Amanda and Paul McPhail never imagined their kilt making business would be as successful as it is, growing from a hobby they started over a decade ago. Now the two operate their business, McPhail Kilt Makers, out of the Cannery Trade Centre and have no shortage of both local and international customers. (Jordyn Thomson - Western News)

Kilt etiquette 101 for Penticton Scottish Festival

McPhail Kilt Makers will have a large presence at the upcoming Penticton Scottish Festival

When they first started making kilts just over a decade ago, Paul and Amanda McPhail never planned on turning their passion into a business, but that’s exactly what happened for the Penticton pair.

McPhail Kilt Makers, now located in the Cannery Trade Centre at 1475 Fairview Rd. after stints on Main Street and in their home, has made a name for itself internationally thanks to the high quality, hand-stitched kilts both Paul and Amanda produce. The two said while it may sound surprising, a good portion of their business comes from Scotland and other European-based retailers who appreciate the quality of their apparel.

“In Scotland, there’s a high demand for kilts right now when there wasn’t before. But now they’re running into the problem where there aren’t enough tailors to make the kilts,” said Amanda. “And here, our name is getting out there. We’ve been doing the Highland Games circuit. People heard about us and wanted to order from us. Then there were people who wanted to get wedding rentals, so it just kind of blossomed from there.”

Paul added, “We never envisioned what we would be today. We have people coming to see us in Penticton from all over.”

Paul said he made his first kilt for himself, with the help of the book titled The Art of Kilt Making, but the process was laborious due to the book’s wording and hand-drawn illustrations. He joked that they’ve managed to go from taking 400 hours on one kilt to being able to produce roughly five per week, with one kilt taking about three days to make.

READ MORE: Scottish Festival expected to draw over 2,000 Saturday

“We start with eight yards of single-width fabric on average, and all of the fabrics that we use are woven in Scotland, but the Welsh tartans we do have woven in Wales. They are 100 per cent pure new wool,” said Amanda. “We rip it to length. There is no standard length, they are all made to measure from the waist to mid-knee.”

“We put 20 to 25 hours into each kilt. Everything is 100 per cent hand-stitched so we don’t use sewing machines or anything like that,” said Paul.

A large part of their job, aside from physically constructing the kilts, is educating their customers on the tartans or designs available and just how a kilt should fit. They see a lot of people wearing ill-fitting kilts, or even wearing them backwards with the pleats in the front.

Amanda said there is a rich history behind how kilts look today compared to when they were first worn in Scotland at the end of the 1600s.

“It was more like a blanket and they would fold it and lay it on the ground, then they’d lay on it and wrap it around themselves,” said Amanda. “So Highlanders would wear that, and it progressed to where the top part of it was cumbersome so a tailor in Scotland cut the top part off and sewed all the pleats together. So that became the small kilt, which is very much-so like what they make today.”

The pair are happy to help inform anyone looking to learn more about kilts and said you can even design your own tartan online through the Government of Scotland’s National Tartan Registry website. They said this task is not an easy one though as the government must approve or deny the design, pending how close it resembles existing tartans, and then you can decide if you want to restrict it to prevent others from wearing it.

READ MORE: Penticton Scots Festival celebrates Canada’s 150th

Paul said while in the past it was a big faux pas to wear a tartan that was not associated with your family or clan, traditions have relaxed over the years. He explained that certain clans will still only wear their specific tartan, but companies, governments, districts and any other group or organization can create their own tartan so it gives people a lot of options in terms of style choice.

“Around the mid-1700s there was the Jacobite uprising in Scotland, so the British government decided they wanted troops up there watching the Jacobite activity. So they created the regiment called the Black Watch and wanted them to dress like the Highlanders, so they put them all in kilts,” said Amanda. “But because it was an army, they wanted them all in uniform. So they created the Black Watch tartan specifically for them, so when people saw them they knew. So they say that it sort of started using pattern to identify a group of people. So it started with the military and progressed from there. The bright tartan colours and patterns in that era were a symbol of Jacobite sympathies, and after they were defeated the government banned the wearing of these tartans.”

The McPhails will have a presence at the upcoming Penticton Scottish Festival on July 6.

Not only will the McPhail Kilt Makers have a tent selling merchandise and allowing festival goers to try on a traditional-style kilt for photos, the members of their family plan to compete in numerous events throughout the day including the bagpipe competitions and the heavy events.

For more information about McPhail Kilt Makers, visit www.mcphailkiltmakers.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

South Okanagan mountain bore racist name for a half century

Nkawala Mountain was initially named in connection with the deaths of two black men.

The tragic tale of two Summerland men who perished on Christmas Day 1908

More than a century later, the events surrounding the men’s deaths are still somewhat of a mystery.

‘God is a Scottish Drag Queen’ coming to the South Okanagan

Comedian Mike Delamont’s show opens on March 14 at Venables Theatre in Oliver.

Fire consumes unit at Osoyoos hotel

Fire chief proud of crew’s quick response, says result could have been a lot worse.

Penticton Search and Rescue issues advisory after second snowmobiler stranded in two weeks

The snowmobiler was able to snowshoe back to safety, without knowing that anyone was looking for him.

VIDEO: Kawhi Leonard wins first Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP award

Leonard scored 30 points and hit eight 3-pointers to lead Team LeBron to a 157-155 victory

Kelowna RCMP arrest alleged impaired driver

The driver is facing potential charges after power pole collision

Monday marks one-year anniversary of man missing from Langley

42-year-old B.C. man, Searl Smith, was last seen leaving Langley Memorial Hospital on Feb. 17, 2019

BC Ferries sailings filling up Family Day Monday

More than 20 sailings added between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen for long weekend

UBCO announces new top boss for Okanagan campus

Lesley Cormack will start in the position this summer

Nine West Kelowna athletes to go to B.C. Winter Games

The athletes will compete in biathlon and cross country ski

Amtrak warns of delays as railways from Seattle to B.C. blocked by Wet’suwet’en supporters

Coastal GasLink said it’s signed benefits agreements with all 20 elected band councils along pipeline route

Federal emergency group meets on pipeline protests as rail blockades continue

There’s mounting political pressure for Trudeau to put an end to the blockades

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Most Read