How To Make A Kilt Step By Step

My boyfriend wanted to wear a kilt, as a joke, to a wedding between a Scottish man and an Australian lady early next month. He found that they were way too expensive to buy new or second hand, so I decided to make a makeshift kilt for him. I will explain step by step what I did to make it. We bought the materials needed for $22.40 at Spotlight (2 metres of tartan and 1 metre of velcro). Unfortunately, there was not any red tartan available, but green is still good. You can see the materials below.

Materials needed for making a tartan. Don't forget the wine. 

Measure the tartan from waist to knees on the model, leaving enough room for a 1.5 inch hem. Cut the tartan to measure.

cutting the material

This part is a bit tricky, as it takes a bit of adjusting at times. What you need to do is to fit the front of the tartan around the front of the model and then pin it together. I found it best to pin it to some of the undergarments of my boyfriend to help hold it in place. The back of the material needs to be baggy to allow room for pleats to be made. Start pleating 1 inch pleats with pins and slowly do them around the back of the evolving kilt. You will need pin near the top and also about 7 inches down.  The picture below shows how the pins should be in place for these pleats.

where to pin for pleats

Take the tartan material carefully off the model and then sew along the top of pleats, carefully taking the pins off as you go.

sewing the top of the pleat

Then sew down the pleats to the next pin.

sewing down the pleats

Use an over-locking machine to sew sides and bottom of the kilt to stop the material fraying. Sew half inch hems on the sides and 1.5 inch hems on the bottom.

Using an overlock machine to stop fraying

Cut a 4 inch thick piece of material from the spare tartan (2 metre length). This will become the waistband.

waistband piece that has been cut

Sew top of material of the waistband along the outer (part that you will see when wearing it) top side of the kilt as shown in the photo below.  Fold the waistband in half, so that you have a 1.5 inch waistband. Sew it along the inner side (part of kilt that will not be seen while wearing it) of the kilt material to seal the waistband. Tuck in ends of waistband neatly and then neatly sew them down.

sewing 1st part of waistband

Cut the velcro into 2 lots of 3 inch strips. Put kilt on model and put pins or chalk marks where the velcro will go on each side. Pin velcro pieces in place and then carefully sew them on.

pinned velcro ready for sewing

Pleat bottom of kilt in place with pins, similar to what you did at the top. Pleat middle of the kilt too. This will hold the pleat in place while you press down on it quite firmly with an iron and a damp handkerchief. Take handkerchief off and press pleat again, taking out pins. This will keep you permanent pleat.

ironing pleats with a damp hanky

There you go. It is now all finished. You can now get the kilt owner to try it on. You will deserve that glass of wine too. Well done.

back of kilt showing the finished pleats

Note that you may wish to add a buckle to the front of the kilt and a large pin near the bottom to make it look more authentic.

front of kilt 

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36 Responses to “How To Make A Kilt Step By Step”

  1. John Stephens Says:

    Wow! This is a very comprehensive and step by step approach to making a kilt. Now all we need to know is “What is REALLY worn under a kilt?”

  2. Maureen Says:

    Thanks for your nice comments John. Although this is a make-shift kilt, I shall have to keep your imagination open with respect to what is really under the kilt.
    As it turned out, I told my girlfriend that I made a kilt for Bryan and she then told me that I could have lent her husband’s kilt to him. Bryan told me that he was quite happy with this kilt though. He told me that it was a Scottish kilt made in Australia. He added that it would be perfect to wear at a Scottish/Australian wedding, particularly with thongs. My brother and nephew will be in for a big shock.

  3. A December Wedding In Darwin Says:

    [...] On the Friday morning, we awoken and prepared for the wedding. I had pre-planned a joke where I would wear a kilt that Maureen had made for me, along with a pair of thongs and a vest with Yosemite Sam on it.  The idea was that it was 1/3 Scottish, 1/3 Aussie and 1/3 fun. Click here to see how Maureen made the kilt step by step. [...]

  4. Rajesh G Says:

    Yeah those are some great sewing tips . I have started using these into practice . I will make a best dress for myself & my children & your sewing tips will prove best useful to me, i guess !@!

  5. Sewing Says:

    I thought that How To Make A Kilt Step By Step was very interesting. I found you searching on Sewing Thursday Thanks for the nice post!

  6. Patti Says:

    Thanks so much for this great guide to making a simple kilt. I just successfully made my son a nice little kilt to wear for an international fair that we are participating in. The pictures were a great help!! Thanks!!

  7. Maureen Says:

    Thanks for your kind words Patti. I am glad that you found this guide useful so that your son had a kilt to wear for the international fair.

  8. Robert Reynolds Says:

    thanks, I just brought home gram’s 1956 singer. I have a hundred prodgects I always wanted to sew. A kilt was one, so here we go! tx bob.

  9. Maureen Says:

    Thats great Bob. Please let us know how you go with making a kilt.

  10. Laura Says:

    I wish I had found your instructions before I made my granddaughters kilt!
    Our methods were very similar. I hemmed her kilt before making the pleats. Much easier.
    I hope everyone enjoyed the kilt at the wedding!

  11. Maureen Says:

    Hi Laura
    I am glad that you thought that you would have found this post on making a kilt useful.
    The best man was actually wearing a real kilt, so this makeshift kilt obviously was not as good as the one he had on. We only did this for a joke and we certainly got a few laughs with it.

  12. Bill Says:

    Quote: John Stephens Says:
    November 19th, 2007 at 8:36 am
    Wow! This is a very comprehensive and step by step approach to making a kilt. Now all we need to know is “What is REALLY worn under a kilt?”

    Nothing at all!

  13. Lisa Says:


    I’m a little on the plus size and I was wondering how you placed the material? I was always taught the the pattern had to follow the directionality of the material, top to bottom. I’m afraid this is a little confusing to me, even though I do make clothes for myself!


  14. Maureen Says:

    Hi Lisa, I am a little confused as to what you are having trouble with. I actually wrapped the material around the person who was going to wear the kilt and then pleated it. If the material was too small, then I would have to sew 2 pieces of material together directionally top to bottom in the manner that you have suggested. In this case make the pleat in the part that you have added on to disguise it better.

  15. lavane Says:

    the traditional response to “what is worn beneath a kilt?” is “Nothing, everything is in fine working order.”

  16. Joyce Kama Says:

    Thanks for the kilt instructions. Yours are the only clear instructions on the web.

  17. Rebecca Says:

    Just finished mine- only took 2 hours!!! The ironing took about half that time. I used an old blue plaid dress I never wear and it was enough material. Thanks SOOOO much for this pattern. The others on the internet were much more complicated. This is perfect for the costume we need it for.

  18. Liesbeth Says:

    Thank you so much! You’re a life saver!! Had no idea how to begin … had to make 4 kilts for a play at school. THey look really good :-)

  19. Caroline Dees Says:

    This is not the way to make a kilt.
    Im sorry but I am related to a kilt maker and i grew up with the Scottish Games and I have seen real kilts.

    This kilt that you have made is not the right way because it does not take 2 hours to make a kilt, the average time to make a kilt is about 2 weeks.

    If you use a sewing machine it will stretch out the tartan and it will ruin the pattern of the kilt, the velcro will ruin the kilt so that is why you use buckles.

    If you want a real kilt go to the Scottish Games and ask around about how to get a real kilt or you can look up Cathy McWilliams (she is the certified Master Kilt Maker by The Kilt Makers Association of Scotland).

  20. Maureen Says:

    Hi Joyce, Rebecca and Liesbeth…I am glad that it all worked out well for you all and that you found the kilt instructions useful.

    Thanks for you comments Caroline. In no way have I suggested that this is meant to be the real deal kilt. If you read the 1st paragraph, it would suggest that this is a makeshift kilt. “He found that they were way too expensive to buy new or second hand, so I decided to make a makeshift kilt for him”

    As you can see from previous comments, many have found this kilt article useful.

  21. Jodi Says:

    Thank you very much. My son is William Wallace for Halloween and I was agonizing over making a kilt as I am only a seamstress for this time of year. This one was doable and worked great.

  22. Albert Says:

    Interesting, and easy, however a remark from us kiltwearers;
    A men’s klit should close on the right hand side.
    This one closing to te left is women’s or skirt (not a kilt)

    This has nothing to do with the job well done.
    And, a kilt is complex. I know from adjusting regimental kilts to our current size ;-)

  23. Willamae Says:

    Thanks so much. I’m sewing a kilt for a fashion show, and this is exactly what I needed. I do wish there had been more light on your pictures, because the pleats are kind of confusing.
    Still, the step by step instructions are so helpful.

  24. Darklylax Says:

    HHhhmmm, indeed I did get the idea that this was meant as a “makeshift” kilt. And you know what? I LOVE IT! I needed to make a leather bottom for my husbands nomad clothing for our upcoming renaissance faire and this was exactly what I was looking for, so thank you. I did look online and around the web to buy an “authentic” kilt for him but alas, I didn’t have the 400 bucks and up nor the 3 month waiting time for it. So to anyone who wants to be a little bit snitty over putting this up for the rest of us last minute, cheapskate, do it yourselfers, just don’t. This was the best way I’ve found to make a “kilt-like” skirt for a man to wear and feel completely comfortable in. Thank you very much sweeties!

  25. Tina Says:

    Well I think it is the best description out there for kiltr making makeshift or not it works. I am attempting to make one now for the man of my dreams to wear the day we say I do. I have been putting it off for months now and have 3 weeks to go so I say thank you for the simlicity of the directions and the confidence that I can do it!

  26. cathereine Says:

    i can see how some people would find this usefull, but if you are wanting a real quality good looking kilt then you should get it done by a prof. kiltmaker. i have been a qualified kiltmaker for 12 yrs and had to do a 3 year apprenticeship. is not something that you can learn through watching a 5 min video or reading how someone done it. would not recommend doing this for a wedding as you will look silly esp. if other men have kilts. your would stick out like a sore thumb, ex. poor quality! x

  27. Leanne Says:

    Thank you! This is just what I am looking for! I have to come up with a costume, to wear this Friday and then never again, so there was no way I would be looking at anything close to authentic.
    Also, can I say how I admire the way you handle these “but it isn’t a proper kilt!” and “what about the quality!” posts? lol My sewing skills may be almost nonexistent but my reading and comprehension skills are just fine; just wanted you to know that at least one visitor understood the “makeshift” part. lol
    Thanks again! :D

  28. Jan Says:

    You saved my bacon, and many grey hairs. Son rang tonight to say he’s off to a Scottish themed party tomorrow night and could I please beg, borrow, steal or make him a kilt. Knowing what their parties are like I didn’t want to borrow a real one in case of damage so with your fantastic instructions, he now has a mum-made one and it doesn’t matter if anything happens to it! Many, many thanks!

  29. Mr.Chas.Anthony Says:

    Even for a ‘make-shift’ kilt this is sad. The kilt is too long, just to start. If you want an even eaiser method, take your 4-5 yds of tartan, find your lenght, cut the top to lenght and leave the selvdege(sic) for the hem! Then put small cloth loops where you wish the pleats to be. Add at least 5 belt loops to the waist band. Then string the loops with a cord, shoelace ect. to make the pleats. The aprons will be about 16 inches each, the rest in pleats. You will have to adjust for the size of the fellow in the kilt.
    For thoes in the know- you are making a Roman windowshade.
    Does it work? I am wearing one as I type this.
    By the bye, all early kilts were unsewn, folded, and belted. The sewn kilt is barely a century old.
    Try this(and avoid the poly-?? kilt fabricks, they burn and melt!!)
    Historic Tailor
    Member 74th Regiment Argyle Highlanders, 1776-1784(re-created)Company Tailor

  30. ROBIN Says:

    Oh, My, Goodness, what a lot of bent noses over a fun costume!!! My son once wore a black plastic garbage bag to look like a Dracula cape and no one cared that it was not authentic!!! A REAL kilt was NEVER sewn cause it was used and washed and used and washed and with so many children the gales didn’t have time or money to keep the kids in the proper sizes if they had even thought of sewing them. SO, that said, these are great instructions for someone who has a mind to have a bit of fun and wear their plaid!!! Give over girls and leave it alone. If you lose a bit a money cause they made their own so what? They probably wouldn’t have bought from you anyway!! Sheesh! thanks for the instructions. I for one will be using them to make my tall lovely son a COSTUME!!!!

  31. Fiona Says:

    OMG!!! I can’t believe the know-it-all’s that have to comment to put any and everyone down…DID SHE SAY THIS WAS AN AUTHENTIC KILT?? I believe NOT. I give Maureen 100% plus for putting it up to help people that need one for a ‘once only’ wear and don’t want to pay the motza kilt makers ask! AND be criticised by small minded people like Caroline Dees….
    Thank you Maureen, I for one, along with MOST people really really appreciate you posting this ?

  32. Dawn Says:

    This is fabulous! Thank you so much, Maureen, for taking the time to put these instructions online. My friends and I are doing the kilt run again this year but my bf doesn’t have a kilt and I’ve missed the deadline to order him one for the race. So I just figured I’d make one. And now I know how. I’m always amazed by people who go to the trouble of putting instructions like this online just to help other people who they don’t even know.

  33. Michelle Says:

    My son needs a kilt for my daughter’s wedding at a Renaissance Festival. After finding out the price of the wedding, and the bridesmaid dresses (I have to sew 4 of them), I am happy to make a “makeshift” kilt for him. No way am I going to have ANY money left over for “real” kilt. He will probably never wear it again. However, I’m pretty lazy (and I know how to wrap a sari)…I will probably do the long strip of material and pleat it just before he puts it on. (I’ll iron in the pleats first, so that they fall correctly.)

  34. Cindy Montgomery Says:

    Thanks for taking the time to share your work. I agree with Robin. It seems like the people criticizing your sewing are using the opportunity to brag on themselves and their knowledge of things uppity. My husband is a bagpiper and believe me there are kilt snobs out there. I think you did a terrific job making a fun kilt!!!

  35. Yasmin Says:

    Using your instructs I’m making a kilt for my West Highland Terrier. We have a WHT club and have ‘Fun Days’ etc. so for the next one my little girl is going back to her roots!

  36. Maggie Says:

    I guess I must be one of those authentic kilt snobs.
    Many years ago I took kilt making at North Idaho College from a journeyman
    kilt maker from Gordon’s in Scotland.
    Kilts are made by hand not sewing machine. Complicated calculation for
    pleats as they are not all the same size. it depends on the size of the
    person. I could go on and on.

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