Course Keeps Kilt Making Alive

A course at Gray’s School of Art is helping students keep one of Scotland’s traditions alive by teaching them the craft of kilt making.

Over a dozen students signed up to the short course when it was launched at Gray’s in October, with their work now on display as part of a exhibition at the art school showcasing the work created by students on short courses across all disciplines.

Among the students is 55-year-old Ian Anderson whose interest in Scottish heritage and a couple of family weddings piqued his interest in the national dress.

He said: “I’ve always been able to turn my hand to most practical jobs, but was slightly apprehensive about the technicalities of stitching, as in my day at school it was not a subject for boys. I had taken an evening class in re-upholstery some years ago, so I thought how difficult could it be?

“In fact the stitches are not too complicated and I picked it up quite quickly. Our tutor, Dorothy Giles, is very attentive and takes time to ensure that the students understand the processes. The class is structured so that the student completes a kilt within the 16 week period, however, many of the current class are interested in becoming kilt makers, rather than people who have made a kilt. 

“This involves, to my mind, the most challenging part of the process – the marking out, which can be quite complex depending on the tartan. Although not intended to be included in the curriculum, Dorothy has given instruction in this for a number of us who have started another kilt.

“I have now made a kilt for my son to wear at a family wedding next month and have started one for his brother-in-law. One of the biggest challenges for those of us who want to take the skill further is finding customers for whom to make kilts – unless you can find a pipe band requiring new outfits!”

Course tutor and Aberdeen Business School Fashion Management lecturer, Dorothy Giles, said: “My interest in kilt making comes from a love of the diversity and colours incorporated into all the different tartans. I have also worked with fabrics all my professional life having always worked in the clothing industry since graduating from the Scottish College of Textiles.

“Kilt making is still a vibrant and fast moving industry with new tartans constantly being developed and I think that it is important to keep traditional kilt making methods alive. The demand for wearing kilts is still high, not just in Scotland but around the world.”

Gray’s offers a range of evening and weekend courses and currently has over 320 part-time students studying ceramics, jewellery, photography, printmaking, textiles and more.

Further information on short courses available at Gray’s School of Art

Release by
Jenny Rush

Communications Officer | Design and Technology

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