Thursday, 25 July 2013

Wee Boy's Kilt

Finished toddler kilt from back with pleats

We are planning to attend to the Highland Games held in a place not far away from where we live. As I love Scotland and all things Scottish, we have to go there. Absolutely.

Me and my husband, we have kilts, genuine Scottish kilts of course, made of wool. But what about our kids?

This event demands for a suiting outfit, and as in Switzerland it's probably impossible to get Scottish dresses for a little boy and girl, I have to make it myself.

Here's the mini kilt for our 18 month old son. If you are interested in sewing a toddler or baby/infant kilt yourself, you can easily follow my description as a guide. I have made a kind of kilted mini-skirt for me before, years ago when I was young and lank and wanted to show my legs. So I knew what was waiting for me...

Of course I first made some research about how kilts are made. This garment is quite interesting, and it usually asks for a lot of fabric. Some illustrations looked very complicated, almost frightening...


They may be  good for a adult's outfit done by a professional kilt maker. But not very helpful for a mini kilt.

This one is a extremely simplified version especially for small kids and was only of limited use for my project.

Scheme 1

Of course I KNEW there were different types of pleats, but I didn't know how many and how difficult it probably could be to make them. As I said, the whole project should be quickly done, I decided to go for the most common pleats, the casual knife pleats.

Scheme 2
I had a small piece of wool-looking tartan-woven poly fabric in decent boy's colours I had bought on sale, just enough to make a slightly longer than knee-length kilt. I didn't want my boy to grow out of this garment outfit within 2 months, so I planned to make it slightly larger.

There is a lovely instruction with some good sketches about making a kilt for Highland dancers. In the end, my baby boy kilt was something like scheme 3 and 4, even though I first wanted to make the kilt as simple as possible. (As usual I am very late with these projects for the Highland Games...) Maybe I tend to like things that are complicated -  they are more of a challenge to my skills than the too simple ones... But in the first place I wanted it to be a slightly simplified version of an adult's kilt, so the sketch show here was very helpful. Of course I compared it to my own professionally made kilt I bought in Scotland and made some alterations.

Scheme 3

This illustratione depicts very well how the finished kilt, if you like to add a lining etc, could look like from the left side...

Scheme 4

As to the making....

Skill requirements

This is definitely a project for a skilled beginner or an advanced sewer. Especially the pleats are a little bit more demanding. And the maths for the exact measurements should be done precisely. If you do not like to work as accurate as possible, you should maybe find a different project. A kilt is an accurately made garment, especially the pleated part. Be sure you have enough time (unlike me...), if you have never done something like that before. I usually don't rarely baste stitch my projects, as I am too lazy ta save time. But to get all the pleats neatly, it's absolutely necessary to baste stitch each and every one!

Fabric requirements and notions

This garment needs no pattern as such. I just measured my boy's belly circumference (although he is not chubby at all, never was, he still has this buddha-like belly, adorable!). It is 46cm. For the apron parts I took almost 1/2 each of the circumference, about 24 cm each, which would be reduced by 2 darts an each of the aprons. Thus the aprons would be about 21cm in the end.

This requires the pleated back-part to measure about 25 cm, but with slightly more of the double amount of fabric - due to the requirement of the knife pleats. Looking at the  relevant scheme, you easily can see that the pleats double the fabric. So make sure you have enough fabric available. 
The pleats should be done in a way that arranges the stripes of the tartan fabric in a nice way. Of course, the pattern repeat differs from fabric to fabric, depending how small the plaids are. I was veeeery lucky that the pattern in my case was just perfect for the depth of the pleats. My pleats were about 2.5 cm deep, and just by sheer luck I could arrange the stripes in a way that a regular pattern resulted in the pleated back part. (Look at the pictures below.) But don't become desperate when it doesn't work like that with your tartan fabric. It doesn't come out that even with professionally made kilts. As I said, it all depends of the size of your tartan pattern and the depth of your pleat.

Normally, such fabrics are not wide enough, so you may have to sew the pieces together. This is not a problem, as professionally made kilts are made the same way, and the seam can be hidden in the pleats.

I was again lucky as the 130cm wide fabric was just enough for the small kilt.

As to the length of the fabric, I had a circa 35cm long fabric piece. My kilt should be just a little bit longer than knee-length, about 22cm. Add some seam allowance for the hem, at least 3cm, and some for the upper edge where the waistband is going to be sewn on, about 1 cm or a little bit more. Of course you will also have to make a waistband. For a finished band of 1.5cm, you need 5-6cm of fabric. My fabric piece was just big enough for this project.

You need a cotton or linen fabric remnant if you wish to make a lining on the top part. This however depends on what kind of fabric you use and how true you want to be with your copy of a "real kilt". For my son's kilt I didn't want to have one, and I was in a hurry to finish the project, so I let the lining

For the closures, I used small leather straps and buckles I once made for the above mentioned skirt. As I can't wear it anymore and is a rather embarrassing, I wanted only to re-use these small closures as they looked like the ones used on Scottish kilts. I think you can also buy them in well-assorted haberdashery stores, this of course saves a lot of time and work.

Fabric recommendation

I highly recommend a polyester fabric or a poly-wool blend. Woolen tartans are often on the more expensive side. As they are available in various weights, if you maybe have genuine woolen tartan fabric, a leftover from another project, make sure it's rather a lightweight fabric. Heavy fabrics make such a small garment very bulky and are, according to my experience with heavy-weight tartan fabrics, rather difficult to work with if you are not used to it.

Of course you can also use fabrics of a similar texture or weight, such as medium- or light-weight jeans, cord, tweed, woolen flannels etc. It's up to you! But please keep in mind that pleats, even if ironed well, last better in synthetics, woolens and blends than in cotton.

Technical requirements

You need a sewing machine. A serger is nice to neaten the bottom hem, but you can do that with your sewing machine too. Be sure you have machine needles for thick fabrics. 

A hand-needle and some thread for basting and some for sewing. Scissors of course. A measure band.

And, last but certainly not least: an iron!
That's it.


  1. Is this kilt hemmed? It looks like it but I don't see a seam. Sorry in advance if you mentioned this already in the post and I missed it. ;)

    1. Kim, no worries. I don't know if it was mentioned, but there is a hem. To be honest, right now I don't even remember if our traditional kilts are hemmed (my husband's is for sure). I know there are this unhemmed, with frays on the edged that have been stitched in place and secured. however, I'm not sure if that's traditional...
      Hope this helps.


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