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

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