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  1. #1
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    Great Kilt Question

    Hello all!

    I am doing a speak for a public speaking class, and my topic is the evolution of the kilt. I wish to wear a historically accurate great kilt. I have a length of fabric, 6 yards long. But this fabric is only 45 inches wide. I am a small guy, but pretty tall. Should I cut the fabric into two 3 yard pieces and sew them together to create one 3 yard by 90 inch piece of cloth, and then trim it from 90 inches to around 60 inches?

    Any help is appreciated!

  2. #2
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    I don't think you have enough fabric to do an historically accurate great kilt. According to most sources the plaid was about six ells of double tartan-- in other words it was about 5 feet wide and about 18 feet long.

    If you have a kilt that matches your length of fabric, you might want to consider making a "top piece" that would give the impression of a great kilt, and which could be removed during the lecture to show how the kilt was transformed during the 17th century.

  3. #3
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    That is a great idea! But i really wanted to show them "the real deal", along with pictures of how it is worn improperly. I mentioned that I'm a skinny bloke, about a 29 inch waist, so I thought 3 yards could be enough. Or perhaps I shoud just get 8 yards of single width fabric and end up with what you say, 18 feet.

  4. #4
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    If you want to be totally "historically correct", of course, you'll want two lengths of single-width tartan sewn together. As a matter of convenience, though, you might want to just use double-width fabric and mention it verbally during your presentation. If you haven't seen it, you might also want to check out Matt Newsome's article on the possibility of the "great kilt" having been worn with loops and a drawstring: http://albanach.org/drawstring.htm

    Length-wise. . .I have a 34-inch waist and have found a length of 4 & 1/2 to 5 yards of double-width tartan quite sufficient.
    "It's all the same to me, war or peace,
    I'm killed in the war or hung during peace."

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacMillan of Rathdown View Post
    I don't think you have enough fabric to do an historically accurate great kilt. According to most sources the plaid was about six ells of double tartan-- in other words it was about 5 feet wide and about 18 feet long.

    If you have a kilt that matches your length of fabric, you might want to consider making a "top piece" that would give the impression of a great kilt, and which could be removed during the lecture to show how the kilt was transformed during the 17th century.
    Actually, not 6 ells of double tartan, but 6 ells of tartan doubled, for a total length of 3 ells, or about 3-3.5 yards total length - depending on whether you're talking about Scottish (37") or English (45") ells! This was the size plaid issued to Highland enlisted troops in the British army. Civilian plaids could be a bit more generous, but usually no more than 5 yards.

    Remember, the tartan fabric came off the hand looms about 27" wide, so two lengths had to be joined together lengthwise to make the completed plaid, with an approx. 54" width. So, 6 ells of tartan yields a 3 ells in length plaid.
    Brian

    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." ~ Benjamin Franklin

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodsheal View Post
    Actually, not 6 ells of double tartan, but 6 ells of tartan doubled, for a total length of 3 ells, or about 3-3.5 yards total length - depending on whether you're talking about Scottish (37") or English (45") ells! This was the size plaid issued to Highland enlisted troops in the British army. Civilian plaids could be a bit more generous, but usually no more than 5 yards.

    Remember, the tartan fabric came off the hand looms about 27" wide, so two lengths had to be joined together lengthwise to make the completed plaid, with an approx. 54" width. So, 6 ells of tartan yields a 3 ells in length plaid.
    That was my understanding too.
    "It's all the same to me, war or peace,
    I'm killed in the war or hung during peace."

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodsheal View Post
    Actually, not 6 ells of double tartan, but 6 ells of tartan doubled, for a total length of 3 ells, or about 3-3.5 yards total length - depending on whether you're talking about Scottish (37") or English (45") ells! This was the size plaid issued to Highland enlisted troops in the British army. Civilian plaids could be a bit more generous, but usually no more than 5 yards.

    Remember, the tartan fabric came off the hand looms about 27" wide, so two lengths had to be joined together lengthwise to make the completed plaid, with an approx. 54" width. So, 6 ells of tartan yields a 3 ells in length plaid.

    My understanding as well and basically how I wear mine. I've found that 4 yards of double-width fabric is quite adequate (and more comfortable over the course of a long day).

    Fabric of only 45" in width may not be quite adequate, but you could easily try it on and see. I've used fabric only 47-48" with some successs though the "plaid" section was a bit on the small side though it would certainly work for demonstration purposes. You should gain an inch or so by keeping them hem a few inches above the knees, which is also more historically accurate.
    Virginia Commissioner, Elliot Clan Society, USA
    Adjutant, 1745 Appin Stewart Regiment
    Adjutant, Post 2, Scottish-American Military Society
    US Marine (1970-1999)

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dale Seago View Post
    If you haven't seen it, you might also want to check out Matt Newsome's article on the possibility of the "great kilt" having been worn with loops and a drawstring: http://albanach.org/drawstring.htm
    I'm becoming more and more a fan of the drawstring theory for plaids, or even more simply a series of belt loops sewn on at waist level. The notion of clansmen flinging their plaids out onto the wet or muddy ground to put them on seems wrong (though of course they did roll up in them to sleep on that same ground!). Who knows?

    I want to try the belt-loop theory, though. It seems it'd be a simple process to stand there feeding your belt through a number of loops on a plaid, scrunching the fabric as you go (somewhat in the manner of a shower curtain on its rings). Once you have all of the tartan wadded onto your belt (it would sort of pleat itself), you slip on your dirk and sporran, fasten the whole affair around your waist, adjust the aprons in front - and you're good to go!

    Sound reasonable...?
    Brian

    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." ~ Benjamin Franklin

  9. #9
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    I tried sewing loops into a great kilt this summer. I had read to put them at every set.
    I figured it was done above the length, i.e. 23" or so up, the rest would be the "Blanket /cover part" It sorta worked but the "aprons" were the hard part to figure in.
    For something that looks so easy...
    Humor, is chaos; remembered in tranquillity- James Thurber

  10. #10
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    Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodsheal View Post
    Actually, not 6 ells of double tartan, but 6 ells of tartan doubled, for a total length of 3 ells, or about 3-3.5 yards total length - depending on whether you're talking about Scottish (37") or English (45") ells! This was the size plaid issued to Highland enlisted troops in the British army. Civilian plaids could be a bit more generous, but usually no more than 5 yards.

    Remember, the tartan fabric came off the hand looms about 27" wide, so two lengths had to be joined together lengthwise to make the completed plaid, with an approx. 54" width. So, 6 ells of tartan yields a 3 ells in length plaid.
    That certainly makes more sense! Interestingly, three different sources mention the 5x18 foot size-- obviously somebody back then didn't do their A Levels in math!

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