Many people ask me how I got involved in kiltmaking, and what I like to do when I’m not sewing. This is a short biography, just so that you know that I’m a real person.
I was born in New Jersey, and moved to Connecticut at an early age. From about the age of 5, I loved horses, cats, reading, drawing and making things with a needle, in approximately that order. By the age of 7 or 8 I was knitting, and sewing doll clothes by hand. Of course I had begged for a pony for my birthday annually, and this resulted in me being allowed to take riding lessons at about 9 years of age.
I knitted my first sweater at the age of 12, and learned various types of embroidery and needlework, which I still do when I have time. As a teenager I continued to do all kinds of handwork while reading my way through the body of English literature. My favorite books will be listed below. By 14 or so I spent most of my time riding my horse, and working at a stable to support the horse. I spent lots of time painting and drawing, intending to go to college and become an artist. After graduating from Wykeham Rise School in Washington, CT my plans changed, and I decided to study English Literature. I spent a year in England at college, and then returned to the US, unsure of what to do next.
At this time I became a part owner of a yarn shop in Connecticut, which I did for the next 8 years. I taught all kinds of needlework, knitting, and other handcrafts in addition to helping legions of customers with their projects. My interest in outdoor activities also expanded to skiing, hiking, camping, canoeing, and kayaking. It was on one of these ski trips that I met my future husband; the wonderful, patient, understanding love of my life, Frank.
We lived in New Hampshire after we got married in 1981, and soon had two daughters. After a number of years we moved to Keene, where we have lived for 26 years. My younger daughter began Highland Dance lessons at the age of 10, and that is the reason that I turned to kiltmaking. I had done a great deal of sewing of various kinds–dressmaking, tailoring, slipcovers–you name it, I’ve sewn it. I made many of the girls’ dresses and other clothing over the years, and continued to try new techniques over the years.
In 1989 I returned to college, and earned a BS in Elementary Education in 1995. I currently teach reading and math to identified students through the Title I program in Keene, NH. This is incredibly rewarding, and allows me enough free time to pursue my other career- kiltmaking.
The kiltmaking started in 1996 when my daughter’s dance instructor said that she would need a kilt in order to compete. Being a frugal New Englander, I decided that it was something that I could do myself in order to save some money. I borrowed a kilt from someone, and copied it. It was a great success considering that I really had no instructions or anything. The following year I attended my first Kilt camp with Elsie Steuhmeyer, and the rest is history. I loved the idea that each kilt is a unique challenge, and that each one is made specifically for the intended wearer. As people started to ask me to make kilts for them, and I attended Kilt Camp year after year, I knew that kiltmaking was something that I would be able to do for years to come. I have been teaching the kiltmaking course for eight years now, and look forward to Kilt Camp every June.
I have been making kilts for 18 years now, and have made hundreds of them for people all across the country. I really try to work with my customers in order to get the best fit possible. Kiltmaking is something of a dying art, but it is my intention to keep the tradition alive.
Patrick O’ Brian
Pastime: Watching the Red Sox while sewing AND watching the Tour de France
Store: Webs (yarn store in Northampton, MA)