Saturday, May 20, 2017

SAGANews is in the mail!

The second issue of the year is now in the mail and hopefully you will receive your copy shortly.

This issue is our Wee Care issue and as always, very special.

This is the cover you will be looking out for:

Thank you to all of our contributors.

If you have an idea for an article or design you would like to share, then please contact me at

Monday, May 15, 2017

Pleating Frustration!

I haven't smocked anything for ages. I love smocking, but I have been busy working on other projects, mostly embroidery, but I had a trip coming up that involved flying. So, with two hours to hang around at airports and a six hour flight in both directions, coupled with down time while I was away and attending two days of business meetings (just listening to reports and more reports) I decided that I needed some handwork and smocking it was going to be.

So, as I have two little girls in my 'family' and they are cousins, I thought I would make them a Mary De each. I have plenty of fabric in my stash and so went off and found two pieces which would make cute dresses. As the fabrics were good quality  cottons, I tore the lengths I needed for the pleated fronts to get them on the straight grain. Then I threaded up my Read pleater with 10 needles and thread and began pleating.
The problem fabric
The fabrics went through the pleater beautifully, one after the other. Before I took the thread off the needles, and removed the pleated fabrics, I decided to wanted to pleat a piece of plain white broadcloth for a insert. I mean, I might want to do some picture smocking too at some point. It was as I moved the first pleated skirt front along the 'washing line' of pleater threads to make room to pleat something else, I noticed that this first fabric I had pleated looked a little odd.There was a definite width-way pattern that had not shown up on the un-pleated fabric and it formed lines on the pleated fabric.
Start of the re-pleating

The difference from the first pleating thread towards the end of the pleating.
So, I hear you say, that isn't a problem. It is still smockable, after all we pleat checks and stripes all the time and smock them. It isn't a problem if the pattern is in line with the pleating threads, in other words, on grain, but this pattern was not. I had followed the torn edge of my straight grain of fabric and the pleating was beautifully straight (even if I say so myself), but the pattern it 'found' in the fabric was not! I just knew that if I smocked that pleated fabric it would look really strange even to the un-trained eye!

Pleated following the pattern rather than the grainline
So I cut it off the pleating thread line, pressed it and re-pleated it following a repeat on the pattern rather than the straight grain of the fabric. The photos show the results. I will now have to adjust the bottom edge when I come to hem the dress.

Now the pattern is straight and doesn't offend the eye!
I have never had this happen before and find it very frustrating. The fabric design was clearly very much off grain when it was printed.  Oh well! Lesson learned. Another time I will have to pleat a sample piece of my patterned fabric just to make sure I don't have the same problem.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Kilt

A kilt is a knee-length non-bifurcated skirt-type garment with pleats at the rear, originating in the traditional dress of men and boys in the Scottish Highlands of the 16th century. Since the 19th century, it has become associated with the wider culture of Scotland, Although the kilt is most often worn on formal occasions and at Highland games and sports events, it has also been adapted as an item of informal male clothing in recent years, returning to its roots as an everyday garment.

Although  ready-to-wear kilts can be obtained in standard sizes, a custom kilt is tailored to the individual proportions of the wearer. At least three measurements, the waist, hips, and length of the kilt, are usually required. Sometimes the rise (distance above the waist) or the fell (distance from waistline to the widest part of the hips) is also required.

A properly made kilt, when buckled on the tightest holes of the straps, is not so loose that the wearer can easily twist the kilt around their body, nor so tight that it causes "scalloping" of the fabric where it is buckled. Additionally, the length of the kilt when buckled at the waist reaches a point no lower than halfway across the kneecap and no higher than about an inch above it.

A kilt can be pleated with either box or knife pleats. A knife pleat is a simple fold, while the box pleat is bulkier, consisting of two knife pleats back-to-back. Knife pleats are the most common in modern civilian kilts. Regimental traditions vary. The Argyll and Sunderland Highlanders use box pleats, while the Black Watch make their kilts of the same tartan with knife pleats. These traditions were also passed on to affiliated regiments in the Commonwealth, and were retained in successor battalions to these regiments in the amalgamated Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Pleats can be arranged relative to the pattern in two ways. In pleating to the stripe, one of the vertical stripes in the tartan is selected and the fabric is then folded so that this stripe runs down the center of each pleat. The result is that along the pleated section of the kilt (the back and sides) the pattern appears different from the unpleated front, often emphasising the horizontal bands rather than creating a balance between horizontal and vertical. This is often called military pleating because it is the style adopted by many military regiments. It is also widely used by pipe bands.

In pleating to the sett, the fabric is folded so that the pattern of the sett is maintained and is repeated all around the kilt. This is done by taking up one full sett in each pleat, or two full setts if they are small. This causes the pleated sections to have the same pattern as the unpleated front.

Any pleat is characterized by depth and width. The portion of the pleat that protrudes under the overlying pleat is the size or width. The pleat width is selected based on the size of the sett and the amount of fabric to be used in constructing the kilt, and will generally vary from about 1/2" to about 3/4".

The depth is the part of the pleat which is folded under the overlying pleat. It depends solely on the size of the tartan sett even when pleating to the stripe, since the sett determines the spacing of the stripes.

The number of pleats used in making kilts depends upon how much material is to be used in constructing the garment and upon the size of the sett.

The pleats across the fell are tapered slightly since the wearer's waist is usually narrower than the hips and the pleats are usually stitched down either by machine or by hand.

Friday, May 5, 2017

A little about Tartan

Okay, so the Blog about the Tartan Day Parade gave me a lead into blogging about Tartan and its history. Many of you are familiar with tartan fabric (often called plaid in North America), but are you familiar with its history?

Shamrock Pipes and Thistle New Jersey
Tartan is made with alternating bands of coloured (pre-dyed) threads woven as both warp and weft at right angles to each other. The weft is woven in a simple twill, two over—two under the warp, advancing one thread at each pass. This forms visible diagonal lines where different colours cross, which give the appearance of new colours blended from the original ones. The resulting blocks of colour repeat vertically and horizontally in a distinctive pattern of squares and lines known as a sett.
Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the highland tartans were only associated with either regions or districts, rather than any specific Scottish clan. This was because like other materials, tartan designs were produced by local weavers for local tastes and would usually only use the  natural dyes available in that area, as chemical dye production was non-existent and transportation of other dye materials across long distances was prohibitively expensive.

Bagpiper at the Tartan Day Parade, NYC
The patterns were simply different regional checked-cloth patterns, chosen by the wearer's preference—in the same way as people nowadays choose what colours and patterns they like in their clothing, without particular reference to propriety. It was not until the mid-nineteenth century that many patterns were created and artificially associated with Scottish clans, families, or institutions who were (or wished to be seen as) associated in some way with a Scottish heritage. The Victorians' penchant for ordered taxonomy and the new chemical dyes then available meant that the idea of specific patterns of bright colours, or "dress" tartans, could be created and applied to a faux-nostalgic view of Scottish history.

By the 19th century the Highland romantic revival, inspired by James Macpherson’s Ossian poems and the writings of Sir Walter Scott, led to wider interest, with clubs like the Celtic Society of Edinburgh welcoming Lowlanders. The pageantry invented for the 1822 visit f King George IV brought a sudden demand for tartan cloth and made it the national dress of the whole of Scotland, rather than just the Highlands and Islands, with the invention of many new clan-specific tartans to suit.
Clan McCleod Tartan

The naming and registration of official clan tartans began on 8 April 1815, when the Highland Society of London (founded 1778) resolved that all the clan chiefs each "be respectfully solicited to furnish the Society with as much of the Tartan of his Lordship's Clan as will serve to Show the Pattern and to Authenticate the Same by Attaching Thereunto a Card bearing the Impression of his Lordship's Arms." Many had no idea of what their tartan might be, but were keen to comply and to provide authentic signed and sealed samples.

Today tartan and "clan tartan" is an important part of a Scottish clan. Almost all Scottish clans have several tartans attributed to their name. Several clans have "official" tartans. Although it is possible for anyone to create a tartan and name it any name they wish, the only person with the authority to make a clan's tartan "official" is the chief.
Black Watch tartan

Since the Victorian era, authorities on tartan have stated that there is an etiquette to wearing tartan, specifically tartan attributed to clans or families. This concept of the entitlement to certain tartans has led to the term of universal tartan, or free tartan, which describes tartan which can be worn by anyone. Traditional examples of such are Black Watch, Caledonian, Hunting Stewart, and Jacobite tartans. In the same line of opinion, some tartan attributed to the British Royal family are claimed by some to be "off limits" to non-royalty. Even so, there are no rules on who can, or cannot, wear a particular tartan. Note that some modern tartans are protected by trademark law, and the trademark proprietor can, in certain circumstances, prevent others from selling that tartan. The "Burberry Check" of the English fashion house, first designed in early 1920s, is an instantly recognisable tartan that is very well known around the world and is an example of a tartan that is protected.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Registration Opens for St. Louis

Registration for the SAGA Retreat in St. Louis opens today at 10:00 am Central Time

You can find a list of classes here:

Hope to see you there!