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February 10, 2016

Knit One, Purl Too

Oulander sets fingers flying as knitters knock off series garb.

Paula Hendrickson

With the beautiful Caitriona Balfe braving the frigid Scottish Highlands in hand-knitted cowls, shawls and shrugs, it didn't take long for knitters and crocheters to tune in to Starz's Outlander.

That group included liana Rabinowitz, vice-president of marketing at Lion Brand Yarns. "We search Ravelry [an online knitting community] and various blogs daily and realized how popular Outlander was," she reports.

Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander books, noticed, too.

"Diana is an avid knitter and definitely did some nudging to raise our awareness of this dedicated and vibrant community," says Chris Van Amburg, senior vice-president of U.S. franchise marketing, Sony Pictures Television, the studio behind the show. "It was clear there was a desire for patterns and materials that would allow fans to create their piece of wearable Outlander art."

Soon Lion Brand and Sony were tying the knot on an agreement to market knit and crochet kits based on the series.

"My hat goes off to the costume designer [Terry  Dresbach], who did a terrific job," says Lion design editor Susan Haviland, who got to work with her team. "While all of the pieces evoke the period, they also have a contemporary feel."

Since Outlander revolves around Balfe's character, Claire, Haviland focused on re-creating her garments; ultimately, patterns for both knitting and crocheting were conceived for seven items.

"We narrowed it down to pieces we thought would be relatively easy for consumers to make, yet still captured the essence of the show," Haviland explains. Without access to the original woolens, the designer based yarn and color choices on digital images. "We did a pretty good job at capturing the spirit, colors and feelings of the garments."

"The response has been phenomenal," Rabinowitz enthuses. "We're definitely looking forward to the new season of Outlander and are keeping a future set of designs in mind."

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