How to Make a Cargo Kilt




Introduction: How to Make a Cargo Kilt

Step 1: 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.

Step 2: Step 2: Calculating the Amount of Material and Getting Supplies

A non-traditional American style kilt, like we are making here, has a front apron (the non pleated front part) of about 1/3rd the total waist line. (Aprons on traditional Scottish kilts are about 1/2 the length of the waist.)

To calculate the amount of fabric for the pleated part of the kilt take your waist measurement and divide by 3, then multiply by 8 and add an inch. This will be the length of the kilt fabric, the amount going around the waist. The width of the pleated part will be the knee Length minus 2 inches.

Pleated Portion length (this length will include what is needed for the front and under apron, do not add the front and under lengths to this): Waist measurement divided by 3 times 8, plus 1 inch seam allowance
Pleated Portion width: Knee Length minus 2 inches
Waist Band length: Waist measurement divided by 3 times 4 plus 1 inch seam allowance (wait until you finish the pleated portion to cut this piece, I will explain why in step 4)
Waist band width: 7 inches

The length of the fabric will need to buy is equal the the length of the pleated part of the kilt plus an inch for seam allowance (go ahead and get it a little longer for good measure). Make sure the width of the fabric is at least 9 inches wider than your measured length. This will leave you enough fabric left over for the waist band and pockets.

For example my waist measurement is 45 inches. The length of fabric I need will be at least 121 inches (45/3*8+1=121) or 3.3 yards. I rounded up and got 4 yards. The width of the fabric I got was 60 inches, I should have enough fabric to make 2 kilts.

You will need to have:
Sewing Machine (Not Pictured)
Iron (Not Pictured)
Tailors Tape Measure
Fabric pencil or Chalk

You will need to buy
Matching Thread
Interfacing (Enough to line the waist band)
22 Snap fasteners (plus the hardware to mount them)

Step 3: Step 3: Making the Pleated Portion

I'll be using 2 inch pleats in this instructable. This is deep enough for the pleats to hold well, and still looks good.

You will need to cut the pleated portion of the kilt from your fabric using the calculated numbers from step 2.

Once this is cut, fold over both ends 1/2 inch and sew a hem. Then fold the bottom over 1/2 inch and sew a hem here also. I want to note here that some fabric has a "good" or "Front" side and a "bad", "wrong" or "Back" side. When you hem the ends and bottom, fold over onto the bad side.

Once the edges are sewn, measure in 1/3 your waist measurement on each end and mark with your chalk. This will be the Front Apron and Under Apron.

Once you've marked your fabric you can begin pleating. I'm sure you have a very long legnth of fabric so do this on a very long table. place a large towel under the fabric because you will need to iron the pleats every so often.

With the hemmed bottom length of the fabric towards you and the unhemmed edge facing away you will start your first pleat on the right end of the fabric with the pleat going to the right. Measure 4 inches from your apron mark to the left and pull the fabric to the edge of the front apron. Make sure this fold is as straight as possible.

Next measure 6 inches from the fold and pull to within 2 inches of the fold. The fold on top should line up with back of the previous fold underneath.

Make sure as your pleating you measure the top and bottom of each fold to maintain 2 inch pleats. You will want to press the pleats with an iron after every 2 or 3 folds.

Once pressed, pin each pleat at the top, bottom and middle. Continue pleating until you reach the under apron mark on the other end of the fabric.

Once the entire length of fabric is pleated and pinned, bring it over to the sewing machine. Sew down each pleat at the edge of the fold from the top of the fabric down 5 inches. Sewing down the tops of the pleats will allow them to hold their shape much better.
(Note: You should take out the top pins as you sew down the tops of the pleats, but leave in the other pins while you are working on the kilt. It will make the kilt easier to work with. I'll usually remove them once I'm ready to attach the pockets)

Step 4: Step 4: Making the Waist Band

To make the waist band you will need a length of fabric 1 in longer than the top of the pleated portion and 7 inches wide. Remeasure the top portion rather than using the calculation as the length may not be exact after hemming and pleating.

Hem all 4 sides of the fabric over 1/2 inch.

Cut a piece on interfacing equal to the inside portion of the waistband and attach per the interfacing's instructions.

Sew 1 edge of the waistband to the back of the pleated portion, 1/2 inch from the top, lining up the ends.

Fold over, covering the front 1/2 inch from the top of the pleated portion, press and sew the edge and along the sides.

Step 5: Step 5: Attaching the Fasteners

Now you can do what you all have been waiting for, try on the kilt.

Hold the kilt around your waist where you would naturally be wearing it. Wrap the left side over the right side until it is snug. Mark with a washable fabric pen where the waistband stops on the right (you may want someone to help with this).

Now place the kilt on a table face down with the waist band towards you. Fold the under apron (on your right) to the center of the kilt. Then fold the apron over the under apron matching up to the mark you had just made while wearing it.

Now you can mark where the snap fasteners will go. The will be about 1 inch from either end. This is a wide waistband so use 2 snaps at each end, on the top and bottom of the waistband. You will have 2 at the edge of the apron and 2 more through the apron to the edge of the under apron. Punching the hole through both layers at the same time is best to ensure they match up. Attach per the instructions that came with the snaps.

Now we'll attach some snaps to the face of the apron. This is for both decoration and to hold the apron down while wearing the kilt. There are several possibilities you can do in regards to the pattern. I usually run 2 rows of 3 tapering to the center. You can experiment by placing the snap tops in various patterns until you get something you like. Make sure the apron and under apron are centered before punching you holes through both layers of fabric (pin the apron and under apron together to prevent it from moving). Again, punch the holes through both layers at the same time to ensure they match up.

Step 6: Step 6: Making the Belt Loops

You will need a 1 inch wide strip about 30 or so inches long, depending on the number of belt loops you want. I use 7 belt loops as you will see below. The belt loops will end up about 1/2 inch wide.

You will need to fold the edged to the center of the strip. Pin the folded strip about every 3 inches.

Once it is fully folded and pinned you need to press it with an iron. Go a couple inches and then pull out the pin and continue to the next, removing pins as you go.

Once the entire strip is pressed take it over to the sewing machine and sew down each flap.

Cut the strip into shorter pieces, 1 inch longer than the width of your waistband. They should be about 4 inches

To attach the belt loops you will fold the ends over about 1/2 inch and sew to the top and bottom of the waist band. You are going through quite a few layers of fabric, so be sure you are using a strong needle and take it slow, moving your machine by hand if needed.

You can use what ever spacing you like for the belt loops, I use one on each end of the apron, one on each hip, one at the m\iddle of the back and one for each space between the loop at the back and between each hip fpr 7 total loops.

If you want you can wear the kilt as is now, but it is a cargo kilt so we'll move on to the pockets.

Step 7: Step 7: Making the Pockets

We will be making the pockets separate from the kilt and then attaching them. This is both easy and allows the pleats in the kilt to move. We will have two side "Cargo" pockets and a back pocket. The measurements are approximate, don't sweat it if you're a little off. Also, feel free to make the pockets bigger or smaller if you wish.

First the back pocket. Cut a piece of fabric 7 inches wide by 15 inches long.

Hem both short edges 1/2 inch.

Fold 1 short edge over 5 inches, making sure the hemmed edge is facing out. Then fold the other edge over about 1 1/2 inches, again facing the hemmed side out. (there should be about a 1 inch gap between these flaps)

Sew the long edges together about 1/2 inch from the edge.

Once the pocket is sewn together turn it inside out, or rather rightside out since you should have sewn it together inside out.

Press with an iron.

Run another seam alone the long edge about 1/4 inch in from the edge. This will hold the flap in the gap down and keep your pocket flat.

Now fold the short end over the long, with the gap coming down over the front of the pocket and attach the snaps.

Now the cargo pockets.

First cut a piece of fabric 9 inches by 28 inches.

Hem the short edges 1/2 inch.

Fold 1 short edge over 9 1/2 inches, making sure the hemmed edge is facing out. Then fold the other edge over 2 inch, again facing the hemmed side out. (there should be about a 2 inch gap between these flaps)

Sew the long edges together about 1/2 inch from the edge.

Once the pockets are sewn together turn them inside out, or rather rightside out since you sewed them together inside out.

Press with an iron.

Run another seam alone the long edge about 1/4 inch in from the edge. This will hold the flap in the gap down and keep your pocket flat.

Now fold the short end over the long, the fold of the crease should be right in the center of the 2 inch gap. Then attach the snaps on the flap. (pictured are 3 snaps along the top. They will be to attach the pocket to the kilt and explained in the next step)

Step 8: Step 8: Attaching the Pockets

To attach the pockets we will sew the back pocket to the kilt and use snaps to attach the cargo pockets, making them removable.

To attach the back pocket first put on the kilt and have someone help place the back pocket in a "natural" position. Have them pin it into place, butting the top of the pocket to the bottom of the waist band.

Once pinned, open the flap and sew through the back of the flap (in between the flaps) onto the kilt.

To attach the cargo pockets first get someone to help to place them in position and pin them. They should be positioned on your sides at the hip, about 3 or 4 inches down from the bottom of the waist band.

Once pinned, position 3 snaps across the top. The snaps will go all the way through the pocket, from the front to the back, as seen the the picture. The back part of the snap will go through the kilt allowing you to snap the pocket to the kilt, and remove the pocket if you want.

Step 9: Step 9: Enjoy

Now that you have your Cargo Kilt wear it and enjoy. Share your own pics in the comments.

Clean it per the fabric's directions, and use starch when ironing to help keep your pleats crisp.

Feel free to modify as you see fit. You can use buttons instead of snaps, or velcro to fasten the waistband. I think next I'll try attaching the cargo pockets with grommets and carabiners.

Step 10: Making Wider Pleates

Since I originally posted this I received an PM asking about making a kilt with larger pleats. It's a great question and one I think others would like to know. When using wider pleats you may end up with either too much or to little fabric and there could be a gap between your apron and the start of the pleats. To keep the kilt symmetrical you'll need to do the following.

Figure out your front apron length, under apron length, pleated length and total cut length as if you were using 2 inch pleats (see step 2 in the instructable).

Front apron and under apron length's are 1/3 your waist measurement.
Pleated length is 6/3 (or twice) your waist measurement
Total cut length is waist measurement / 3 * 8 + 1

To modify it for longer pleats decide your desired pleat length
Take your desired pleat length and multiply it times 3
Divide that by your pleated length. Use only the whole number, drop the remainder. This will be your total number of pleats.
Take your total number of pleats and multiply it times your desired pleat width times 3 and subtract from your calculated pleated length
Divide that number (which is in inches) by 3
Take that final number, add it to your front apron length, under apron length and subtract it from your total cut length.

Obviously you'll need to do these calculations before you cut your fabric.

Example: I have a 45 inch waist and I want 4 inch pleats
Normally (for 2 inch pleats) I'd have a 15 inch front and under apron, my pleated length would be 90 inches and my total cut length would be 121 inches as figured in step 2.
My calculations would be
4 in pleats * 3 = 12
12 / 90 = 7 (dropping the remainder)
7 * 4 * 3 - 90 = 6
6 / 3 = 2
New front and under aprons length is 17 inches
Total cut length is now 119 inches

I've tried this out on paper a couple times with different waist measurements and it seems to be correct. I have to recommend rounding your waist measurement up to a number divisible by 3 though, it makes the calculations much easier and when you test fit the kilt in step 5 you'll take in the difference and not even notice.

To check your math use these 2 formulas
Pleat width times # of pleats plus front apron length = your waist measurement
Pleat width times # of pleats times 3 plus front apron length plus under apron length plus 1 = total cut length

I know this is a little complicated but I hope it helps.

Feel free to message me if you have any more questions and post a pic of your completed kilt in the comments section.

Good Luck

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8 months ago

Thanks for posting these instructions. I was curious to know if there's a "best practices" way to grade from the hip to the waist. I have about a 7" difference between two, so I wasn't sure if I should do that. Thanks!


Question 2 years ago on Introduction

Please add on how to measure length for men some people are confuse their height is xyz and what length they preffer for kilt

Kilt Length

Please kneel on the ground, place the tape on the floor then measure up to your belly button. Remember that kilts shouldn’t be worn too long!
Normally, your kilt length will correspond with the following guides. If it's significantly different, try taking the measurements again. If it's slightly different, then it could be down to preference or body shape. See our notes below for more info.

Height 5' 6" to 5' 7" = 22" to 22.5" kilt length
Height 5' 8 to 5' 9" = 23" to 23.5" kilt length
Height 5' 10" to 5' 11" = 24" to 24.5" kilt length
Height 6' to 6' 2" = 24.5" to 25.5" kilt length
Height 6' 3" to 6" 4" = 26" to 26.5" kilt length
Height 6' 5" to 6' 7" = 27" to 27.5" kilt length

6 years ago on Introduction

A traditional highland kilt consist of 8 yards of material. I have one that was custom made for me when lived over there.


Reply 3 years ago

A traditional kilt would never have that much fabric unless the wearer were morbidly obese, and even then it would have had to have been to epic proportions!
You are most likely referring to the belted plaid, which generally measured between 7 and eight yards of fabric, sewn from two pieces, and served as both upper garment, draped over the shoulder and tucked in at the waist, and loosely gathered lower garment, cinched at the waist by a belt, generally unpleated, and never tailored.
Kilts are an entirely different animal (and take far less cloth).


6 years ago

Just made one for my stepson. Turned out great, i did the box pleat in the cargo pocket. Great instructions!


6 years ago

hay I'm wanting to make this but am having trouble with fabric choice, what do you recommend?


Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

I have not made one of these but have studied them on men and discussed fabric with a guy who makes them. (I also work at a fabric shop!) I'd try denim, or canvas or a sports weight (heavier) twill. Duck will be practically indestructible, but it's also really stiff, and lots of guys don't like that. You can also try wool suiting material if you're going for a formal look, and gabardine might work. Also, if you can find it on sale (it can be expensive) you might even try upholstery material. Just make sure it's something you can clean easily. Anything much lighter in weight than what I've suggested here will flutter in the wind and won't hold up as well. Go to your local fabric store tell the employees what you're doing and have a look around. When you're confident of what you want you can either buy there or buy online. Good luck.


6 years ago on Introduction

Thank you. I love this. It took a few reads to finally une'er stand (no fault on your instructions) but this is awesome. Been wanting one for so long, but the cost has kept me from getting one. Will try my hand at it


11 years ago on Introduction

Any advice on how to attach the snaps? I've done nothing but butcher them and the fabric each time if tried to attach.


Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

I'm assuming you got the same kind of cheap post and anvil set up I got when I got my snaps. The 2 main things is be sure you setting them on a hard surface, like a patio or garage floor, don't try it on a tabletop or counter. Also be sure to hit the post squarely. They do make a pliers type tool for setting the snaps and it'll work well for most of the snaps on the kilt, but it doesn't work well for the snaps far from the edge of the fabric If your interested in other options keep in mind the purpose of the snaps is simply to keep the front apron from flying open in the wind. Traditionally kilts used straps and buckles along the edge of the apron to keep it closed. I've used buttons and buttonholes in place of the snaps for a Tuxedo style kilt, and a big industrial zipper along the edge of the apron for a punk kilt. I've even seen others use velcro under the apron to keep it closed. I just used snaps for the look on this kilt, so feel free to use your imagination. Mike.


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

so the snaps on the front apron (not the waistband but the 'decorative' part) are supposed to go thru both aprons? they aren't just for decoration, right?


7 years ago on Step 9

Great Instuctable! I made one of these for my husband several years ago (no way was I paying $300 for one) and they are fun to make. If you want to take the extra time, sewing a top-stitch along the edge of each pleat makes a great looking finished product. It is a pain, but you never have to worry about ironing your kilt again.


7 years ago on Introduction

would wnyone want to make one for me. I will be willing to pay a reasonable price.


Reply 7 years ago

You may want to try placing an ad on Craigslist, try the arts and craft section. You can work with someone local and would available for fitting. Plus less likely to be scammed.


7 years ago on Introduction

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

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

I've made some without pockets and I think they still look sharp. Thanks for the pics, your kilt looks great.

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


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

Your welcome. Hope they are being enjoyed.


7 years 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.