated portion makes up the other. The pleats are done a little differently. If you use a tartan plaid you need to figure out how often the pattern repeats and adjust the width of the pleat to match. The idea is to maintain the pattern of the plaid despite the pleats. The pleats are also usually deeper in traditional kilts which allows the kilt to hang/drape in a more attractive manner. Finally a traditional kilt is fitted to the wearer much better than what I have here. This is done by closing or opening the pleat at the top 4 to 6 inches. This makes for a better looking and fitting kilt, but is quite a bit more difficult. Maybe I'll do a full 'ible for a traditional kilt but right now I got quite a bit on my plate offline.

Mike732 years ago
This is awesome. I made a skirt once, too, but it didn't come out that cool. So I only used it at home. But still, it was very comfortable.
I may make one from some jeans that are worn out and have holes in the bottom.

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