Many people are perfectly capable of hemming a garment– skirts and pants are pretty simple to do. When it comes to sleeves on a suit jacket, or something with a shaped hem, it gets a bit tougher. Then there’s the kilt. Hemming a kilt is not technically difficult, but before you try it yourself, there are a few things that you need to know. This is a hemming tutorial, and it might be a long post! It will be divided into two parts: letting down, and taking up.
To let down the hem of a kilt, have the person try the kit on, and measure from the bottom of the current hem to where you want the new length to be. Make note of this measurement. Go ahead and take out the hem, taking care not to cut the tartan. Mark with a pin where the new hem will be. You may want to adjust the exact place where the tartan will be folded in order to avoid having a prominent stripe right at the hem. 1/4 ” one way or the other won’t affect the overall look, but having that bright yellow stripe right at the bottom might be distracting. Now you will need to press out the hem using a steam iron. Do this until you can’t see the line that was pressed in. You may have to use a pressing cloth spritzed with water from a spray bottle. You will be pressing out the bottoms of the pleats as well.
Now the tricky part. A kilt hem is not the same depth all the way across. There are two “dips” where the hem is actually folded up MORE so that the deep pleat at the left side of the apron (as you wear the kilt) and the right underapron edge do not show under the other layers of fabric. You can accomplish this by folding the hem to the desired depth, and then making it about 3/4″ deeper at the right underapron edge, tapering too the regular length about 1/2 way across the underapron. In the deep pleat, place a pin at the apron edge, and one more about 1/2″ to the left of the first pleat. Fold the deep pleat, matching up the two pins. The hem on that folded place will need to be eased up about 1/2 inch, tapering to the regular depth at the pins you placed. Now get a needle and some cheap white thread. This is used only for basting–it will be taken out later. Beginning at the Underapron side, fold up the bottom of the kilt to the level of the new hem, and baste about 1/2 ” below the selvedge edge of the folded up hem. Make big stitches, and anchor without knots. Baste all the way across the kilt, making sure that you are folding the fabric in exactly the right place all the way across. Press the hem. Sew by hand using a herringbone stitch, or use a blindstitch hemmer if you have one. I do not recommend the hemming stitch that most regular sewing machines have, as it shows too much on the front. You should not see any stitching on the right side of the kilt if you are sewing correctly.
Now the fun part: you will need to baste the pleats back in, following the lines that are already on the upper part of each pleat. I usually do two rows of basting– one at the lower edge, and another abut 3-4 inches up from the bottom. Now you can press across the bottom of the kilt, using a pressing cloth, spritzing with water, and pressing both sides. Then you can take out the basting, and you’re good to go! One small point: if the kilt is being let down 2″ or more, you may need to extendthe fell (the sewn-down part of the pleats) a bit to preserve the correct proportions of the fell being 1/3 of the total length. Have I said enough? Have I convinced you that it’s a LOT of work to do a kilt hem properly? Now you know why I charge what I do for a hem. It’s about 3 hours’ work for me, and it may take you twice that the first time through.
Next time. I will talk about taking a kilt up.