Kilt Making Help and Information

I personally guarantee that every Freedom Kilt is made from the highest quality materials I can find,
and with the best construction that I am capable of producing.

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Charles S. (Steve) Ashton
Owner/Kiltmaker


Welcome to a whole new world of how kilts are made, sold, and worn.

 

 

Some mistakenly use the term “Contemporary Kilt” to mean any modern kilt, or kilt like garment, usually in the Utility style from solid colored fabrics.  In fact, the phrase Contemporary Kilt was coined at Freedom Kilts and we define it as “An Iconic kilt that has evolved to suit the needs of today’s kilt wearer.

When you buy a kilt off-the-rack you are buying someone else’s idea of their perfect kilt.  This was OK as long as everyone wore their clothing at the anatomical waist.  But since the introduction of blue jeans most guys today have never worn anything this high.  It feels uncomfortable and just ‘wrong’ today.  Yet, the vast majority of kilts are still made this way.  Wearing a kilt with the waist designed to be worn high, at somewhere other than where it was designed to be worn, causes the deep “Shower Curtain” folds in the back that is so often seen today.  But with a Freedom kilt, for the very first time, you the customer, specify every aspect of the garment, and how you wish to wear it.  If you wish to wear your kilt lower, we build that into the kilt when you measure.  We will then make your kilt, to fit you perfectly, how you wish to wear it.

We also price and sell our kilts a little differently than most.  As every kilt we make is totally custom, made one-at-a-time, we have chosen to charge a flat rate for our labor.  We then add to the basic labor rate the cost of whatever fabric you chose.  (the same rate charged to us by the weaver.)  You may then add any optional pockets you wish. (each pocket requires a bit more labor and  fabric)

Labor + Fabric + Pockets = it is just that simple.

 

 

That pesky word “Traditional”

Over the past couple hundred years there have been thousands of talented kilt makers.  Each trying to find a way for their product to stand out from the rest.  Over my own 20 years as a kilt maker I have been lucky enough to see a lot of different kilts made by a lot of other makers.  No two have ever been made the same.

I have seen many different ways to build a kilt, to fold fabric into pleats, and to fasten a kilt on.

To me, the kilt has never been a single unchanging garment.  I see it as a constantly evolving and changing garment over the years as kilt makers experiment and try new ideas.  As new fabrics and materials become available the methods of making kilts have also evolved and changed to suit these new materials.

But, for quite a while now the word “Traditional” has been used as if there was one single “ideal” or “standard” kilt.  In my experience what most people mean when they use the word Traditional is  actually – “I wear my kilt in a traditional manner or with traditional accessories”.

So, throughout this website I will not use the word Traditional as it applies to the construction of kilts.  There have simply been too many different ways to construct a kilt for any one to be “The Traditional way”.

I will, instead, use the word Iconic.

 

 

The Fit Of Your Kilt

Where you wish to wear the waist of your kilt and where you wish the bottom of the kilt to hit your knee is perhaps some of the most misunderstood aspects of the Iconic kilts.

 

 

 

The kilt style worn by the military and by pipe bands was designed at a time when all men’s trousers were worn at the anatomical waist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have found that there are three places on the human body where a waistband will naturally sit without shifting as you move around and sit.

The upper strap in this photo shows the anatomical waist.  This is “Full Waist Height” and is where all of the Iconic kilts are designed to be worn.

The problem is that very few guys today have ever worn anything at full waist height.  If you are not an experienced Iconic kilt wearer this will feel odd to you.

But if you are an experienced Iconic Kilt wearer, you may know how comfortable this is, and may prefer the Full Waist Height.

If you plan to wear your kilt with the short “Prince Charlie” coatee then you must wear a kilt at Full Waist Height to prevent white shirt from showing below the jacket and above the top of the kilt..

If you put a finger just under your ribs at the side and bend in, towards your finger, you will feel a hollow.   This is the anatomical waist.

In the back a Full Waist Height will be up at kidney level and in the front about 3 or 4 finger widths below the breastbone.

The middle strap in the photos above show a Mid Waist Height.  I have found that the vast majority of wearers prefer to wear a kilt at Mid Waist Height.  If you are a guy of average build or a guy with a bit of a belly I would suggest you at least try a Mid Waist Height.

The middle strap, in the back, will cinch into the small of your back.  At the sides a waistband will sit just on top of the Illiac Crest of the hip bones.

The lower strap in the photos shows a Low Waist Height.  You can see that this is where blue jeans are worn.  In the back the strap sits down, on the rise of the buttocks and at the side is down, over the hip bones.

Many guys who like the Utility Style kilts prefer the Low Waist Height or Jeans Waist. But- if you are a guy with a belly, this actually accentuates the belly making it look larger.

 

All three of these kilts fit the same person.  The bottom of the kilt hits the same place at the knee and in back, the bottom of the Fell area is at the same place at the hips.  The only difference is the height of the waist.

 

 

 

 

The Construction of your Kilt

Many kilt companies say that they offer “Premium Traditional Kilts” but seldom do they actually tell you what this means.

At Freedom Kilts we explain exactly how our kilts are constructed.  And here is why.

Fabrics are supple.  They move and “give” as you move.  The premium kilt fabrics are twill woven wool and this fabric is very supple.  If you grab  and pull you will see it stretch and distort.

 

If the kilt is constructed to rely only on the strength of the stitching, when the fabric gives the stress is transferred to the stitching and the stitches will fail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How your kilt is constructed is    A Freedom Kilts you may ask for your kilt to be stitched by hand, with needle and thread, or by sewing machine.

But there is really very little difference in how the kilt is constructed.  Just how it is stitched.

 

There is a good reason for this.

Hand stitching is what many view as the “Hallmark” of the iconic kilts.  When a kilt is stitched by hand there will be no visible stitching on the outside of the kilt.  None, nada.  Not even where the pleats are tapered and sewn down.

Hand stitching requires more labor and skill but it gives the very best, most formal appearance to a kilt.

But, hand stitching is weaker than machine stitching and due to that some extra steps must be done to re-enforce hand stitches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Machine stitching is stronger than hand stitching so many who wear their kilt often or during physical activity may prefer a kilt that is stitched with a sewing machine.

 

Hand Stitched vs Machine Stitched

Waistbands

Beltloops

Apron Fringe

Fasteners

Your Fabric

Weight and Composition

Your Pleats

The Display Of The Tartan In The Pleats

Your Measurements 

 Selecting Pockets

What makes a Freedom Kilt different from other kilts?

 

You may have seen the word “contemporary” used to describe a kilt without knowing what the word actually means or where it comes from.   Many automatically think the word refers to any modern or “Utility Style” kilt.The phrase was actually coined by Freedom Kilts and describes a very specific garment.  The way we at Freedom Kilts define the word is “A kilt which retains all of the construction elements that made the Iconic Style Kilt famous but  which has evolved to meet the needs of today’s kilt wearers.”

I describe this evolution of the kilt as ” The DFF&P difference”

The“D” stands for Durability.  Durability equals longevity.

Many kilt wearers today, wear their kilts more often than once a year for a Burns dinner, or annual Highland Games.  Many of my customers wear their kilt daily and I’m sorry but many guys are pretty rough on their clothing.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to see many types and styles of kilts when they come into my shop for alterations or repairs. This has given me a unique opportunity to see the causes behind the failures that bring the kilt to me for repair.  I have seen kilts made by some of the largest and most famous names. I have seen military and civilian kilts.  This has given me the opportunity to identify the cause behind the failure.

I have tried my best to correct these weak points to make the contemporary kilt less prone to the common failures.

The first issue is the fabric that many kilts are made from.  Kilt wool is very supple.  The Twill weave is what give the garment its famous swish. But the Twill weave also causes the fabric to stretch and distort very easily.  Even a light pull on kilt wool will show stretching.  This is why an Iconic kilt has internal construction elements built into them.  You may not know that these construction elements are there because they are hidden behind a liner.  (No, the liner inside a kilt is not to keep a kilt clean.  If that were so, the liner would be removable and washable.)

A Contemporary kilt retains these elements and improves on them.   (edit ends here)

 

 

So I have developed a method to build in additional strength to reduce the stretching. This includes extending the stabilizer the full width of the kilt. My stabilizer extends from the outer apron fringe edge all the way across to the opposite, under apron edge. All of the straps and buckles are securely fastened through the outer Tartan fabric, through the interfacing, and anchored to the stabilizer.
2) The left hand side strap hole is a very evident weak point. Many kilts show tearing around the strap hole. I have adopted an older system of fastening a kilt where there is no strap hole. (This small feature has the added bonus of allowing a Contemporary kilt to be re-sized in a matter of minutes.)
3) I have added hidden reinforcements and/or other strengthening stitches at stress points. Similar in idea to the rivets that made Levi Strauss blue jeans famous.
4) If I hand stitch a Contemporary kilt, of course, I must cut away the inside of the pleats. This leaves raw edges that can fray. Most of the kilts I make are machine stitched. I found that machine stitching is far stronger than hand stitches. I also found that with machine stitching I did not have to cut-away the excess fabric so there are no raw edges of fabric. There is no where for the fabric to fray.

The “F” stands for Fit. All Iconically styled kilts, (and I include all those that are designed like traditional kilts), are meant to be worn at the anatomical waist. This is much higher than guys today have ever worn clothing. A kilt designed like this will have the top of the kilt about three or four finger widths below the bottom of the breastbone.

It is quite common for guys today not to understand this high waist fit. It is totally outside their experience. They try to wear their kilt like they wear pants which causes the hem to drop below the knees, and more importantly the bottom of the Fell to drop below the crest of the hips and butt. When the the Fell is lower than the hips it will often cause the shower curtain folds seen in the back of many kilts.

I found that there are three places on the human body where clothing will fit without riding up or sagging down. I describe these as “Full Waist Height”, “Mid Waist Height” & “Low Waist Height”. I design my kilts to fit where the customer wishes to wear his kilt and where it naturally wants to fit on his body.
A traditionally styled kilt is one of the only garments today where the wearer must learn to adapt and change his expectations around the garment. I prefer to adapt the garment to suit the expectations of the wearer.

The second “F” refers to Fabric. There are so many different fabrics available today. Some are almost totally wrinkle free. Some are machine washable. Some are better suited to a climate than wool. Wool will still give the ultimate swish and is far better looking for formal occasions, but if the customer wishes to wear his kilt for some other purpose, the kilt maker should be able to offer the fabric best suited to the intended use.
But, using fabrics other than kilt wool, does require the kilt maker to have experience working with these fabrics.

And finally we come to the “P” in the DFF&P difference. A guy just has to have Pockets. A traditional kilt is perhaps the only male garment today made without pockets. Pockets = Not traditional? Well, OK. But it just makes sense to be able to offer pockets to those who would like them.
I have tried my best to design pockets that can be totally invisible, and which do not bulge if loaded down with all the stuff guys today carry.

I use the word “Iconic”, not to mean how someone accessorizes their kilt, but to mean those style features which have not changed over the years.
Two overlapping, flat fabric aprons that are approx. 1/2 of the wearers waist.
A garment designed to be worn at the anatomical waist.
Some form of pleating formed in the rear of the garment.
A garment designed to have the hem hit at the top of the wearers kneecap.

I use the word Contemporary to mean a garment that retains much of the Iconic styling features but which may be modified or evolved to better suit how guys today wish to wear their clothing.
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The Care & Feeding of your Freedom Kilt

At Freedom Kilts we try to produce a garment that will retain its good looks for years of everyday use. We choose our fabrics and fittings to be as durable and low maintenance as possible.

Wool fabrics
This kilt is made from 100% wool, with pockets constructed of pre-washed polyester/cotton black fabric, and leather straps.We ship the kilt to you with the pleats basted.Carefully cut the basting at each pleat and remove it.Do not try to pull the basting thread through several pleats at the same time — it can damage the wool.If your kilt gets dirty, and you feel you need to get it dry-cleaned, check to make sure that the cleaner you use is experienced with working with woolen kilts.This is particularly important when it comes to the pressing of the pleats.If you are unsure of the cleaner, ask him not to press the kilt, and do it yourself. Re-baste the pleats as they were when you received it so they are flat and straight. Then press down with an iron on a wool setting using a damp press cloth.It is the heat of the steam and the pressure that sets the pleat crease. Don’t slide the iron over the pleats but press, pick up and re-position the iron and press again.You will need to press both on the right side and then, turning the kilt over, on the wrong side.

 

Solid and Tartan synthetic fabrics
If you have chosen one of our fabric made from a blend of 65% Polyester and 35% Rayon your kilt is intended to be machine washable and hung or machine dried.   To keep the kilt looking good over several years and repetitive washings, some care is required.
Your kilt should be machine washed in cold water on a gentle cycle with similar colors.
Any detergent can be used but we suggest a liquid detergent suitable for cold water.  This is because some powdered detergents and soaps may not fully dissolve in cold water.
You may dry your kilt in a machine but remember it is the tumbling action that causes shrinkage over time. Use a Cotton or Permanent Press setting and remove the kilt before the cycle has finished and while it is still slightly damp.
After laundering, hang your kilt with heavy-duty skirt or pants hangers following the instructions below.
Over time, the edges of the pleats will have a tendency to curl. This is normal for cotton fabrics. To remove the curl and return the crisp appearance, you can iron your kilt on a cotton or permanent press setting. Remember to lay out the pleats keeping the edges parallel and not flared like a fan. Alternately you can use a small steamer.
While the kilt is hanging, pass the steamer down the pleats allowing any wrinkles to fall out and smooth the pleat edges with your hand. A more casual appearance can be achieved by snapping each pleat by hand and then smoothing out any curls with your fingernail.

 

Hanging and Storing Your Kilt

Many shops sell what they call “Kilt Hangers”.  Often at pretty high prices.

At Freedom Kilts we are taking down and hanging kilts all day long and found a real simple and inexpensive way to hang kilts.

The really great part is that you don’t have to spend a fortune on special hangers.

Start with two inexpensive skirt or pants hanger.  The kind with clips.

Start by folding your kilt in half, with the apron edges together.

Hanging 1

Hanging 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then using two skirt or pants hangers, clip one on the aprons and one on the pleats.

Hanging 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then fold it in half again so the two hangers come together.

Hanging 4

Hanging 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This method will support the full weight of a 16oz kilt.

You are only going over two layers of kilt.  No more kilts falling off the hangers onto the floor.

The pleats and aprons will remain wrinkle free.

 

The Hand Crafted Contemporary Kilt

Every person’s time on this earth is finite.

We are born, we live, love, learn and at some

time, we all die.

The strength of the human race is our ability,

our willingness, to pass on to the next

generation, that which we have learned.

Steve Ashton

THCCK 2014

The Hand Crafted Contemporary Kilt

By Steve Ashton