Guides and Insights

How a kilt is made: the 7 stages of hand-weaving tartan

How a kilt is made: the 7 stages of hand-weaving tartan
By Nick Fiddes

A kilt is one of a man's great purchases, likely lasting him a lifetime. You need to know you're investing wisely, to be confident about where your tartan comes from, who is handling your order with care, and that your kilt is made to proper traditional standards.

Scotweb CLAN is the world's only company that offers custom woven kilt lengths for any rare tartan, and even lets you design your own online for expert tailoring into kilts (and dozens more bespoke items). So who better to show you in detail how it's done?

kiltmaking by hand

We're lifting the lid on the artisanal processes by which we make your bespoke kilt. We'll be describing the kiltmaking process itself soon. But first things first. Here we're showing you behind the scenes of the weaving process, revealing in detail all the unique skills that goes into creating your exclusive hand-made plaid at DC Dalgliesh, which normally only a lucky few ever get to see.

Our hand-crafted weaving mill - DC Dalgliesh

Our sister company, DC Dalgliesh, is under the same family management. But the firm is run separately, with its own dedicated design and customer care teams. DC Dalgliesh supplies only 'trade' buyers, not retail customers. But through Scotweb CLAN you'll directly access its skills and services.

Part of the DC Dalgliesh archive, the world's largest tartan sample collection

DC Dalgliesh is the world's only specialist hand-crafted tartan mill. What does this mean? Other great weaving mills produce popular tartans in volume for the mass market. And other wonderful Scottish weavers hand-craft fine fabrics for their own niche, specialising in tweeds or cashmeres for example. But no one else is specifically set up to produce rare tartans, offering single garment lengths using traditional methods, which is the only way to produce fabrics of this quality.

DC Dalgliesh Hall of Fame

This is no hollow boast. When Scotweb CLAN's owners stepped up to save the DC Dalgliesh mill from closure, it was partly because they saw potential in the brand from its extraordinary client list earned from decades of building a reputation for producing the world's finest tartan fabrics.

But also they knew that nowhere else would affordably make 99% of the tartans ever designed, and especially not with the 'natural' selvedge that only traditional shuttle looms can provide. We felt it vital to preserve these skills for the international community of Scots, and for posterity. When you buy DC Dalgliesh fabric, you really do get a piece of history.

The seven stages of bespoke tartan fabric weaving

Weaving a superb tartan fabric at DC Dalgliesh relies on time-served expertise. The expert skills take our weavers years to learn, or even decades to master. But in some ways, the weaving stage itself is the easy bit!

It takes our weavers a few hours to create your eight yard kilt length on one of our Hattersley shuttle looms. But seeing the fabric finally emerge can begin only after many other stages. These add up to a day or more's work before the weaving itself even starts.

weaving a silk scarfThese are the operations we undertake for every single weave - for a single kilt, or even just one silk scarf or sash. That's why our products are considered heirloom garments. So read on to learn more. The series covers:

  1. Weaving tartan for kilts at DC Dalgliesh (this item)
  2. Picking and winding your yarns
  3. Stake-warping your kilt length
  4. Tying-on to the loom
  5. Chain-making for the sett pattern
  6. Weaving your fabric on the loom
  7. Inspection and hand-darning
  8. Finishing the fabric

Also, if you've found this article interesting and helpful, we'd love if you could help others find it too! Please link to it on your own blog, or your social media. We can't tell you how much we'd appreciate this. Thanks. :-)

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