The Art of Kiltmaking

Kiltmaker and award-winning educator Barbara Tewksbury, professor of geology, has teamed up with legendary kiltmaker Elsie Stuehmeyer to create a book that teachers the traditional kiltmaking methods that Elsie learned 50 years ago as an apprentice and kiltmaker with the renowned firm Thomas Gordon's of Glasglow.


Those who sew are familiar with modern garment construction. Assembling even a simple garment involves joining pieces with complex shapes, compound curves, notches, and darts. Shaping and sizing are accomplished at the time of cutting, and only the truly experienced, bold, or creative person can confidently create a garment without a pattern.
As plans for this book began to take shape, several people asked how we would include the pattern for making a kilt. The remarkable thing about a kilt, though, is that it requires no pattern! All a kiltmaker needs to know are the wearer's waist and hip measurements and the length of the kilt in order to turn out a shaped and tailored kilt that fits the wearer perfectly. A kilt is constructed from a rectangle of cloth a little less than two feet wide and six to eight yards long. Rather than shaping and fitting by cutting out and assembling an assortment of complex pieces, a kiltmaker works with the rectangle of cloth and shapes it to fit during the sewing process, eliminating the need for a pattern. Even interfacing and linings are shaped to fit from rough, rectangular pieces of fabric, and facings are folded and shaped without cutting.
Kiltmaking methods have remained essentially the same for over a century. Making a kilt will put you in touch not only with Scottish tradition but with a tailoring and hand sewing tradition that has been almost entirely lost as we begin the 21st century.

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