Often, a kilt comes into someone’s life at an important milestone, for example their 18th or 21st birthday, graduation, or wedding. Thereafter, it will be worn at many other eventful occasions and represents a belongingness and attachment to that person.
The Askival kilt is constructed with enough fabric and in a way that it can be altered with no detriment to its balance, look and fitting. However, not all kilts have been constructed in this way. Fortunately, this does not mean that it is not possible to give your kilt the opportunity to have a new lease of life and continue being part of your life.
The first kilt I rebuilt was a poignant experience and changed my view entirely about working on a kilt which was not my creation from the start.
A friend asked me to alter a kilt for her son to wear to a family wedding. The kilt had belonged to her husband who died about seven years ago, when their son was only about 10 years old, and he now wanted to wear his father’s kilt to the wedding.
I asked her to bring her son and the kilt to a master class which my original tutor Beverley Scarlet was delivering at my studio. I looked at this large, well-worn kilt that reflected the gregarious, well-built man to whom it had belonged and then looked at the quiet, slim, young man with a hopeful look on his face. I wondered how I could transform this kilt into something that he would be proud to wear and feel good in.
Beverley had a different mindset. She understood the emotional importance, so she started to deconstruct the kilt in her head and to plan how we could use what we had, rebuilding it to fit its new owner. This was the fundamental learning for me: to realise how important it is to offer people skilful restorations of their special kilt.
We then unpicked the kilt, straps, buckles, canvas, and waist band until just the pleating that we wanted to use remained. I rebuilt that kilt to fit the son of its original owner, using the traditional techniques to strengthen it, give it support and shape, and enable it to be let out as he gets older.
Using a special tool, I removed the fluff and loops from the apron where the sporran had caught it. The reaction of both mother and son were heartfelt. I was overwhelmed by the impact of this work and felt I had been privileged to be able to give them an amazing gift. In this instance, the commission was not about the kilt, my creation; it was about the people associated with the kilt that had been so much part of this much-loved husband and father. Now the son has that connection and is able to wear the kilt with pride.
For both Beverley and myself, restoring an older, much-loved kilt is as much of a privilege as creating a new kilt that will be delivered to its owner as a lifetime companion and heirloom.