Well here goes, let me introduce myself. My name is Nikki and I am a kiltmaker, kiltmaking teacher and Scottish history and tartan buff.
I was born in Glasgow, Scotland. I had an unusual upbringing as my father was in the military, The Royal Highland Fusiliers. So we moved around a lot West Germany, Northern Ireland and East Germany (I’m showing my age a bit there saying East and West) We finally ended up in Edinburgh, Scotland and settled here.
Living in Edinburgh is inspirational for me. The history of the city is evident all around it just smacks you in the face. I love it and Edinburgh has become my home. However, I will always be a Glaswegian at heart, a wee bit of friendly rivalry.
When I was 15, a friend and I went up to the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. I was desperate to have my own kilt so we went into a small independent kiltmaker on the Lawnmarket and asked the price. It was a wee bit more than a teenager could afford. That was me though, I wanted to learn everything about kilts, tartan and of course Scottish history.
When I left school I got a job with R.G.Lawries/Hector Russell Kiltmakers in the Lawnmarket. Our area manager Mrs MacAlpine saw potential in me and made me study all the different tartans (she was very ‘Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ although most kids nowadays would think Professor Macgonagal form Harry Potter). It was quite an experience working there. I worked with a gentleman who thought he was descended from Bonnie Prince Charlie but more on that later.
Like most young lassies of the day I was hooked on rugby (nothing to do with the game of course), So when MacPhersons of Edinburgh, a well established traditional kiltmaker, offered me a job and said they didn’t open on Saturday afternoons I thought it was perfect! It was at Macphersons that I learned about the business side of the industry. With a love of Scottish history I also studied for get a degree in Scottish history with Open university and Dundee University. However, my main passion was always the actual kiltmaking process.
After Jean Macpherson retired I moved on to Celtic Craft Centre, whose main business was in the United States and for nearly 10 years I travelled back and forth to the USA working the Scottish Highland Games.
Then 6 years ago I became self employed making kilts in The Canongate on The Royal Mile. In the 24 years+ *cough cough* The industry has certainly changed. Increasingly the standard of kiltmaking has dropped due to poor wages and shortcuts being made in the manufacturing of the kilts. Another big problem is that the traditionally trained kiltmakers are hitting retirement age and younger generations are not coming through. This was when myself and another person decided to set up the Edinburgh Kiltmakers Academy. The goal was to train the next generation of kiltmakers and to raise the standard of hand sewn kiltmaking (and hopefully also raising wages). It has been highly successful. I have now moved on to Scotclans, a lovely family run business with high standards, a passion for our heritage and also believe in ethically paid crafts people. Here we have set up a Kiltmakery, yes a new word ;-), to help and support self employed kiltmakers and also make sure they are getting paid ethically. Take a wee look at my blog on whats under the kilt it may shock you. I am still teaching kiltmaking to the highest standard at Scotclans but now I also have an outlet to talk and write about the history of the kilt and tartan and anything else I find interesting.
So in this blog I will give you a wee insight into the life of a kiltmaker, some Scottish history, as well as history of the kilt and tartan and some of the interesting information I have gathered through the years.