COSTUME designers working on time-travel television drama Outlander have been sourcing items from a knitter living in North Uist.
The Emmy-award winning team who create costumes for the cast of the popular series discovered Flora Kennedy’s work on Etsy, the online shop for amateur crafters, and placed an order.
Kennedy’s Inner Wild items, “inspired by Scotland’s mythology, ancestral territory and rugged landscapes”, have been worn by star Caitriona Balfe, as well as other lead characters in the series based on Diana Gabaldon’s bestsellers.
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The first item on Kennedy’s Etsy site which caught the attention of costume designer Terry Dresbach was the hand-knitted Sassenach capelet and sleeves now worn by Balfe, who plays Claire Randall. Selling at £67, the shrug’s care instructions include “wear while enjoying wild adventures”. Kennedy, 50, who lives in the village of Sollas, said: “The order came on the site and I saw the address was the Outlander studio so I realised straightaway who it was from. Then the costume buyer telephoned me and said ‘Terry loves the garments you’ve got in the shop’.
“Then more orders came in for the Caledonia Shrug also worn by Claire, Celtic mitts and 60 different sock leg warmers for the clansmen.”
Kennedy, who was taught to knit by her mother, has now received orders from Outlander fans in the US, Canada and Australia as well as the UK. “I felt wildly excited and absolutely astonished because I love Outlander and had read it 15 years ago. I was living in New Zealand at the time and it was a bit of ‘my homeland’. I just absorbed it and I can see now how my knitting was somehow influenced by all the mental images in the writing.
Kennedy said she takes a “free knitting” approach, meaning she knits intuitively, but she has latterly taken to writing down what she has done.“I felt a real sense of obligation to provide knitwear for Outlander fans who contacted me so had to work out how to do repeat designs. People used to laugh at jumpers knitted by grannies but are now craving that sense of something being made with love,” she added.
Dresbach said: “I was looking for Scottish artisans to add texture and local aesthetic to our costumes. I wanted to reflect the country and its people, its colours and textures. Ms Kennedy was one of the artists we chose, as her work reflected those qualities beautifully. Her colours and textures are quite beautiful.”
Dresbach added: “In this business we are often asked to capture a culture that is not our own.
“I feel it is very important to include people who actually are of that culture, in any visual representation that is trying to be accurate. It is their story, and they should be included. I am from America, I am representing Scottish history and it is essential that it be a Scottish view. I am also a big believer in buying local.”
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “The fact Flora’s fantastic knitting designs are being showcased to an international audience is not only terrific news for her business, it also demonstrates the fact the show’s producers have gone to great lengths to try to capture real elements of Scottish culture and heritage.”
Outlander season two has its UK premiere on 10 April on Amazon Prime