With care, your kilt will last a very long time indeed.
Carefully packed away in my cedar chest lies my grandfather’s kilt from the Boer War. The lining has been replaced at least twice and I couldn’t tell you how many leather straps it’s gone through. I would wear it yet were it not for the effect that age has had on me – they don’t call it “middle age” for nothing!
Your kilt can last almost indefinitely as long as the tartan cloth itself is not harmed. A kilt will take an incredible amount of abuse. We participate in Highland Games and fight wars in them, remember?
Here’s how to properly take care of it.
Your kilts’ great enemies are; Moths, tearing and burns, chemical damage and rot. Let’s examine each of these threats:
ROT: Your kilt is made from all natural fabrics. Mildew will occur if you don’t allow it to thoroughly dry out before putting it away.
After having worn your kilt for however long, lay it out overnight with the lining facing up. This will allow the sweat and whatever else to evaporate from the lining.
Don’t EVER put it away until it is thoroughly dry.
All I can say about Tearing or burning your kilt with a cigarette butt is “Don’t do it”.
Kilt pins are the number one cause of irreparable damage to kilts. The front apron suffers a little bit of damage every time the pin is pushed through the cloth. Eventually the apron has two ragged holes which no power on earth can repair. If you feel that you MUST wear a kilt pin, mount it carefully by working the tip of the pin gently through the cloth and leave it there.
I’ve been dealing with this sort of repair since my first day as a ‘prentice boy. I CAN darn and repair holes in your kilt, and I’m probably the best/the only one to do so, but the repair won’t be invisible.
Chemical Damage: Only dry-clean your kilt as an absolute last resort! Each time a kilt is immersed in the nasty volatile dry-cleaning solvents, a little bit more of the wool’s natural oils are lost.
If you MUST take your kilt to a dry-cleaner, find a shop that does the work on the premises and then (politely) ask to speak to the person who will be working on your kilt. You want them to clean it but NOT to press it. There isn’t a cleaner in North America whom I would trust to correctly press a kilt (or, for that matter, a suit-jacket)
Moths: I hate ’em! I’ve been known to chase a wool-moth all through the house, knocking over lamps as I swing a newspaper at the little bastard in a berserker fury.
My parent’s house had a ‘crawl-space’ with an old wool rug laid over the concrete to save our knees as we boys scurried around in the darkness, playing at coal-miners.
I remember one time when I thought the texture of the old rug was oddly different. The next thing I knew, my right hand felt some greasy, writhing thing and then skidded out from under me. When I fetched a light, I found to my disgusted fascination that the entire rug was a huge wool-moth nursery – the entire surface was a mass of larvae.
I haven’t been the same since.
The wool-moth has the usual 4-stage life cycle: Egg, larvae, pupa and adult. The larvae is what does all the damage.
Make a habit of periodically examining your kilt for eggs, larvae and pupa. The adult female can only lay her eggs where she can crawl to and the other three stages don’t move much more than an inch from where the egg was laid.
They are averse to light and so seek the dark spaces in your kilt. Go through each pleat and brush out ANY lint that you find. The egg will be hard to see, but the larvae and pupa will look like little elongated lint-balls, and go ‘squish’ when you squeeze them. They’re also 65% protein by volume, so ‘come the Zombie Apocalypse’…..
You can kill them by steam-pressing your kilt (more on that later) and I’m told that sunlight can mess them up as well – leaving your kilt out in the summer sun MIGHT do the trick. Mothballs* and cedar shavings repel them. Newspaper worked in the old days, but the printers don’t use the same aromatic solvents today.
*I’ve recently been told that a) Mothballs are carcinogenic and b) if they’re strong enough to hurt moths, they’re strong enough to hurt you. Stick with cedar and regular inspections!