One of the many wows of the Outlander series were the beautiful costumes, including a whole lot of artisan work. Among that were amazing knitted items, and they spurred an entire army of arm warmers, a cadre of capes, and enough cowls to outfit the necks of herds of giraffes. Outlander fans are nothing if not creative, and emulating the amazing knitwear has occupied the time of many – from beginners to experienced knitters.
So at last, perhaps a little late but not unwanted, is the newest book in the Outlander universe – Outlander Knitting, edited by Kate Atherley. This beautifully photographed book contains 20 projects inspired by the series, from those arm warmers and capes to blankets, socks, and even a men’s vest. “The crafters who have been watching the series have responded with such enthusiasm for the knits (and a few sneaky crocheted pieces) that many have created their own interpretations of the pieces they’ve seen on screen. Well, this book is our love letter to the fans. We’re right there with you, knitting in front of the TV, wishing we were in the Highlands instead,” says the book’s introduction. The book will come out next Tuesday, Oct. 27, and is available from many national outlets. See the end of this article for a special offer and a book giveaway!
I am not a knitter. I appreciate anything handmade, and of course anything Outlander-related, so this was both baffling and fun to look through. The projects are all beautiful – my personal favorite is the River Run Shawl, which incorporates knit lace on the bottom. But the introduction to the book says, “There’s something here for every skill level and knitting interest. If you’re a beginner knitter – or you’re just looking for a relaxing knit to work on while catching up on missed episodes – you’ll easily be able to tackle the Sassenach Capelet Cowl or the simplified verson of the Rent Shawl; and if you’re up for a wee bit of adventure, try Mrs. Fitz’s Armwarmers.”
Because I don’t knit, I turned to my close friend Koko Pipkin, who considers herself an intermediate knitter, for evaluation of the projects. She got into this assignment in a big way, offering to actually complete one item from the book and give her thoughts on working through the directions provided. In fact, since my first grandchild will arrive any day now, she’s creating the “Mo Chridhe Baby Blanket” (which also has directions to be adapted as a throw), and I’ll send it on to my son and daughter-in-law, who live in New Zealand, as a gift from her. See the video below (and the left-hand picture immediately below) – we talk about the process, about her thoughts on the patterns included in the book, and she offers her notes on what she changed for this project.
If you are a knitter, the attraction of this book is obvious – the 20 detailed patterns offer lots of challenges, and you may be able to get some done in time for holiday gift-giving. If you’re not a needle woman, there are still reasons to pick this up. A handful of pages discuss things that even we will appreciate – about the fandom: “Many a knitter and fan spent time squinting at screenshots to work out the fine details of Frank’s classic 1940s Fair Isle vest.” A page celebrates Terry Dresbach’s huge contribution to the show: “For every character, she meticulously researched the eras in which the resided and made sure their clothing choices were a reflection of both their inner and outer lives. Dresbach created mood boards and did deep research dives into the materials of the era… With her team, … Dresbach made it her personal hallmark to make sure the realities of the time were always mirrored in the clothing featured in every frame.”
The book dives into a discussion of the historical accuracy of the costumes. “Historians know that there was indeed knitting in the eighteenth century, but it’s highly unlikely the pieces on-screen are true to the period. The truth is, it’s hard to be certain what is and isn’t authentic. There’s very little record of the sort of knitwear that ordinary people wore at that time, for the simple reason that very few pieces would have survived.”
Did you like the aforementioned Fair Isle vest that Frank wore? The book provides a page about this style and its history; and discusses the importance of wool and why it was used. And my favorite discussion was of dyeing wool, “and that scene in Rent.” “The traditional songs help to pass the time and keep the rhythm, as the process would often take a while. There was a rich tradition of these types of songs – some slow and serious, others fast and light – being adapted and changed on the fly…”
Photos throughout the book, both of the projects and from the show, are big and beautiful. To an experienced knitter, these patterns would offer quite a base for adaptation, I would assume, both in details and colors. One project in particular, the “Paris Connections” cuff, calls back to Claire’s mustard-yellow dress but with a distinct modern flair, and would look gorgeous in any bright color. (And if someone wants to make them for me, peacock blue or bright pink, please.)
Here’s my 20-minute chat with Koko, as she shows off the progress on the baby blanket and we discuss some other book issues. (We had some technical issues at the beginning, so please ignore the first minute or so.)
Koko prepared notes on the baby blanket project, and some general notes about other projects in the book – you can see all of those here.
Special Purchase Opportunity
A limited number of copies of the book are available through Outlandish Vancouver, and include a bonus – a bookplate signed by Diana Gabaldon at our specific request. Diana didn’t have anything specific to do with this book except that, of course, anything Outlander-related wouldn’t be possible without her (use the bookplate in this book or any other Outlander book you prefer). Go to this website to purchase.
Email Koko Pipkin at firstname.lastname@example.org if out of the US and wish to purchase, but the mailing price is $29 US for International Priority.
Win a copy of the book AND a bookplate signed by Diana Gabaldon!
Thanks to Random House and Koko Pipkin, we’re offering a copy of Outlander Knitting AND a Diana-signed bookplate! Enter through the Rafflecopter box below. This giveaway is only available in the US (at the request of Random House). To leave a comment – go to the Comments section of this post – do NOT try to leave a comment in the Rafflecopter box – then go back to the entry and click “I Commented.” Note that this is somewhat fussy when it comes to Apple products and/or certain browsers – if you have trouble entering, please try a different device or browser.
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