Murdo’s Kilt

The Journey of Murdo’s Kilt

1. The kilt journey kicks off…

This year, our son Murdo turned 21, so while 2016 was still very new, we asked him what gift he’d like from us to mark this auspicious occasion. “I’d like a kilt, please,” came his reply, and having just paid £75 to hire a kilt outfit for him for a single day a couple of weeks earlier, we certainly weren’t against the idea of him having his own kilt to sport at all manner of future occasions. The great thing about the kilt is that it’s utterly flexible and can be dressed up (with full Bonnie Prince Charlie regalia) or down (worn with a casual rugby shirt) depending on the occasion.

So a kilt it was to be… Cue a quick email to Marion Foster, proprietor of Askival of Strathearn kilt-making company and a lovely lady with whom I’d been fortunate enough to work in a previous life. Aware of her impressive reputation in the Scottish kilting world and having admired her immaculate needlework on a previous visit to her home, I was in no doubt that Marion would be the right woman for the job.

What stood out in my mind from our earlier encounters was that she had talked about the “journey” that begins when her clients commission a kilt: a journey that starts with the precise measurement of the owner-to-be and the careful selection of a tartan, continues with the fitting process and then carries on through the “working life” of the kilt – which often extends over more than one generation.

So it was that a misty, icy day in early January saw son Murdo plus his fond mama (Yours Truly) venturing off the beaten track and along the winding, country roads that lead to Marion’s stunning, airy, oak-beamed studio overlooking the Earn valley in Perthshire. Shortly after arrival, we found ourselves sitting by a glowing wood-burning stove, poring over tomes of tartan samples.

Once son and heir had selected several possible tartans – including a few Robertson styles plus the Ancient Lamont – Marion noted the names and explained she would send off for samples of the chosen few, so Murdo could make his final decision based on slightly larger samples of material.

Next she produced her trusty measuring tape and set about taking the requisite measurements – waist (including how much of the waist measurement is tummy), seat (including how much of the said seat measurement is bottom!), and length from waist to knee (after all, there’s nothing worse than seeing a chap in a kilt that’s either too short or too long).

She also showed us how different a tartan can look depending on how the pleats are sewn, with the possible variations including knife edge pleats and box pleats. Moreover, the tartan can be pleated to the sett, the stripe, the band or any other creative appearance by playing with the features of the tartan – a fact we’d never appreciated before and which we both found fascinating.

Within an hour of arriving at the Askival of Strathearn Studio, we headed back out into the frosty fog, reluctant to leave the cosy confines of the workshop behind but already looking forward to the arrival in the post of a swatch of tartan samples from which the kilt-owner-to-be would make his final choice. The journey had begun…

Showing Murdo the effect of the same tartan with different focus for pleating

Murdo getting his waist measured