I'm not sure why, but I got on a kick, and wanted to make a kilt for Halloween. I searched the internet, and there were some instructions, but they were a bit hard to follow. I ended up using the instructions at web.archive.org/web/20070527200447/users.tinyonline.co.uk/chegc/kiltsite/page2.htm (The original site seems to be gone now).
This instructable should stand on it's own, but if you need some insight into the process, follow the link above to see what I followed.
Questions? Please! Ask!
Good Luck and have fun.
Other variations and instructions:
X-Kilt - www.stanford.edu/~ahebert/X_Kilt_adobe.pdf
Scottish Dance - www.scottishdance.net/highland/MakingKilt.html (Good Reference diagrams).
Step 1: Materials and Tools
- Cloth (Can be any color, and doesn't need to be tartan)
- Interfacing (optional)
- Leather strips that fit buckles
- Scissors for cutting cloth
- Scissors for cutting threads
- Measuring tape
- Chalk (standard chalkboard chalk is fine)
- Sewing machine (optional but highly encouraged)
- Drill or leather hole punch
- Sewing pins
- Calculator (if you need to keep switching from inches to cm like me)
Step 2: Measurements
- Natural Waist (measured level at the bellybutton)
- Hip (measured around the largest part of the backside
- Distance between hip and waist measurement
- Waist to knee length
My measurements were:
Waist to Hip: 5"
Waist to knee: 23"
Step 3: Calculating the Cloth Length
This has to be about the hardest part of making the kilt. First you have to decide how "Pleated" you want it, then you have to decide how wide to make the apron, and finally calculate the total length.
1) Decide on the Apron width. The apron is the front flat part. There are 2 aprons, the front apron, and the under (or back) apron. In the one pictured, I used a ratio of 0.45x the hip circumference. This was just about right, maybe a little less would be good, especially if you are large like me. Using my hip size of 47.5" means an apron of about 21.5". Most calculations can be rounded without issue.
2) Decide on the pleat pattern and under pleat width. You have to decide how wide you want the pleats, and how deep you want them. I wanted the final pleats to continue the pattern of the tartan (see the third picture below). I also wanted narrow pleats. In this tartan, the pattern repeated every 4-1/8 inches. I finally decided that I would use 1/4th of the pattern, or 1-1/32 inches, as my pleat width, and 1 full pattern as the under pleat width, equaling 5-5/32 inches per pleat. So it takes 5-5/32 inches of fabric to extend the kilt 1-1/32 inches around the hip.
3) Calculate the number of pleats. This is calculated by taking the hip measurement and subtracting the apron width and dividing by the pleat width. So in my example, I have a hip length of 47.5", subtracting the apron width of 21.5", leaves 26". 26" divided by 1-1/32" equals just over 25, so we'll use 25 pleats. This then means that we need 25 x 5-5/32" = 128.9" or about 3.5 yards of fabric for the pleated length alone.
Front Apron Hem: Always 10.25"
Front Apron: ___________ (In example: 47.5" x 0.45 ~ 21.5"
Front Apron Under Pleat: Always 6.25"
The pleated Length ___________ (In example: 25 x 5.15" ~ 129")
Under Apron Under Pleat: Always 6.25"
Under Apron: ____________ (In example: 21.5" same as front)
Under Apron Hem: Always 9.5"
Total: ___________ (In example: 10.25+21.5+6.5+129+6.25+21.5+9.5 = 204.5" = 5.68 yards
I suggest getting more than necessary in case you do need an extra pleat, etc, you can always cut extra off at the end, but adding more is tough.
Step 4: Cutting and Hemming
Once you have calculated the amount of cloth you need, cut the cloth to length.
I used the full length of cloth I bought, just in case I made a mistake.
For the height of the kilt, mark the waist to knee length + 2.5", from the top of the fabric, and cut off the remaining and save, this will be used for the sash.
Fold the bottom 1" of the kilt up on the inside of the kilt and sew, this will be the bottom edge of the kilt.
Step 5: Front Apron
Note: the pictures below were made after the fact, I didn't take pictures while making the original, and used some left over fabric, hence the narrow apron.
With the cloth now facing with the outside of the kilt facing up, make a line 1.5" from the top, along the entire length of the cloth, this is your waist line. Make another line for the hip, the distance you measured from waist to hip (5" in my example), from the waist line.
Mark a line from top to bottom 10.25" from the left edge, this is your front apron hem line.
Mark another line from top to bottom, your apron width from the hem line (21.5" in my example). This is the Apron Right Edge.
Mark one more line, from top to bottom, 6.25" from the last line, this is the front apron under pleat.
If you are working with a pattern, you can change these a bit so the patterns line up, as in the pictures below.
Pinch the fabric, and fold over the apron edge so it lines up with the front apron under pleat line, you should have a Z fold of fabric. Pin from the Hip to bottom. (Images 2 and 3)
Make a mark, 1.25" to the left of the front apron edge on the waist line. (Image 4)
Now, skew the fabric so this mark is inline with the remainder of the front apron. Note that the top edge should remain straight. The extra fabric will go into the under pleat. (Images 5 and 6)
Using a similar technique as the right side, do the same for the left side, again, the skewed fabric goes into the hem pleat. There should be about 2" of extra fabric beyond the end, this is the fringe. (Images 7 and 8).
Here is a lesson learned. Later we will add a strap, attached only to the front apron hem. The strap will cause the hem to pull, and cause the kilt to become loose over time while worn. Cut a piece of interfacing 3" by 3", and pin it into the front fold, with the top left corner sticking above the top edge. Trim the interfacing at the top edge. You could even make the interfacing the length of the Apron, and into the Under Pleat, a Trapazoid shape matching the top 3" of the Front Apron, so it is attached to the pleated length as well, removing any possible remaining stretch. (Thinking while writing) (Image 9)
Using a sewing machine, sew a straight stitch, from top to bottom along both edges of the apron, as close to the folds as possible, making sure to catch the interfacing when sewing the left edge (and right if making a full length interfacing).
Step 6: The Pleated Length
The pleated length is from the right fold of the Front Apron to the last fold before the Under Apron. Looking at the second picture, You can see why it is important to have a straight right edge of the apron, as it matches up with the pleats.
Earlier, you chose the pleat length (in the example 1-1/32"), and the the under pleat length (in the example 4-1/8"). Mark the pleat length from the right edge of the Front Apron, and mark the under pleat length from there. Because I used the pattern, It was already marked for me. Now, pinch the first mark, and fold over to the second mark, forming a Z fold. Make this a completely straight fold from top to bottom, parallel with the Front Apron right edge, and pin. (Image 3)
Continue this in the same fashion as the first, measuring off the previously completed pleats edge. Because I used the pattern as a template, I can use it to make sure I'm making the correct folds, as in image 4. I suggest you pin all your pleats before doing any sewing (I made that mistake too). Every few folds, check, by flipping over, and making sure all your under pleats are the same size.
It is during this process that you will need to make the adjustments to the Waist Line so it is the correct length. For example, if your Hips were 36", and your waist, was 30", then you need to make the waist 6" smaller than the Hips. 3" are removed by putting the taper into the apron, leaving 3" more to be removed. Equally spaced in the pleats you will need to make enough 1" tapers to remove the difference in the waist. When you have pinned the pleat you want to taper, mark 1/2" left and right from the pleat fold, and bring these two lines together, adding the extra fabric to the the pleat. Remember when folding the next pleat, that there will not be your pleat width at the waist line, but 1/2" less. From the Hip to bottom is unaffected. (Images 5 and 6)
When you have completed 1/2 the pleats, do a test fit, placing the Front Apron evenly on your front, making sure that the last pleat is about to your middle back. If necessary, add or remove the total number of pleats, to make up any difference.
Continue until all but the last pleat has been pinned.
With a sewing machine, sew the pleats, but only from the top edge to the hip line.
Step 7: Under Apron
The Under Apron is very similar to the the Front Apron.
From the fold of your last pleat, mark a pleat width (In the example, 1-1/32", not shown in pictures), from there mark the Under Apron Under Pleat Length, 6.25", then from this line, mark your Under Apron Length (in the example, 21.5"), and from this line, mark the Under Apron Hem, 9.5". At this point, cut off any cloth beyond the hem line.
Make the final pleat of the Pleated Length, pinch the first line, and pull it over to the second line and pin. (Image 2)
Similar to the Front Apron, make a mark, 1.5" from the right of this last pleat, at the waist, and skew the top fabric so the pleat fold and this line match up, and pin. (Image 3)
Fold the hem in half, to the back, then fold again to the back along the hem line, a "G" fold, and pin. (See the last image for an example).
Finally, mark 1.5" to the left of the Hem Line at the waist, and skew again, and pin. (Not shown).
With a sewing machine, sew a straight stitch from top edge to bottom of both sides of the Under Apron
Step 8: Edging
The edging is quite simple. Cut a 3" wide strip of cloth about 10" longer than the top edge of your kilt. In the example kilt, this would be about 80".
Get your iron hot.
Fold a little less than the top third of the strip (a little less than an inch), and iron, to get a fold that will hold it's shape. (Image 2).
Fold the remainder in half, and iron again. The result should be another "G" fold. (Image 3)
With the first fold's edge to the front of the kilt, place the edging along the entire top of the kilt, and pin in place. (Image 5)
With a sewing machine, sew a straight stitch along the bottom edge of the Edging.
Step 9: Iron the Pleats
On a large flat surface, place a damp (not wet) towel flat, and lay out the kilt. Line up the pleats straight, and iron a nice sharp edge into each pleat. I found it easiest to start from the Under apron, straighten the last 8 pleats or so, and iron the last 4 or so pleats, straighten out a few more, and continue in this fashion until all pleats are straight and sharp folds.
It is recommended to baste the pleats in place before ironing to get the straightest pleats. Basting is a large zig-zag stitch the size of the pleat. I didn't do it this way as I did not have the time to do so.
Iron the aprons, and their hems at this point as well.
Step 10: Add the Buckles and Straps
For this step, you will need 2 buckles, 2 pieces of leather for the buckles, and 2 leather straps. The color, size, and type are up to you, but I suggest larger buckles, and heavier leather than I used.
For this kilt, I used 5/8" buckles, so I cut two strips of 5/8" x 3.5" leather to secure the buckles, and cut 2 5/8" x 8" strips for the straps.
For the buckle pieces, fold in half, round the open ends, and make 2 parallel 1/4" cuts into the fold. Unfold, and use small scissors (such as the thread scissors), or an x-acto knife to complete the half circles at the ends of the cuts, as pictured below. Add buckle as shown, and about 1/8" from the end of the slot, sew a straight stitch to secure the buckle in the leather. If using a sewing machine, a zipper foot would be ideal here.
Trim the 8" strips round on one end, and a rounded point at the other. Using a leather punch or drill, make holes along the strip 1-1/2" from the rounded end, about every 3/4" or what ever interval works for you.
At this point, test fit the kilt, and mark where the ends of the aprons are on the kilt.
On the front apron side, at the mark you made, you will need to make a slot for the strap to come through from the under apron and attach to the buckle. I used the one-step button hole maker on my sewing machine (After quite a few test runs), with the button foot set to about 1.5 times the width of my strap. There are also other instructions on the website on how to do this without the button hole maker. (Image 3)
To the right of this hole, attach one buckle setup about 1/4" away. (Image 3)
On the under apron side attach the buckle 1/4" to the left of the mark you made. (Image 4)
Attach the first strap to the right edge and the outside of the under apron, and sew through the entire apron. If the kilt is too loose, adjust the placement of this strap to pull more of the under apron around, and cinch it up. (Image 5)
Attach the second strap to the left side, inside of the Front Apron, but only sew through the hem and the interfacing. No threads should show on the outside of the Front Apron for this strap. (Image 6)
Step 11: Enjoy!
I was going for more of a punk rocker look, hence the kick-a boots (available at newrockstore.com), but if you're looking for more of a Scottish warrior look, then take the remainder of what you cut off the entire length of cloth, tie the ends together in a knot, and make a few loops, and place over your shoulder, for a sash.
You should also have a large kilt pin on the open corner of the Front Apron. It does not attach to the Under Apron, just gives the front apron some more weight.
You may have noticed the odd pleats at the back of my kilt. I was in a hurry, as I only finished my kilt 30 minutes before my Halloween party I was going to, and the kilt was too loose. Similar to the tapers used in the pleated length, I sewed a couple pleats over to take out some more of the waistline. It was a good quick fix, but I was hoping to get it right the first time.