Monday, January 7, 2013

A winter's project -- The Kilt

Happy New Year, readers. I know it's been awhile since I've posted on here, but small things HAVE been taking place. Unfortunately, none of them involve any actual sewing.

Today I'm letting the cat out of the bag and announcing that my winter's project will be making an authentic Scottish kilt. So where to begin?

Several months ago I ordered Folkwear's #152, Scottish kilts. The pattern includes a history of kilts, and the tissue to make a man's Prince Charlie jacket, or coatee for those perfectionists among us. There are also instructions for knitting argyle socks (No Way!) and a sheet outlining the process for making a kilt. There is no physical pattern for a kilt. It's essentially a rectangle of fabric pleated to fit the wearer's measurements.

Emboldened and armed with this pattern I went in search of my tartan.

My search ultimately brought me here.... to the incredible Scotland by the Yard in beautiful Quechee, Vermont!

This store is a shopper's paradise for all things Scottish and Irish.

Need a wool scarf in your tartan? I'll take one of each!

Or maybe you need a new sporran to hold your wallet and cell phone? Check out the skunk fur one at the top center. LOVE!!!

Once I stopped drooling over everything in the store I got down to ordering my tartan fabric. Georgia, the owner, pulled out a massive swatchbook of tartans and quickly thumbed to my family's dress tartan. This woman really knows her tartans and is a wonderful resource. She showed me the different weights available and I settled on an 11 oz fabric. It's the same weight as the ready made kilts sold in her shop, and it seemed acceptable to me.

The typical kilt takes 8 yards. Because the fabric is 60" wide only 4 yards is required. The length of tartan is cut down the middle to make 2 long strips. The two selvedges become the bottom hem of the kilt. I ordered 5 yards because I'd also like to have a matching fly, which is a large tartan sash worn over the shoulder, trailing down the back of the jacket. Hey, I'm only going this way once. Right?

4 weeks later I received a phone call that my fabric had arrived, and back to Vermont I went.

Here is Georgia, of Scotland by the Yard, presenting me with my dress tartan. 100% wool, the real deal from Strathmore Woollen Co., Forfar, Scotland. All you tartan aficionados will be able to figure out my last name now! Have fun with that.

The color here is really off because of a fluorescent light, but here I am with my 88 year old mom. She lives in a retirement community in NH and doesn't get out much. This was such a great field trip for her, she was like a kid in candy store.

Come to think of it, so was I!


  1. Good to see you back posting.

    I can't wait to see this one develop!

    I'm fascinated by Scottish knitwear - currently waiting for my wool to arrive for a tam I'm going to knit from this book

    Might convince you about the knitting?

  2. The tartan is gorgeous. Can't wait to follow along on this project!

  3. Wow! I can't wait to read along.

  4. Please hurry up and get started - I'm looking forward to seeing the finished project!

  5. Wow, that is some serious tartan! Good luck with your project. You need to put it on and wear it every day you can, since in the US it's so often too hot or too cold for a kilt.

  6. Nice to have to have you back amongst the sewers! You really choose 'unusual' garments to sew.

  7. I'm also looking forward to seeing this project finished! I inherited metres and metres of tartan fabric from my Grandmother, picked up when she visited Scotland back in the early 60's - and I'm way to scared to do a thing with it!

    1. I'm scared too because it's so incredibly expensive. I dread making that first cut!

  8. Welcome to the kilt addiction. There's always room for another "loud MacLeod". Take your time and enjoy the sewing. There's plenty to do. I've made my kilts following the book The Art of Kiltmaking (Tewksbury/Stuehmeyer) who also gives detailed history and construction steps. Don't worry about the first cut (or tear). It has to be done.

    Oh, and I own a skunk sporran. I like him too. I call him Stinky. :)

  9. I'm thrilled to see you back on line! I've been a bit worried and selfishly missed your projects. They are always so interesting. Take care and enjoy that first cut! PS: to the other bloggers, I'm better known as Alaskapsych

  10. Yours is one of the dozen or so tartans I can identify by sight. Hello from the Davidson Clan. Looking forward to watching the process. I have always wanted to make a proper kilt skirt for me.

  11. If you're gonna go for a kilt, go bold! I love the bright yellow!

  12. I am sooo impressed by this. Of course I live in Nova Scotia where kilts are still often seen at formal events and many people know someone who has made one. 16 yards is that right? Quite the winter project. Cool tartan too. Ours is no where near that pretty.

  13. Wondering when the kilts going to be made? I'm looking forward to seeing it.

  14. This is my family's tartan as well. We are part of the MacLeod clan. I never did like this one, but prefer the dress Harris tartan. I will look forward to seeing your kilt. Maybe I will change my mind about the "loud" color! Thank you for posting about this shop. I will be vacationing in the Adirondacks this summer and will go visit them! Barb Nicoll