But 27-year-old Edinburgh kiltmaker Emma Wilkison says it was worth it for JJ Chalmers to wear the Cameron of Erracht modern military tartan during his Viennese Waltz on Saturday night’s Strictly Come Dancing.
JJ, a Scottish TV presenter and Invictus Games medalist who was injured in a bomb blast while serving in Afghanistan as a Royal Marine, has already been pictured wearing an older kilt in practice but the custom made version with a gold military pleat will be donned tonight.
Emma, who works for Gordon Nicolson Kiltmakers based in the city’s Canongate, says it will be the first time one of her kilts has appeared on television and the team were “delighted” to receive a video from JJ and his professional dance partner, Amy Dowden, thanking them for their efforts this week.
She said: “I was a bit teary and I’m so excited about having this kilt I have made on TV.”
Emma said the team were contacted last week about making the kilt for JJ having previously made one for professional dancer Anton Du Beke when he danced with Scottish tennis coach Judy Murray on Strictly.
Once it was known on Sunday night that JJ had made it through to this weekend’s show, they received the cloth from Lochcarron in Selkirk on Monday and Emma made a start to the kilt at 2pm in the afternoon.
She worked until 3am the next morning and, after a few hours of sleep, made the finishing touches on Tuesday before it was mailed south to London on Wednesday morning.
A ‘real morale boost’
Emma, who graduated from Edinburgh College of Art with a degree in textiles, continued: “It was a great opportunity for everyone here to be part of Strictly again and it’s a really high note in what has been a really hard year, so we really appreciate the platform, and it’s a real morale boost in the team. For me it’s a real high point in my career.”
She assures the highest standard of tailoring has been achieved in the pure woolen kilt despite the quick turnaround, and that the team all breathed a sigh of relief when they heard it fitted JJ on Friday.
Emma is the only kiltmaker to have ever received Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust funding for her craft and she used it to pursue her passion by undertaking an intensive course at Gordon Nicolson’s Edinburgh Kiltmakers Academy, where she now teaches.
Business owner Gordon Nicolson said: “The show (Strictly) offers a bit of a feel good factor and some light relief with everything going on just now, and there’s been a bit of hype around the kilt as well.”
Gordon acknowledged that it’s been a difficult year for trade with coronavirus restrictions but said they did get a lift in sales recently when Scotland’s football team qualified for the Euros.
He is also very proud of the work being done at their Kiltmakers Academy to keep the craft and heritage alive.
The Academy, based in another premises in St Mary’s Street, offers a full six month course in kiltmaking and enables kiltmakers to go on and start up their own businesses.