A Quick & Dirty Kilt

A few months ago my son, a high school senior, was debating trying out for his school’s production of Macbeth. He wasn’t actually in Shakespeare class but he had an independent​ study block that hour so it would work. I encouraged​ him in this venture as it would be something new and different for him; an experience. And for once he actually listened to me. He did it and got the part he tried out for; I’m still not even sure which. It’s a small one with just a couple lines, something just big enough to say he did it, that he was there, and just big enough to require a costumes. A kilt preferably, my almost man-child informed me over a month ago. Low and behold this week it was time to make the aforementioned kilt. Past time, really, since dress rehearsal/tech week had snuck up on us. It wasn’t just a case of my normal procrastinating ways that pushed the kilt making to the very last minute, this spring has been remarkably busy with multiple graduations in our family (mine, this kid’s, and my daughter’s 8th grade) and my return to working full time mixed in with the usual end of school year chaos and spring activities.

Naturally my first course of action was to Google “How to make a kilt”. As it turns out kilt making is a very specific age-old art. I did not have the time (or the funds for nine yards of plaid) to make an authentic kilt. And thus the Quick & Dirty kilt was hatched.

My Google research lead me to a wikiHow site which had comprehensive instructions on measuring, calculating yardage, and making proper pleats that I skimmed over and proceeded to follow only loosely. For example, instead of measuring my son’s waist and hips and calculating the pleat width to determine how much fabric I’d need to buy I went off my sons pants waist size, asked to see what two yards of the potential kilt fabric looked like and deemed that Good Enough. In retrospect two and a half yards would have been closer to ideal.

In keeping with the theme of in-authenticity I selected a lime green and navy purple-ish shirting flannel. It’s soft but not baby blanket soft. The main criteria was color (not traditional green or dark blue) and price. I didn’t want to break the bank on a one-time quick costume.

The fabric was about the right length straight off the bolt which made my life easier. I kept it folded over at the top (which became the waist) to give it a little more heft and thickness. After cutting a five inch strip off one end of the fabric I set to work making pleats. The instructions recommended a 16-20 inch flat front panel followed by pleats and some excess fabric to wrap under the front.

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I started with 17 inches for the flat front (but ended up pulling one more pleat over) and pinched about an inch of fabric to bring towards the front in a pleat. I think making the plaid look right on the pleats is more important than having a specific measurement for each pleat. For this particular plaid the pleats ended up covering the navy lines in the plaid.

Once the pleats are all folded and securely pinned ironing is a must. Spray starch would have been helpful here too but, alas, I didn’t have any on hand.

With the pleats all pressed in place I straight stitched across the top of the pleats and then down each one ending with a short diagonal that covered the width of each pleat. My original plan was to sew a line across the top parallel to the waist and then another about six inches down and call it good but after running the top line I didn’t think that was going to secure each pleat well enough. I was going for quick & dirty here not super crappy and likely to fall apart.

Now that all the pleats were all sewn down and in place it was time for the waist band. Remember the five inch wide strip I cut from the end of the fabric way back at the beginning? That was to become the waist band.

Basically I laid it out on the emergent kilt to match it’s width and make sure the plaids weren’t totally off before trimming it up to get semi straight lines. Then I employed the fold-press fold-press waist band construction method. What, you haven’t heard of that? Yeah, probably because I just made it up. It’s exactly as it sounds: Fold the band in half (wrong sides together) and press it good and hard. Then fold whatever seam allowance you’re going to use up on one long edge and press that. Repeat with the other long edge and tuck the raw ends of the short edges under. Press those too while you’re at it. And, voila!, a waist band.

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To attach the waistband pin it right side down along the top edge of the skirt part. Sew that down then flip it over, press everything flat, and fold the band over the other side of the top edge of the skirt part. This is wear all that pressing pays off. It should lay nicely with the midline press of the band at top and the pressed under edge over the part you just sewed. Pin it all down, press it (for good measure) and run your stitch across it.

Now all that’s left is the finishing touches. After making a button hole on the edge of the waist band and attaching a couple buckles I had my son try it on to see where the closures needed to be. It turns out the bottom edge of this kilt is a little sparse but he’s planning to wear shorts under. Again, we’re not aiming for authenticity here. Between that and a bit of velcro I think we’ll avoid unintentional flashings.

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kilt finished back

Check out those pleats!

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The Quick & Dirty kilt.

From start to finish this took about two hours to make. As you can see I did not hem the bottom edge. If it’s getting out of control I’ll go back and do that later…or maybe I’ll take the pinking shears to it. We’ll see.

kilt on side 1

It even matches his socks.

kilt on side 2

Apparently the flat front could be more narrow but overall not too shabby!

kilt on back

The Price of Being Cheap 

I am thrifty frugal cheap. It’s one of my best worst qualities. Or maybe one of my worst best qualities. Either way, it’s a quality and I possess it. Usually it’s not a bad thing but every once in a while my cheapness comes back around and bites me in the ass. The Wonder Woman accessories I recently made for a niece of mine are a prime example of said cheapness and ass biting…

Along with most the other sewing stuff that was in my home growing up (including one of my favorite sewing machines), I inherited this 1978 girls super hero costume pattern. I don’t ever remember her sewing, but apparently my mom made the Bat Girl costume for one of my older sisters. The hood and cape, in all their turquoise broadcloth glory, were residents of our Halloween costume bin. It came up in conversation not too long ago. My oldest sister remembered the costume, I told her I still had the pattern our mom used to make it. She then asked if could I make some Wonder Woman accessories for a special costume themed reading day at her daughter’s school. She happened to have some gold fleece leftover from another project. Apparently cheapness runs in my family.

Of course I said yes. She didn’t want a whole costume, just the crown, belt, and cuffs. That was a forty-five minute project, max. I could squeeze that into my insanely busy schedule.

So I obtained the leftover fleece and pulled out the old pattern. Lo and behold all the Wonder Woman pieces were missing. Well, all the ones I needed (aside from the cuffs which are meant for Bat Girl) since I wasn’t making those cute little shorts. My first instinct was to draw the pieces I needed but seeing as my printer actually had ink I decided to splurge and print some off the internet.

It didn’t take me too long to find a printable pattern for the crown, emblem, and a few stars and then it was time to get this party started. (I don’t remember which ones I used but, seriously, just Google Wonder Woman costume pieces. There are tons to choose from.)

As suspected this was a quick make. Other than those bastard stars. Cutting small, precise shapes out of flimsy sequins fabric is not as easy as one would think. At least I wasn’t sewing them on as I had also found some fabric glue in my sewing supply stash. I always felt like fabric glue was cheating, not for people who knew how to sew, and stuff like that but it was super convenient to just stick all that sparkly adornment on. I got the stars glued before setting it all aside to finish in the morning.

The next morning I threw together a sparkly logo.

I both glued and sewed it to some scrap denim from an old pair of jeans.

And then sewed it to the fleece belt. Things were going well (even the back looked cool); all that was left was the Velcro.

I scrounged around and found a strip of Velcro, slightly sticky on one side, that I had saved from some packaging a while back. I don’t remember exactly what but I distinctly recall seeing Velcro adhered to a box or envelope that was going to be thrown away and thinking “I could use that for something!” Psh, who would just throw away perfectly good Velcro? Not this girl! I pried it off the package and set it aside. Sure it was stiff and a bit goopy but on the Wonder Woman gear it would be on the exterior or at least away from skin so it was no big deal.
I could even use the stickiness to help hold the velcro in place while I sewed it down.

But for some reason my sewing machine was not happy about this particular little bit if sewing. It kept skipping stitches and jamming up resulting in a hot mess.I changed the needle and checked the bobbin. It still wasn’t working and my frustration level was rising. I switched sewing machines because clearly that one just wasn’t working. Ugh!

The same thing kept happening with the next machine. I changed directions for a minute and sewed the ends of the crown together. Well that worked. Then I tried the Velcro again. More jamming and mess.

Finally, finally, it dawned in me that the sewing machine wasn’t the problem. The Velcro was. The sticky stuff on the plastic side of the Velcro was gumming up my needle and causing problems with.. well, everything!

After that realization I dug up some fresh, brand new Velcro, pulled out the gross stitches, and threw the reused stuff away.

It took maybe five minutes to finish the set after switching Velcro. By that time I had spent upwards of half an hour messing about with sewing machines not working…all because I thought it was a good idea to re-purpose a strip of Velcro.

Sometimes it does not pay to be cheap!

The Late Finish

Lately life has been busy….who am I kidding? Life is always busy and I like it that way.
Some weeks though I just want to be like “Okay, guys, can you just not change your clothes for a couple days? And do we really need to eat again? I mean we’ve already had two meals today, not to mention the three from yesterday AND multiple snacks this week. C’mon!”

I just want more time to sew….and run…and crochet…and finish that book from the library that’s a week past due…and and and the list could go on.
Truthfully I do waste more time than I should. Even when I have a sewing project with a deadline in the works I dink around and put it off. I’m well practiced in the art of procrastination.
An example of this is the baptism dressed I offered to make for my niece. I told my sister a couple weeks before the baptism that I’d like to make the dress. She suggested we make it out of her wedding dress that had gotten stained. This was a great idea. I love making fancy dresses out of other fancy dresses and it would increase the sentimental value of the baby’s dress.
So two full weeks before the baptism my sister and I got together and cut up her wedding dress.

Then the pieces sat at my house for the rest of the week. A couple days later I sewed a little.      

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But I was also planning my son’s surprise party that week so I didn’t get back to the dress until…. Saturday evening. That’s right, less than twelve hours before my little niece was supposed to wear it.
Yeah, that’s how I roll.

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The wedding dress had an organza over layer that we were planning to use as an over skirt for the baptism dress but that didn’t quite work since I wanted to put the crystal detail from the train on the front of the gown. I had to get creative…that was around midnight.

At one AM I was finally finishing the little dress. All I had to do was open up the button holes and sew the buttons on. But as I was pushing upwards in the opening of the bottom button hole the seam ripper went a little further than I meant it to.     

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The dress ripped all the way up the back…. at one in the morning. I didn’t cry. I didn’t throw or break anything (mostly because I’d have to clean it up). I did curse a little and lay my head on the sewing table in exhaustion and frustration.
Then I came up with a solution and was done with the dress ten minutes later and not a moment too soon.

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In the end the dress turned out fine.

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I was even asked to be the godmother. I’m pretty sure offering to make the dress won me that honor (just kidding there are probably lots of other reasons they asked me).

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Crap now I have to be a good example and role model …