Celebrating 35Years of Carrying on an Old World Craft!
Kathy Lare has over 35 years of experience in Scottish kiltmaking. What started as the sewing of a piece of tartan, given by to her by her Highland dance instructor, Beulah Macpherson, into her first kilted skirt has turned into a full time thriving business. "I never planned anything of this magnitude when I first started!", she began. Olive MacCaskill Bell, long active in the Tartan Educational Cultural Association (TECA), encouraged her to get started in a business that few attempt to start in this unique trade. Olive then introduced her to Mae Livermore, the Stone Mountain, Georgia kiltmaker. Mae, originally from Culloden Moor, Scotland, was a great help in the beginning, being herself self-taught in the trade. Back then we all used the book "The Making of the Scottish Kilt" by Janet Ferguson Leslie Cannonito. Mae's advise to her was to never develope an ego about being a kiltmaker, keep it humble.
Invitation to the School...
Kathy began to order so much tartan from the mills in Scotland that she caught the attention of Master Kiltmaker Robert McBain of the Keith Kilt School. Employed by the Scottish Tartans Authority, McBain sent an invitation to her to attend the kilt school, in the mill town of Keith, Scotland, the only school for kiltmaking in the world. The Master Kiltmaker was the former kiltmaker for the Scottish Regiment the Gordon Highlanders, and the only certified teacher qualified to train for the Scottish Vocation Educational Council (SCOTVEC) award, now the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). She is the only American to attain the SQA Award in 'Traditional Handcraft and Kilt Making Skills' and 'The Professional Developement Award'. Returning to Scotland in 1999 she studied the unique crafting of the 'Military Box Pleated Kilt' of the Scottish regiments and achieved an award in 'Traditional Handcraft Kilt Manufacturing'.
One of two military Master Kiltmakers, Robert McBain was ahead of his time in the ingenious work he put into this course and over 100 kiltmakers have graduated under his instruction. When the school began articles came out in the papers that the "secrets were out". The students and members of the Guild do explain their techniques with the customer. "We don't use any pins but baste everything, wax our threads which are all cotton British or German threads, tack down canvas linings on the over and under aprons and lift the pleats so your finger can't fit through. Rob also changed the direction I sewed the pleats."
Kathy at the Kilt School
She now has a full-time business operating from her shop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in a community enriched with the many cultures of the Southwest. The only foreign member of the Traditional Kiltmaker's Guild of Scotland, she shares a unique trade with other kiltmakers who have graduated from the Keith Kilt School and will be able to use their quality label in her kilts. Kathy has developed a unique bond with the Scottish kiltmakers stating, "They have become some of my best friends! It's not an easy profession requiring endless patience. Each kilt requires about 3,000 hand stitches and around 16 hours of work. It's all down to mathematics as you have to calculate the measurements to fit the tartan for each individual!"
Keith Kilt School Keith, Scotland