How to make a kilt pattern

Updated May 01, 2018

A kilt is a very simple garment that is easy to make even without purchasing a pattern. The traditional Scottish skirt is a basic rectangle shape with some pleating detail. Only basic sewing skills are required to utilise this pattern, and using traditional heavy tartan fabric means very little finishing is necessary to complete the look. The same pattern-making method works if you are making a traditional Scottish-style quilt, or copying the style in a different kind of fabric to make a wearable garment.

Using a measuring tape, measure around the widest part of the hips of the person who will wear the kilt. Make a note of the circumference on a piece of paper. Measure the length from just above the hip to the point on the legs where you want the lower hem of the kilt to fall. Make a note of the length.

Divide the hip circumference measurement by two, then multiply the result by five. This is the figure for the width of the pattern piece. Draw a long rectangle (not to scale) on your paper as a diagram, and note the width measurement beside it. Make a note of the length beside the diagram also. If you are using a fraying fabric or just prefer to hem the kilt, add 2 inches to both the length and the width.

Tape sheets of paper together to make a piece large enough for your pattern dimensions. Use the ruler and marker to draw a rectangle on the paper that matches the dimensions noted on your piece of paper. Cut out the rectangle using scissors.

Take the figure for the width of the pattern piece, divide it by five and multiply the result by three. This gives you the width of the pleated section of the kilt. Measure and mark a vertical line on your paper pattern to indicate the pleating section (it should be 3/5 of the total width).

Starting at the line you drew in Step 4, draw parallel vertical lines, evenly spaced 1 inch apart. If the last section at the edge of the paper is wider or narrower than 1 inch, trim the excess paper away. You should now have a wide paper rectangle, 3/5 of which is striped with vertical lines. These lines indicate the fold-lines for pleating that section of the kilt fabric. After pleating and sewing, the pleated section will be reduced in width to a third of its un-pleated width, creating a wraparound style skirt that is adjustable in size.


For an alternative style, position the pleating section in the centre of the pattern, with two smooth sections on either side. Use a buckle-style fastener, a kilt pin and snaps or Velcro strips to hold the kilt up. If you're not sure how long you want the finished kilt to be, make the pattern longer and hem or trim it after trying the kilt on.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Calculator
  • Newspaper/plain wrapping paper
  • Tape
  • Marker
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
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About the Author

A writer of diverse interests, Joanne Thomas has penned pieces about road trips for Hyundai, children's craft projects for Disney and wine cocktails for Robert Mondavi. She has lived on three continents and currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is co-owner and editor of a weekly newspaper. Thomas holds a BSc in politics from the University of Bristol, England.