Pittsburgh Kilts



D.I.Y. Kilts

The big difference in an American kilt is that because it's not a tartan, you don't have to take the care and extra material to match up the tartan pattern (known as the "sett") when doing the pleats. You can therefore make a bigger pleat with much less material.


On most American Style kilts, the apron is smaller than on a traditional kilt. On the traditional, the apron covers 50% of the total hip measurement. I've found that an apron covering just over 1/3 looks best.

Here is a picture of one of my kilts, laid out with the front apron to the left.


Some advice if you want to make your own kilt:

Start by doing a web search for Kilt Making", and read about making traditional Scottish kilts. Much of what you learn will apply here.

If you aren't using a tartan fabric, you can ignore the parts about figuring out what sett you need, and just calculate what you want the pleats to measure. (I did mine 2 1/2-inches each, with 5 1/2 folded under. So that takes up 8 inches of material per pleat.)

Look at the "top-view of the pleating" picture from Jan Bruyndonckx's website. Draw one like that of your design, so you can be sure of the measurements and what it will look like.

Unlike traditional kilts, you don't have to worry about how well you press the pleats, and there is no real need for basting. ("Basting," as you will read, involves sewing the pleats in place with a removable stitch. After the pleats are pressed, the basting is removed.) Here is what I do instead: Mark pleats at the top and bottom and along the hip line. Pin the pleats in place, about 1/2" in from the edge of the pleat.

kilt fabric, marked and pinned

Run a stitch along the outside on each pleat from the hip line to the bottom, to lock it there. Now sew the top of each pleat (from the hipline to the top), remembering to angle in towards the waist line to get the right "taper". Now turn the kilt over, and run a stitch on the inside fold of each pleat, too, from the hip line to the bottom edge. Now the pleats are permanent!

On the inside of the kilt, I hand-stich each pleat at the hipline, tacking the inside edge of the pleat down to the rest of the kilt. Do this for every pleat EXCEPT the very first and last pleat.

handstitch the inside of each pleat at the hip line

Now you can trim out the top piece of the fabric inside each pleat, and still the pleat won't "droop" open. Do not trim out the top of the first and last pleat. Leave them whole, and fasten them inside the waistband.

Trim the extra fabric at the top of each pleat

I added a simple pocket to the front of the inner apron. Just a piece of extra material, sewn on 3 sides, open at the top. Works great. Looks a little strange when you reach inside for your wallet, but I usually accompany it my best Cleavon Little impression, "'Scuse me while I whip this out."

To add the internal back pocket:

  • Iron-on a 6-inch piece of interfacing to the inside of the kilt, where you want the pocket opening to be. Draw a 5 1/2" line across the middle of the interfacing (this is will be the line you will cut to create the opening). Use a tight zig-zag or button-hole stitch to outline the line you drew.
  • The pocket lining will be a separtate piece of fabric--approx. 6" by 12", folded in half and stitched up the sides. The top opening should have one side about 1/2-inch longer than the other.
  • Sew the shorter side of this pocket fabric to the bottom of your zig-zagged outline.
  • Cut the opening in your kilt, right between the zig-zags on the line you drew. Make sure you don't cut the pocket fabric by mistake!
  • Flip the longer part of the pocket fabric across the pocket opening. Sew it in place.
  • Add a flap to the outside, if you like.

Finally, here are some online sources for Camouflage Fabric.


Good Luck, and happy kilting!

  ~ Jeff

Pittsburgh Kilts