For almost 20 years, I have made custom-tailored, hand-sewn kilts in the tradition of Scotland's finest kiltmaking firms. No detail goes unnoticed and no shortcuts are taken in my pursuit of the craft of kiltmaking. I am located in Keene, New Hampshire, USA, but my handiwork can be seen across the US and abroad.

If you are interested in a kilt, the best way to begin is to contact me to begin the conversation about the tartan you'd like to use and the measurements of the kilt recipient. Learn more about the kilt, my history and experience, and find the answers to some frequent kilt questions on this site.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The New Website

Hello to all guests who have found their way here, and to those who have been following me for several years as I've written about the trials and tribulations of being a kiltmaker.  I have news:  there is a new website, which will now contain my blog.  It is kiltmakernh.com, and I hope that you will join me over there as I get photos and such posted, as well as ordering information if you are interested in having a kilt made.  So click this link to go to the new site:  Judith Sullivan, Kiltmaker

See you soon!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Quality Control

I do many alterations to kilts made by other people.  Although the quality of the garments varies, I got one a few weeks ago that was noteworthy for all of the wrong reasons.  Here's a photo:

There are a number of issues with this kilt.  The most obvious is the puckering at the lower part of the pleating, and the showthough of some of the stitching.  Incorrect steeking and application of interfacing is what causes this.  The other issue is the small "steps" between pleats, which cause it to "go uphill".  This matching is THE most visible thing a kiltmaker does.  It HAS TO be perfect.  The red stripes aren't centered perfectly either.  The top band is poorly handled, and puckers badly.

This kilt will never sit straight on the wearer, and never look right to my eyes at least.  Most customers would never know that there was a problem.  I can't fix everything about a kilt like this without taking it completely apart.  My job here was to move the buckles and straps so that the kilt would fit after the owner lost a significant amount of weight, so that's what I did.

I see work like this many times during the year.  It's not what I would send out with my name on it, but it's out there.

Here's my most recent order, for a Lincoln, NH police officer.  It is New Hampshire tartan, pleated to the stripe.  With this type of pleating, accuracy is key.  This is a work in progress, not pressed at all, but I think that you can see how picky I have to be about matching.

This kilt will have 29 pleats, and the white and red stripes need to go absolutely straight across.  It's a real challenge, but I'll persist until it's perfect.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Love Those Red Sox!

I'm a pretty happy camper this week, because the Red Sox won it all!!  They are World Series champs for the third time since they broke the "Curse of the Bambino" in 2004.  I have lost a bit of sleep during the past two weeks, because the games didn't start until after 8 PM,  and baseball games take forever.  I did, however, get quite a bit of sewing done, and I should be caught up in plenty of time for the holidays.

Take a look at my Price List--I have updated for 2014.  I will use the old prices until the end of December, so if you are thinking of ordering, you might want to contact me now and save $15-25.  I will be at the Marguerite Reid Memorial Workshop in February, which is when I measure many of my growing dancers.  If you are planning on attending, come by and say Hi!

More later--I need to get going on Thanksgiving planning, because we are expecting quite a crowd for the holiday.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Pumpkins and More Pumpkins

This is it-- the night that Keene might make the news with a new world record for the most carved, lit jack o' lanterns in one place.  We went downtown earlier to see some of the fun.  It's much more dramatic after dark, but the crowds are too much, so we stick to the daytime.  Here are a few pictures so show you what it's like:

It's a ton of fun, and a great family kind of activity.  We expect 30,000 pumpkins this year.  Last year they said that there were 60,000 people here, which makes Keene a very busy place.  This is a city of 23,000, so you can imagine what it does to the traffic.  Anyway, it's a fun day out, as long as we ride our bikes downtown, and don't try to drive. 

I came home to get back to work--I have a Royal Cunningham to finish, a MacDonald Ancient, and 2 New Hampshire kilts to get out ASAP, so I will be sewing like mad this week.  I have made up my 2014 price list, and a new price list for alterations.  I finally did that because I have found that lots of folks need that service, and want to know what things are going to cost.  I will get the alterations price list up as a new page.  I will also be running a "special" for customers who place orders during November and December, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Bane of my Existence

You guessed it.  Moths are the bane of my existence.  I just wish I had a nickel for every person who has asked if I can fix moth holes.  The short answer is no, but there ARE things that you can do to prevent an infestation, and to get rid of the little critters if you have them.

This is a typical moth meal.  Of course they started in on the apron of the kilt, not anyplace hidden.  There is very little that I can do with this.  "Reweaving" is complicated, and I don't know of anyone who does it.

You might ask what can be done here.  The answer depends on the rest of the kilt.  If it's otherwise fine, AND if there is a full underapron, you can (or I can!) switch the apron and underapron to put the good tartan on the top.  This involves cutting and reattaching the two aprons, and putting the fringe in the correct place.  It's worth it if you have the fabric in the kilt.

Option #2 would be to purchase a yard of the same tartan that the kilt is made from, and just replace the apron.  This can be an option if the kilt is not very old, as long as you know who made the tartan.

The best option is really to prevent moth damage in the first place.  There are two main types of moths that eat protein fibers like wool and silk.  These are the webbing clothes moth ( Tineola bisselliella) and the casemaking clothes moth (Tinea pellionella).  Both can be controlled with some effort on your part.  Here's my advice on moth prevention:

1. Air your kilt out in the sunshine after wearing it.  Sun is important, because clothes moths hate sun.  They like it dark, and they will not survive well outdoors.  Sun will kill moth eggs and larvae.  Turn the kilt after a few hours to get the inside, and then you can put the kilt away in a garment bag.

2. Press regularly.  This will also kill any eggs or larvae.

3. You can also put your kit in a plastic bag(folded neatly, of course) and place it in the freezer for 24 hours.  This will kill any eggs or larvae.  After you take it out, just rehang it in the closet.

4. Wash (or have dry cleaned) sweaters and other woollen  or silk accessories before storing alongside your kilt to prevent the spread of moths.  Items containing food or drink spillage, dirt, or perspiration are more attractive to moths.

5. Clean those closets.  The real problem for many people is their closets.  Moths like it dark, so if you just leave woollens hanging in a dark, crowded closet for years at a time, the moths will go crazy if there are any in there.  I know that it's a chore, but you should air closets regularly, put the clothes out to air, and also make sure that light and air can get into the closet at times.  Vacuum the interior of the closet thoroughly, and leave it empty for a day or two if possible.  Discard the vacuum bag after you do this. If you are really concerned, there are moth sprays containing pyrethryns that will kill all flying insects as well as larvae.  I am not a huge fan of this method of attack, but sometimes you have no choice.  Follow the label directions very carefully, and you will be OK.

Garment bags are good, as long as they seal tightly.  You can put a few moth balls in the bottom--it couldn't hurt!

Cedar chests and cedar blocks do not prevent or kill moths.  They smell great, but have no actual chemical effect.  However, if you put clean, well-aired things in there, and it has a good seal, that is better than a dark closet.

Plastic containers that have a good tight seal work well, particularly with the addition of moth balls.  The smell of the moth balls goes away with exposure to sun, so if you air your kilt out in the sun a couple of days BEFORE the games, people won't wrinkle their noses as you walk by them in your kilt.

This might seem like a great deal of work, but consider that you are protecting your investment in the kilt and all of your other woollens.  I have sweaters and other woollen items that are 30-40 years old, and they are fine because of a little bit of preventive care.  So get cleaning and vacuuming!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tonight's the Night

This evening the NH Chronicle program will show the profile of me and my kiltmaking business.  This has been a really interesting experience for me, but it's a very different feeling than when I stand up to teach in front of children or when I teach my kiltmaking classes.  It's even different than interacting with people when I'm vending at the games.  I don't think of myself as shy, but I am not used to the amount of attention that I've had even just this morning when it was clear that my coworkers had seen the promo on Channel 9.  I guess I need to adjust.

Just to simplify things, if you are looking at my blog because you saw NH Chronicle, here is a link to my email: Judith Sullivan, Kiltmaker

I will be happy to answer any questions that you have regarding kilts, having a kilt made, or anything else you would like to say.

Wish me luck in my network debut.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

An Exciting Afternoon

Last week was an exciting week by any standard.  On Wednesday, the New Hampshire TV station, WMUR, sent a small crew over to interview me for their program "NH Chronicle."  They were here for almost three hours.  They were very nice, and made it easy for me to explain about what I do on camera.  I expect that this will all be edited down to about five minutes, and it will be on the television on Tuesday, October 1 at 7:00PM. 

This all came about because I had emailed WMUR in May, knowing that they do shows about the New Hampshire Highland Games every year.  I thought that it might make an interesting piece, since Kiltmaking is such a specialized skill.  Who knew that they would respond and ask to come here for the interview?

Here are my latest projects:  I am trying to get my queue down to a manageable level before November and December.  After that, as many of my followers know, it gets crazy.

Dress Red MacGregor--dancer's kilt
The next three photos show some of the different ways that a piece of tartan can be pleated.  This is MacArthur tartan, and the flat piece of fabric at the left represents the apron of the kilt.  I have pinned the fabric to show how it would look pleated to the yellow stripe, to the black stripe, and to the sett.  This customer chose the pleating to the sett, but it's interesting to see how different the three variations would look.  Each one is a valid choice--it just depends on your personal taste.
Black Stripe
Yellow stripe
Pleated to the sett
You can see that pinning it up allows my customers to see how their kilt will appear, depending on what they direct me to do.  The big thing here is that unless this tartan is pleated to the sett or to the yellow stripe, the predominant effect is to emphasize the horizontal stripes in the tartan.  We kiltmakers call this the "lawn chair effect".  Sometimes it looks fine, but it's not flattering for everyone.  It's just one more factor to take into consideration when planning a kilt for a customer.