‘I make a kilt a day’

KAREN MANGER, 51 K I LT M A K ER , IP­SWICH

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - ORDINARY PEOPLE - amanda watt

Male cus­tomers, who might be get­ting a kilt made for a wed­ding, of­ten ask what they should wear un­der it. I say: “A pair of un­der­wear. It’s wool – it’s itchy.” But a lot of the guys will go au na­turel and when they’re at the re­cep­tion they lift the kilt up. You’ll be shown pho­to­graphs and ev­ery­one is look­ing away hor­ri­fied.

My hus­band, Doug, 52, and I have been work­ing side-by-side in our shop for 14 years. He does the ad­min and helps cus­tomers re­search their Scot­tish her­itage and which tar­tan they should be wear­ing. My job is mak­ing the kilts. Our youngest child, Ge­of­frey, 20, works in the busi­ness now too; he helps Doug and rep­re­sents the shop at Celtic fes­ti­vals and pipe band com­pe­ti­tions around the coun­try.

Kilts in Scot­land are all done by ma­chine un­less you specif­i­cally ask for a hand­made kilt. My kilts are all hand­made and I’ll never con­vert to a ma­chine even though it’d prob­a­bly take a quar­ter of the time. It’s how I was taught, and they hang nicer if done by hand.

My fam­ily em­i­grated to Aus­tralia when I was four be­cause my grand­fa­ther had em­phy­sema and needed to move to a warmer cli­mate. Mum was a tailoress and kilt maker and had her own shop in Scot­land. When we came to Bris­bane, she worked for menswear stores and made kilts at night, so I grew up ab­sorb­ing the craft.

I’m dyslexic, so I re­ally strug­gled at school. I left af­ter grade ten and got a job as a ju­nior at a cou­ple of com­pa­nies, then af­ter I had my first child [Zoe, 26] I worked as a re­cep­tion­ist. Af­ter I had Ge­of­frey no-one would em­ploy me, so Mum asked if I’d work for her mak­ing kilts. I even­tu­ally started my own busi­ness [All Things Tar­tan]. We sup­ply kilts and ac­ces­sories to school pipe bands and po­lice pipe bands through­out Aus­tralia and New Zealand, and run a hire busi­ness.

I make a kilt a day and work away at them at night and on week­ends be­cause I like to keep busy. Doug sur­prised me with a five-day hol­i­day to Cairns last year, our first in 26 years.

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