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  1. #1
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    Tips & tricks (Or, what I do differently from instructions in The Art of Kiltmaking)

    With some prompting from one of you (my good friend jthk), I'm making a sticky post of the handout that I give to people at Kilt Kamp that has some tips and tricks that I use that are not in The Art of Kiltmaking. I'm happy to answer questions or elaborate on any of this! Over the next week or so, I'll add some pictures to this as I'm sewing the next kilt.

    Measurements
    Dealing with a beer belly. Roll up a towel and “fill the space” beneath the person’s belly. Make the hip measurement around the seat in the back and around the towel in the front. Why? If a guy has a belly, you want the front of the kilt to hang straight down from the belly and snug in to the small of the back at the waist. In order to do that, you need a hip measurement that is bigger than a measurement around the hips over pants. This will also give you enough waist-hip differential that you can add some shaping in the pleats. There's a picture in a recent post that shows the difference between making a kilt with and without measurements made with the towel method: http://www.xmarksthescot.com/forum/f...80/index2.html

    Pinning
    Personally, I think the business of whether pleats are pinned or not before stitching is a complete red herring. I pin every pleat before I stitch - not just the one pin at the waist as in TAoK, but pins about every inch and a half. Why? I discovered very early on that I make better pleats this way, and I almost never have to rip one out.

    So what about the argument that time is money and that a kiltmaker is wasting gobs of time by pinning? Let’s think this through. Someone who pins a pleat before stitching is adding maybe 4 or 5 extra pins before starting to stitch. Remember that the finicky part is getting the waist and hip right to begin with, so adding 4-5 pins takes about 15 seconds once you have the waist and hips right (I’ve timed it to check). If your kilt has 30 pleats, and you’re a really really slow pinner (say it takes you a full minute to add 5 pins…), that adds at most 30 minutes to your kiltmaking overall.

    So, maybe I understand the argument that, for someone who does nothing but kiltmaking and for whom 30 minutes is really critical, not adding extra pins might make sense - you could make 41 kilts in the time that it took the "pinner" to make 40 kilts. But that's definitely not most people to whom I teach kiltmaking.

    What's really important is the quality of the work. If someone can better meet high standards and is willing to spend at the very most an extra half hour (out of a total of 20-30 hours) to add a few pins, what is the big deal?? And, for a beginner, I can almost guarantee you’ll have better pleats that you’ll be happier with if you pin. And if putting in pins saves having to rip out and re-do even one pleat, you’re time way ahead....

    Adding a little bit to the measurements.
    I typically add Ĺ” to both the waist and hip measurements before I lay out a kilt. Once the kilt is stitched, I put the buckles on at the original measurements. The extra half inch lets someone expand a little without having the underapron show. Adding Ĺ” means that the fringe edge will extend into the pleats just a little, but it’s not noticeable at all. On the other hand, if a person expands so that even ľ” of the underapron shows, it’s very obvious that the kilt is too small. Adding a little to the measurements just gives them a little leeway.

    A record sheet
    I’ve given up using a square of paper stitched to the apron that has all the kilt info. I’ve found that an 8.5x11 record sheet is easier to use – I just put it on the table in front of me and don’t have to fumble around for the apron front when I need to check a measurement. I can also put it easily into a notebook for records. You'll see the record sheet below:



    Which side is the “right side” of the tartan?
    Until 10-15 years ago, most mills considered the right side of the tartan to be the one where the twill line would run diagonally from right hip to lower left apron corner of a kilt. Since then, many mills (including Lochcarron) have switched to rapier looms, and they weave the opposite as the right side. This means that all the slubs (knots where they’ve joined threads) are on what TAoK considers the right side of the fabric. What do you do about this? You cannot simply cut a slub off, or you will have a hole in the tartan. If you have only a couple of slubs, they might be hidden inside pleats, in which case you can just ignore them. If you have a slub that will be on the apron or in the middle of a pleat, you have two choices: 1) carefully move threads apart and work the slub to the other side of the fabric without undoing the knot, or 2) lay the kilt out with the twill line going the other way. Ultimately, what really matters is how the kilt looks. If you’ve got a boatload of slubs, or you don’t want to take the chance of mucking up the tartan by trying to work an eyesore to the other side, the best solution is simply to have the twill line run the other way. It’s not the end of the world.

    Ripping vs. cutting
    For all tartan except lightweight tartan, I cut with scissors, rather than rip. I find that I am completely unable to rip heavier weight tartan without creating “pulls” in the tartan that I find unsightly and unacceptable. So, I just cut – the lines in tartan make this pretty easy to do well. And, quite frankly, because the top band is always put on parallel to a tartan line, it doesn’t matter if the cut edge is a hair wavy. If you’re really anal about it, you can always pull some threads once the edge is cut and then trim the resulting fringe until it’s even, if some places are a little longer than others. But, honestly, it doesn’t matter.

    Layout
    When laying out a kilt for a woman, consider dividing the pleats into thirds and making the pleats in the center third slightly smaller than the ones on the outer third. Even 1/16” isn’t noticeable. This can keep the straight line of the tartan from sagging in the center, because the buttocks are straighter across the back and rounder toward the sides (i.e., the butt is not a cylinder). This is not such a problem with men, who need less dramatic shaping in the pleats.

    Marking
    As I’m laying a kilt out, I mark the locations for pleats with pins, rather than with chalk marks. That lets me move and adjust and fix without making lots of chalk marks that I’m then confused about later WRT which is the right one. I then put a short line of white basting stitches at each pleat location and take out the pins. I find that a light chalk mark easily rubs off as I’m carrying a kilt from place to place when I’m working on it. The alternative is to use heavy chalk marks, and I find that those don’t always come out completely. I also use a very light chalk line for the apron and underapron margins and then run a line of white basting stitches along it. Doesn’t take very long.

    Basting the pleats
    TAoK (p.87) shows three basting stitches in each pleat. I’ve experimented with this, and I can’t see any difference in stability by using only two stitches in each pleat. And it saves time. If you're making a box pleated kilt, though, you still really need three stitches.

    Cutting canvas
    Canvas commonly comes 24” wide (unless you've bought the 72" heavyweight Hymo canvas from B. Black and Sons), and it’s a rare kilt that needs more than 1 yard. I try to cut the canvas so that there is no waste. I first cut two lengthwise strips the depth of the canvas needed in the pleats (see paragraph below for why I use this much). I then split the remaining piece lengthwise to get two pieces, one for the apron canvas and one for the underapron. No waste. I don’t worry too much about the actual depth of the apron and underapron canvas pieces – unless the kilt is hugely long, the pieces will be somewhere between 5 and 5 Ĺ” wide, which is fine.

    Canvas in the apron and underapron
    When I cut the canvas for the underapron, I leave about 4”, rather than the 2” in the fig on page 94. This leaves me enough to do a double fold when folding the canvas back at the apron and underapron edges (p. 98). This gives a little more support where the straps will be stitched. Just be sure to leave enough extra canvas to do this when you baste the pieces on.

    Canvas in the pleats
    I find that canvas is not as stiff as it was when I first started kiltmaking, and I put the folds in the canvas close enough together across the pleats that the folds actually meet one another at the waist (i.e., everywhere at the waist, there is a triple thickness of canvas with no sections that have only a single thickness). If the pleats taper at all, there will be wedges of single thickness between folds at the hips, but that’s OK. For most kilts, I put about two one-yard strips of canvas into the pleats.

    Stitching the canvas in the pleats
    TAoK (p. 97, step 12) says to stitch one line of running stitches with carpet thread at the top edge of the canvas once you’re done with the tailor basting. I never put that in. It’s just too easy to snug the stitching up too much – if you do that, you can’t put the needed flare into the top of the kilt when you add the top band. There’s also no reason why you need it for strength – the top band has plenty of stitching in it.

    Reinforcing the buttonhole
    Before doing the buttonhole stitch at each end of the buttonhole (p. 101), I flip the kilt over and reinforce the ends of the buttonhole on the inside with 3 or 4 stitches using carpet thread. Why? I’ve watched plenty of pipers in our band poke a kilt strap through the button hole and haul on the strap to pull the kilt tight without first putting the strap through the buckle. This eventually pops the pleat stitching even though you’ve done that decorative buttonhole stitch.
    Last edited by Barb T; 20th May 20 at 04:37 AM.
    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. The Following 11 Users say 'Aye' to Barb T For This Useful Post:


  3. #2
    Join Date
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    Barb - I have no inclination to make a kilt myself, but I have virtually unlimited admiration and fascination for the process and those who master it. I have your book (wow) and read all the comments from amateur and professional kiltmakers because I enjoy reading them.

    Thanks for posting these. I find them fascinating again.
    Rev'd Father Bill White: Retired Parish Priest & Elementary Headmaster, lover of God, people (most of them!) dogs, joy, humour & clarity. Legion Padre, theologian, teacher, philosopher, linguist, dreamer, traditionalist, bon-vivant, encourager of hearts & souls & a firm believer in dignity, decency, & duty. A proud Canadian Sinclair.

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  5. #3
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    Thank you Barb, appreciate your continued efforts and commitment to a fine tutorial.

  6. #4
    Join Date
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    Thanks! It's always my pleasure.
    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

  7. The Following User Says 'Aye' to Barb T For This Useful Post:


  8. #5
    Join Date
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    Iím starting on my Australian Tartan and pulled out all my notes from Kilt Kamp....

    I found these notes and was looking at numbers, splits, etc
    Ahhhh..... thatís Barbs writing.... so thatís what Iím following!
    I even found the tape measure that Barb marked up for me (Iím used to metric but make kilts in inches)

    Tip For Everyone: The Picture template is invaluable - print lots off and have them handy amongst your kilt making stash. Not just for new kilts but for repairs and remakes.... I even have a scan on my phone to refer to when Iím out and about as I might come across some suitable fabric.

  9. #6
    Join Date
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    Yay! I'm so glad they're getting used!
    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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