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  1. #1
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    Stillwater Kilts Standard in Weathered MacKenzie

    A couple of weeks ago I found myself in a "good news, bad news" situation. Good news: Since making my first 8 yard heavy wool tartan kilt a few years back, I've lost a bunch of weight. Bad news: none of my nice tartan kilts fit anymore, despite moving buckles or fastening the velcro tighter (in the case of my USA Kilts casual) and although I have some beautiful wool tartan on hand I'm waiting until I drop a few more pounds before I commit to turning it into kilts.

    I decided to sell my USA Casual (I hated to see it go, and as soon as I reach my target weight I'll be replacing it!) and put the proceeds towards a Stillwater standard model in the Weathered MacKenzie tartan, figuring it should serve nicely as a stopgap for both dressier and knock-around occasions until I lose those last couple of inches and outfit myself in wool again.

    Impressions:
    The acrylic fabric is of a nicer quality than my Thrifty kilt; a little bit heavier with nicer hand and drape. However, the weave is still looser than my wool kilt or poly viscose. It's not stretchy, but it doesn't feel quite as solid. It feels like it will be prone to pilling.

    The tartan itself is absolutely gorgeous, and was really what sold me on the kilt; I've been wanting something in a weathered tartan since I fell down the kiltmaking rabbit hole four years ago, and it's a bonus that this is a distant family tartan for me. One caveat, though: Because it's a Black Watch derivative it has an ABAC repeat pattern, which means it's a pretty large sett. Because these kilts are mass-produced in Pakistan, the manufacturer is trying to get the most of out every last scrap of fabric and not taking the time to carefully lay out the front apron or symmetrically as a bespoke kiltmaker would - I noticed this in the example photo right on the Stillwater Kilts web site, and included a note in my order politely requesting one with a centered apron if possible. Jerry included a hand-written note on my invoice that he had sent the closest he could find, which I really appreciate! As you can see below, though, it was basically luck of the draw of what's in stock in your size at any given time. Something to keep in mind if potential lack of symmetry is really going to bug you. It is not as distracting as you might think, though; the white stripes are what jump out with this tartan, so if those are more or less centered I doubt anyone other than a kiltmaker is going to notice.

    The other big selling point was turn-around time; these are pre-made and Jerry's shipping times are the stuff of legend around here; I placed my order Monday night and I received the kilt on Thursday.

    As to construction, fit, and finish: The basic structure of this kilt is fairly traditional with a deep first pleat and deep final reverse pleat. The pleats are well-executed, and sewn down at the fell. I was surprised to see that it's nicely pleated to the sett (I assumed it would be pleated to the white stripe, which seems like it would be easier/more efficient on a large production scale.) Like the front apron, the sett is not centered to anything across the back. I am too lazy to pull up the lining and see what the reinforcement looks like along the fell (the web site says "internal canvas reinforcement".) Compared to the kilt I made myself from Barbara's book, which uses hair canvas and steeking stitches to stabilize the pleats, it does not feel as heavy or solid, but some of that is surely the lighter acrylic fabric and its looser weave. It feels sturdy enough. The stitching and double fringe on the front apron edge wander a little bit. Nothing anyone's going to notice from a distance.

    The leather straps and buckles are inexpensive but inconspicuous. The hole for the under apron strap is a little bit snug, but it's quite well reinforced. The fit is spot-on; as mentioned on the web site, the waist measurement is taken with the straps at their tightest adjustment. I ordered a 34, knowing it was going to be just a little snug, and if I use the second-tightest holes it fits perfectly. I have a little more room to shrink, and then I can move the straps and buckles a little further if I need to. At 24 inches total length, the kilt is a little bit long on me, but I don't mind the extra rise enough to feel like I need to hem it. In my case I think it actually makes the third buckle a little less superfluous, as it falls closer to my actual waist than it would on a shorter kilt. The kilt has a decent weight to it; not as heavy as 16oz wool but it feels properly hefty and solid.

    Also included were a pair of elastic garters, matching tartan flashes and a simple aged brass/bronze kilt pin.

    Overall, I think this kilt is a good value for the price, and someone who is really jonesing to get their first traditional style kilt on a budget could do a lot worse. For me it will be a good in-between kilt, but now having direct experience with both this kilt and USA Kilts' casual model, I have to give USA Kilts the edge overall, both in terms of materials and workmanship. I know that's a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison (traditional off the rack 8 yard vs made-to-measure "casual" 5 yard) but poly viscose comes closer to the feel and drape of worsted wool, and my USAK casual always just had an overall rock-solid feel to it even after 2 years of regular wear.

    All of that being said, I am well satisfied with this purchase. It is a beautiful tartan and a well-made garment for its features and price range.


    Front Apron


    Straps and Fringe


    Pleats


    Fell and belt/sporran loops


    Lining


    Under Apron


    Matching Flashes


    Kilt Pin
    Last edited by usonian; 25th April 15 at 07:09 AM. Reason: grammar tweak

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  3. #2
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    Fine article for anyone (not just the new folks). Thanks usonian, for the time and sharing your thoughts. As always, the photos are a great bonus.

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  5. #3
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    Thanks for the kind words! One thing that can be frustrating when shopping online is lack of photos, especially when it comes to various companies' off the rack kilts! You usually get a wide shot of the front apron and that's it, but the pleats are usually the part that vary the most and can make or break the look of an inexpensive kilt. And knowing how we obsess over details around here I wanted to add to the communal body of knowledge; I've always heard nothing but good things about Stillwater Kilts but I was curious about construction details and wasn't finding much about them.

  6. #4
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    Yes, a very nice review, and a pretty good looking kilt. That`s a lovely tartan.

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  8. #5
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    The tartan itself is absolutely gorgeous, and was really what sold me on the kilt.
    It was the same with me. This was my first tartan kilt after a couple of utility kilts, and I was very happy with the value/cost ratio. It is still my go-to kilt for renaissance events where I don't have to worry about minor mishaps. The only real down side is it pills excessively—it's the nature of the fabric. I hemmed mine to better fit my shorter stature, and with the lighter weight of the fabric it seems to hang fine.

    I've since graduated to several wool, made-to measure, kilts and much prefer them, but you always need a knock-about kilt for those times when you worry about the odd spilled BBQ sauce, mud, etc. For the price, you could do a lot worse.
    " Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly." - Mae West -

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  10. #6
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    Just got my own today. I too lost a good deal of weight and have just begun to replace my kilts. This is my second and makes me regret my earlier purchase of a Sport Kilt Works (a good kilt round the house but really cheap looking in comparison to the SWK Standard).

  11. #7
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    I've got a photo of my Weathered MacKenzie in the photo section under the title of Athena Caledonian Games 2015. The Stillwater acrylic is still a nice product for a good value.

    JMB

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  13. #8
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    So, here is a picture. It ought to will give you a good idea of the colors, etc.



    JMB

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  15. #9
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    nice buy, Usonian! I also have a Stillwater kilt in this tartan...It's my favorite, so far.

    Does anybody have a solution to the pilling issue? I've considered finding one of those cheap battery powered "sweater shavers", or even taking a disposable shaving razor to it, like I did with my military beret.

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  17. #10
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    Swk

    It was my first tartan kilt as well. Now I use it for hiking and such. I have used Jerry for numerous purchases and have never been disappointed! Even had a Black Watch wool custom made with Box pleats. It my favorite cold weather "gettin about" kilt.

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