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  1. #1
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    Tips and tricks: Properly shaping the top of a kilt

    Our quartermaster just gave me a couple of our band kilts to alter, and it reminded me of a very common error in kiltmaking. So, I thought I'd do a post that shows both the right and the wrong way to shape the top of a kilt.

    A trad kilt, whether box pleated or knife pleated, is designed to be buckled snugly at the true waist. The rise of the kilt extends above the buckle line, and the top of the kilt, therefore, rides above the waist.

    In order for a kilt to fit comfortably and to stay put at the waist, the smallest circumference of the kilt has to be at the buckle line, with a slight flare in the kilt through the rise. Because the top edge of the kilt is slightly larger than the waist, the kilt can be buckled tight at the waist and not dig into the ribs at the top. If, on the other hand, the kilt is smaller at the top edge than it is at the waist, you simply can't buckle the kilt tight at the waist, and the kilt will slip down until the top of the kilt is at the waist, making it too long at the knee. This sagging is less of a problem with someone who has "love handles", but the uncomfortable tightness of the top of the kilt will still be there.

    So, I've put two pics below to show what should and should not be done. The first kilt is a box-pleated kilt that I just finished. Doesn't matter that it's box pleated and not knife pleated; the principle is the same. You'll see that the top band is a little wavy in the picture. That's because the kilt is a little bigger there than it is at the waist. Once it's on the body, the kilt top edge will be nice and smooth, and the top edge will be comfortably loose while the waist can be pulled nice and tight.



    The second kilt, shown below, is one of our band kilts made by a well known company in Canada. I pulled as hard as I could on the top band while the picture was being taken, and the measurement along the waist was still bigger than that along the top edge. This kilt cannot be buckled tightly at the waist and will sag down until the top of the kilt is at the wearer's waist. To make matters worse, this kilt also has two darts in the apron of the kilt. If a kilt has darts in the front of the apron, it will never buckle tightly at the waist even if there's flare in the rise in the pleats.



    So, if you're making a kilt, the easiest way to accomplish this is to keep the pleats absolutely straight and parallel (no taper) from the waist to the top of the rise. When you're putting on the canvas and the top band, stretch the top edge a little as you do the basting (the stabilizer keeps the waist from stretching). That seems to be all that's necessary to get a bit of flare. I wouldn't try to actually flare the pleat stitching.
    Last edited by Barb T; 30th June 17 at 02:17 PM.
    Kiltmaker, piper, and geologist (one of the few, the proud, with brains for rocks....
    Member, Scottish Tartans Authority
    Geology stuff (mostly) at http://people.hamilton.edu/btewksbu
    The Art of Kiltmaking at http://theartofkiltmaking.com

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Hi Barb,

    I have tried to make the pleats a little wider above the waist. It really seemed to skew the pleats instead of just making it wider at the top. So now I just make it straight at the top and stretch the top when I put the last row of stitching for the canvas. I will incorporate the stretching of the top when I put the waist band on too.

    Thanks,
    Wally
    Wallace Catanach, Kiltmaker

    A day without killting is like a day without sunshine.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChattanCat View Post
    Hi Barb,

    I have tried to make the pleats a little wider above the waist. It really seemed to skew the pleats instead of just making it wider at the top. So now I just make it straight at the top and stretch the top when I put the last row of stitching for the canvas. I will incorporate the stretching of the top when I put the waist band on too.

    Thanks,
    Wally
    Yup - I agree with you. I make the pleats straight from the waist, too. And I actually leave off that last line of stitching for the canvas, just to make sure that the top can be flared enough when I put on the top band. I figure there's really no reason for that last line of stitching (even though that's how I was taught to make a kilt) unless you _didn't_ want the top edge to stretch a little. Because I want it to stretch, I leave off the last line of stitching on the canvas (the set of straight stitches 1/4" down from the top).
    Kiltmaker, piper, and geologist (one of the few, the proud, with brains for rocks....
    Member, Scottish Tartans Authority
    Geology stuff (mostly) at http://people.hamilton.edu/btewksbu
    The Art of Kiltmaking at http://theartofkiltmaking.com

  4. #4
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    Thanks for posting this, Barb,

    I just ran into the same thing and came up with the same solution--a busy tartan meant I really had to sew the pleats parallel at top but wanted more flare--so I sewed the pleats straight but stretched the top as I stitched in the reinforcing. Worked pretty well. Now that I see it's the way it looks even better!

    Moosedog
    Last edited by Moosedog; 27th April 08 at 03:05 PM. Reason: spelling

  5. #5
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    Thanks for posting this, I really "got" it when I looked at the pictures.
    Sara
    who just remembered she owes Barb pictures from her last project!!
    "There is one success- to be able to spend your life your own way."
    ~Christopher Morley

  6. #6
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    Barb, Thanks. Am printing out your assorted posts to make an appendix for your book!

    Still jonesing for my first run of fabric, darn it.

  7. #7
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    Cool! Thanks!
    Kiltmaker, piper, and geologist (one of the few, the proud, with brains for rocks....
    Member, Scottish Tartans Authority
    Geology stuff (mostly) at http://people.hamilton.edu/btewksbu
    The Art of Kiltmaking at http://theartofkiltmaking.com

  8. #8
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    Barb,
    I'm very delighted with your series of posting on kiltmaking. You always seem to answer my questions before the end of the post. Thanks, it's like having a tutor right there.
    Past President, St. Andrew's Society of the Inland Northwest
    Member, Royal Scottish Country Dance Society
    Founding Member, Celtic Music Spokane
    Member, Royal Photographic Society

  9. #9
    BEEDEE's Avatar
    BEEDEE is offline
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    Barb - thanks for this advice. Now is the box pleat one you made to test out the final instructions for the long awaited pdf file on "How to make a Box Pleat"?

    Brian

    In a democracy it's your vote that counts; in feudalism, it's your Count that votes.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by BEEDEE View Post
    Barb - thanks for this advice. Now is the box pleat one you made to test out the final instructions for the long awaited pdf file on "How to make a Box Pleat"?

    Brian
    Hmm, no, it's one I made for a client.
    Kiltmaker, piper, and geologist (one of the few, the proud, with brains for rocks....
    Member, Scottish Tartans Authority
    Geology stuff (mostly) at http://people.hamilton.edu/btewksbu
    The Art of Kiltmaking at http://theartofkiltmaking.com

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