A side-by-side comparison of Kilt Fabrics

A personal opinion resulting from a side by side comparison of 13oz Scottish Wool, 12oz Poly/Rayon, and what is listed as 13oz Acrylic.

Wool –
There are many types of Sheep Wool that are used in the weaving of Tartan fabric. Of the types one, Merino Wool, should be noted. The Wool of the Merino Sheep is the smallest or thinnest individual “hairs” of all the Wools. It is not uncommon for Merino Wool Tartan fabric to feel lighter than it actually is.

The feel or “Hand” of the fabric –
The secret to Wool Tartan fabric is that the “hairs” are Worsted prior to being spun into yarns. Worsting refers to the carding and combing of the long fibers to get them to lay perfectly parallel and straight before spinning. The Wool is then spun very tightly. Hard twisted Worsted Wool results in a firm, slightly knubbly feel to the surface of the fabric. The ends of the wool “hairs” that cause itching is minimized and give give the fabric a smooth or soft feel. The weave by Lochcarron is has a few more of these nap “hairs” than does the weave by Marton Mills.

Wrinkling and care – 
Wool is the Standard Kilt fiber. It wrinkles very little and a shot of steam will allow wrinkles to fall out quickly. Too much steam though and you may steam out the creases requiring basting and re-pressing.
Wool requires hand washing or Dry Cleaning but a well taken cared of Kilt will usually only need cleaning a few times a year. If you hand wash your kilt expect that if will take a while to dry.

Overall effect – The “Swish” factor of Wool is the best of all samples. The color range available in Wool is truly mind boggling.

P/V –
P/V is a term you have heard a lot over the last few years and it is currently a very abused term. True P/V is a blend of Polyester and Rayon (Viscose to those in Briton). This is a synthetic fabric and some use the term for any synthetic when in fact it is a very specific synthetic blend. The only weaving mill at the time of the writing of this is Marton Mills located in Otley, UK.

The feel or “Hand” of the fabric –
The Polyester/Viscos (Rayon) woven by Marton Mills results in a very smooth, almost silky finish to the fabric. The individual yarns in the weave appear finer to the eye. To me the P/V is “velvety”.
The fabric used by Sport Kilts while listed as P/V feels more like Cotton flannel. It wrinkles far more, and I suspect is actually more like a Poly/Cotton.

Wrinkling and care –
P/V resists wrinkles the best of all that I have tried. Creases, when properly set, are virtually permanent. I have yet to need to baste and re-press a P/V Kilt even after 25 trips through the washer and dryer.
P/V is machine washable and dryable making it truly wash and wear. Dirt will not stick to it.

Overall effect – 
P/V feels light when you first feel it but the Swish is comparable to Wool. The colors available are fewer than those found for Wool but they are very fade resistant and “rich”. Be very careful when reading of Heavy Weight P/V. Currently the only weight of fabric woven in P/V is 12oz per fabric yard.

Acrylic –
Acrylic is a petrochemical synthetic fiber. It has a rough surface even when extruded from a circular spinneret. This quality gives Acrylic the potential to be very near to the feel of Wool. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, the Tartan fabric that is woven from Acrylic uses fibers which are allowed to kink or form curls. This gives the current Acrylic fabrics a feel about like Polar Fleece.

The feel or “Hand” of the fabric –
The fabric used in a Stillwater Kilt feels to me to be similar to Polar Fleece. The surface has quite a bit of “Nap” or fuzz. The individual yarns are very large and the weave is the loosest of all the samples.
I find the Acrylic to be the least Wool like which is strange as Acrylic, if Worsted and hard twisted, has the potential to be the most Wool like.
The fabric used by Frugal Corner and The Gold Bros. also has the fuzzy nap but slightly less than the Stillwater fabric.

Wrinkling and care –
Almost all Acrylic fabrics available today wrinkle and pill quite a lot. The creases of the pleats will fall out after a while and need basting and re-pressing.
After machine washing some ironing will be necessary.
I find pilling to be a major problem with the Acrylics.

Overall effect – 
Although listed as 13oz or heavy-weight it actually weighs only 5-6oz per fabric yard when I weigh it on a scale, which to me feels very light and fly-away. The least “Swish” of the three. The colors currently available in Acrylic are very bright. Acrylics create some truly awesome “Modern” versions of Tartan.
with the current cost of an Acrylic Kilt they are becoming the perfect “Pub” Kilt. One that you can spill a beer on and throw in the washer and not worry about.

Please remember that this comparison is purely my personal opinion.

__________________
Steve Ashton
www.Freedomkilts.com
2nd Laird of Lochaber
Skype (webcam enabled) thewizardofbc
I wear the kilt because: Swish + Swagger = Swoon.
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