Kilt Progress: Steam and the Smell of Wet Wool

a steam iron spray bottle, pressing cloth, tailors ham, and a kilt that needs pressing

Accurate pressing is just as important as accurate stitching. I use a really good steam iron, a pressing cloth spritzed with distilled water (white cloth draped over the kilt), a tailor’s ham (the rounded blue plaid thing sticking out from under the kilt), and a large, square ironing mat (gray). Under the mat is a heavy cutting board for firmness (it is completely covered by the mat) and under that is a towel (redish). The towel lets me move the whole thing as a single unit, so I can shift it around to get the right angle without disturbing the kilt. The stitched part of the pleats from the fell to the waist are shaped over the tailor’s ham. I put the damp pressing cloth on the wool then rock the iron back and forth over the curved ham, applying pressure and generating lots of steam. This sets the shape nicely.

In contrast, the pleats are pressed absolutely straight from the fell down to the hem. Now all of my basting pays off by holding the pleats in position. Again, lots of pressure and lots of steam. The result is straight pleats with sharp edges.

the back of a kilt showing the pleats pressed

Kilt Progress: Waistband

The only time in the entire kilt-making process when I use a sewing machine is to attach the waistband. You can see the row of uniform stitches in the first photo.

Then I fold the band over the top of the kilt and anchor it to the inside with carpet thread (second photo).

The trickiest part is making sure the stripes on the band match up exactly with the stripes on the apron, which is the front of the kilt. In photo three, the apron is on the left, and the vertical stripes line up across the two pieces. The syncing can’t continue across the pleats because they are tapered from the fell and also centered on the same stripe. That loss of band-to-pleat match up occurs in almost all kilts. I’m qualifying the statement with an “almost” because I don’t know every tartan, and because there might be a pleating scheme where such a cosmic alignment happens. Maybe someday I’ll get to see it.

The white Xs are holding closed the “buttonhole” for a strap. The purpose for all the basting is coming up next. It’s time to pull out the stream iron and get ready for pressing!