I have been a professional kiltmaker in the Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania area for 44 years. Kiltmaking is highly specific form of tailoring. Tartan is a special form of plaid; tartans are named plaids. Besides family and clan tartans, there are district, province, and national tartans; besides Scottish tartans, there are Irish, Welsh, Canandian and tartans specific to schools, universities, and other organizations. Tartan is specially woven for kiltmaking; twilled to the edge so the selvedge can be used for the hemline.
Within the tartan families, there are different colorways. Modern colors are quite brilliant and basic, for example, the reds are bright scarlet, whereas the ancient colors are more subtle, the reds becoming a soft red-orange, as perhaps faded over time. Also, there are muted shades and weathered shades. For instance, one can order a kilt and specify 'weathered hunting Stewart'. I find that my clients educate me!
There are many different pleating patterns one can choose. The most common is pleating to sett. A sett is a complete repeat of a tartan design. Pleating to stripe means that the lightest stripe is centered in the pleat face, this is commonly done for military kilts, but can be done for most any tartan. Other choices include pleating to alternating pivot points, pleating to a field color or alternating fields, pleating to a preferred stripe, or simply to a pleasing pattern. A kilt generally takes eight yards of fabric, a prodigious amount.
In my career I have made many items for the Scottish community. I have completed more than 800 different tartan projects. I currently limit my work to kilts, kilted skirts (for ladies), plaids for pipers and drummers, and bagpipe covers. Having made so many items, I am especially adept at altering and repairing kilts. Feel free to ask anything, I will be delighted to help.