Every kilt is currently hand made by me to a standard I believe is unequalled by any kilt maker in Scotland.

kiltDetail1The tartan used in all kilts comes from the mills in Scotland and in some cases other parts of the United Kingdom. Some people say unless the cloth is woven in Scotland it is inferior. I would say unless the cloth is woven in the United Kingdom it is inferior and I do not use it. There are quality mills in England producing high quality tartan despite the traditionalist’s view, which is just as good as that woven in Scotland. Outside of the United Kingdom, the weave loses its integrity and quality because the weaving processes and quality assurance standards are not maintained. They produce an inferior copy of the cloth we call tartan.

No expense is spared in the sewing of the kilt with top quality matching Coats Terko Satin thread being used for the pleats: top quality matching Gutermann thread is used for all the invisible stitching of the aprons.

kiltDetail2Extra strong thread is used to sew in the canvas on the pleated section and the inside of the waistband. The canvas in the pleated section is sewn into place with between 8 and 10 rows of stitches through every 3rd or 4th pleat to ensure it stays in place. The sporran loops are sewn onto the pleats with matching thread, and then folded back to the top of the kilt with extra stitches at the bottom to stop the loops becoming detached.

At this point, and as a believer in keeping our National Dress a “thoroughbred” Scottish made product, I feel it is my responsibility to highlight a few costly problems. Below are two pictures showing:

1. The attachment of the canvas to the kilt
2. “Steeking” – a row of heavy duty stitching to hold every aspect of the pleats in place.
3. Cuts in the inside of the waistband to allow the top of the kilt to take shape.
4. Every aspect of the set should line up horizontally.

You will never see these details when you purchase your £550 kilt.

I know you now ask “Which one would you think is the most expensive and which one would you prefer to buy?”

Answer: They both cost the same and this upsets me for several reasons!

It would take approximately 5 minutes to measure out, cut and sew the canvas to the kilt in the top picture. It takes me 45 minutes to perform the same task.

Steeking: In the top picture the Steeking would take 1.5 minutes. The Steeking on the bottom picture can take up to 35 minutes.

The thread used in the top picture is cotton basting thread costing very little. It will break with minimal tension. The thread used in the bottom picture is high grade Polyviscose which is very strong, used in sewing leather. This ensures you as a kilt wearer will never break this thread.

These “short cuts” used in kilt making are used to save time and add profit to the final product. Two years ago I upgraded the lining and canvas I use to produce a better quality finished kilt. Looking at the two, you will not be able to tell the difference. However, it will become more and more aparent as you wear your kilt.

The canvas is an expensive item, I chose to upgrade my canvas and have 4 grades. One is used only for the canvas in the back of the kilt. It is stiff but plyable allowing me to fold it to form the shape at the back. You will see from top photograph that the canvas is cut with no folds: much easier to form the shape at the back. You can perhaps see the canvas in the bottom picture is denser and stronger. I use a similar, but less stiff canvas for the aprons. In the case of larger kilts, I use heavy duty canvas for the aprons.

Finally, every pleat has a strip of canvas sewn into it. This gives each pleat a more defined edge. It also means that when sewn to the next pleat, the canvas takes the strain of the strong thread and not the wool, making for a much stronger pleat with less chance of coming undone.

Kilt by A N Other

Kilt By Lindsay

The matching buckle tabs are sewn through the kilt for added strength.

The kilt straps which are made from “Grade one leather” are hand sewn into place using extra strong thread and are sewn right through the front apron with invisible stitches. This ensures the straps are not going to come off with stitches through all 15 of the holes made in the straps for hand sewing. Having a special cutter made for the tabs costs me a few pounds

kiltMaker1The lining is high quality cotton drill and is completely hand sewn into place within 6 mm (1/4″) from the top of the kilt.
Making a kilt sounds a wee bit difficult, more so than say, making a table cloth. Once you get into it, you will find that proper kilt making is really an art; a feat of sewing engineering, and probably one of the most complicated items of any national dress in the world. It takes patience to learn and a whole lot more to perfect.

Making a kilt from scratch takes between 18 and 23 hours depending on how good the kilt maker is. It is certainly impossible to produce a genuine hand sewn kilt to the standard I use in any less time. Making a kilt in 8 to 10 hours to this specification is impossible. To do so I would have to eliminate some of the steps which no one ever sees and probably would never realise, this is a compromise I refuse to accept.

There are steps such as the “Steeking”, the row of stitching just above the fell which holds the back of the pleat in place and stops it hanging down when the kilt is worn. This step cannot be eliminated at all, but it can be done in such a way as to be totally ineffective and a waste of time. It must be there and it must be a continuous row of stitches of no more than ½”, 13mm in size, otherwise it defeats the purpose of having it, and it must be made with extra strong thread. Very few kilt makers do this.

Making the buckle tabs sounds like an easy part of the process, but if you do not use enough cloth you will end up with frayed tabs which I am sure everyone has seen on a kilt. In my opinion a kilt with frayed buckle tabs is a sign of laziness in kilt making. It is a step which takes a few minutes and takes just as long to do correctly as it does incorrectly, so there is no excuse for a poor quality tab. I use a small rectangle of stiff canvass in every tab to ensure it keeps its shape. This may sound excessive, but the end result speaks for itself.

kiltMaker2Another important difference in my kilts is the “rise” from the waist. In many kilts today, the kilt straps are right at the top of the kilt with no rise at all. All of my kilts have a 2 ½” rise from the centre of the waist straps to the top of the kilt, so the kilt will sit slightly higher than say a rented kilt. The size of the kilt at the waistband is approximately 1 ½” larger than the measurement taken for the waist. This allows the wearer to bed in comfort. All traditional kilts have a rise on them of between 2″ and 3″, so I opted for something in between as I felt the 3″ rise was just a wee bit too high. It means that the top of the kilt will sit just below the bottom rib, and it also avoids much of that unsightly “shirt scene”, where the shirt is hanging out under the Prince Charlie jacket and vest on top of the kilt.

The rise is very important in kilt making. It means the kilt is worn where it was intended to be rather than the modern method of having the kilt almost on the hips like a pair of trousers. The kilt was meant to be worn higher, but over the last few years especially, it has gradually slipped to almost hip height, which can be quite unsightly when dressed in formal wear.

As always I like to save the best for last.

A quality hand sewn kilt should have 9 to 10 stitches per inch, which is what I always aim for. Sometimes that is difficult with 4 layers of tartan and two layers of canvas to stitch together.If you are considering purchasing a kilt, run your finger nail along the fell of one of the pleats. You will feel the stitches as your nails passes over them.

Select approximately a one inch section of the fell and count the number of stitches you feel. If it in the region 8, 9, or 10 it is well sewn. If you can only feel 4 to 5 stitches, I consider this to be an inferior kilt.

Not nearly enough stitches to the inch.
This is a very good indication of the quality of kilt you are purchasing.
It is not the only check you can make but is probably the most important.
Another quick check is to see if you can push your fingers up past the fell between the pleats.

If you can, the steeking has not been done correctly and this is a poor quality kilt.
Not many kilt makers will thank me for adding this to my web site, but it is information I believe the clients are entitled to know.

Probably Scotland’s Best Handmade Kilt Maker