AbbyShot has some very exciting news to share with you! We now have a number of local artisans on board and they are working very closely with us to create three fabulous, new Outlander replica pieces!!
This story begins with our local knitter, Lorraine Shears. We sat with Lorraine and asked her a few questions about her history with knitting and how she came to be creating your authentic Dougal MacKenzie’s Scottish Bonnet.
As we refer to it here in Newfoundland, “Put the kettle on!” and come join us while she shares her story of the process of creating your bonnet and treats us with a little about herself. The stories she has to share could fill a book but we will focus today on her ancestry and how she first got introduced to the craft of knitting.
For many of those living on the Scottish Isles during the 17th and 18th centuries, knitting was such an important occupation that entire families were involved in the making of sweaters, and other knitted goods. Interestingly enough, from the late 1500s to the late 1700s knitting guilds in Europe were populated with men only. It wasn’t until the late 1700s that women started knitting at home.
Newfoundland, having much of the same weather patterns and need for insulation against the cold as Scotland, also had people relying on knitted goods to protect themselves against the harsh elements. Knitting needles and yarn were a common sight in many Newfoundland homes, even to this day.
When we told Lorraine that we ship to 53 countries and that the fan following for Outlander alone is over 6 million viewers and growing, she sat up a little straighter. We adore empowering people!
Did I happen to mention that Lorraine is my Mom? Yes, indeed she is!!! I wish you could see the smile on her face and the glint in her eye when we talk about how far her creations could possibly travel!
Tell us a little about yourself Lorraine. Where are you from?
I was born and raised in a small coastal community located on the west coast of Newfoundland, Canada, known as the Highlands. It once was a thriving agricultural and fishing community, and is situated at the end of the Cormack Trail. Home to families of Scottish and Irish descent, the community has been home to an active Catholic congregation. The current population is estimated to be approximately....wait for it.... one hundred, but there is also a significant seasonal population as many former residents return to the area in the summer months. Did you know that apparently there are 49 communities throughout the world named Highlands?
My parents were John and Annie Gillis (nee O'Brian). Together they had 10 children and were foster parents for many children along the way. I fell right in the middle of my siblings. We all helped out around the homestead with whatever was needed therefore learning many tricks of the trade from them.
My great grandfather, Hugh Gillis, originated from the Isle of Skye, Scotland and through research, we have found out that some of my ancestors actually marched in the Jacobite Rising with Bonnie Prince Charles!
Who taught you how to knit and how old were you?
My mom was a very talented and crafty woman. She taught me to knit when I was in my early teens. Settlers used to rely on Mom and Dad for help with everything from sewing of wedding and graduation dresses, woodworking/carpentry and delivering of babies to mortician duties in the local community. If someone needed assistance they sought out Johnny and Annie first.
When did you first get introduced to Outlander?
My first exposure to Outlander was watching the TV series, although, I had heard of the books from my daughter many moons ago. My dad, being an avid reader, actually got hooked on them from her recommendation. I fell in love with the knitted goods in the series and felt inspired to try knitting some of the pieces. AbbyShot approached me and asked if I would be interested in working on a few knitted projects with them and of course, I said, “YES!”
When was your first experience with felting of wool?
My Dad was a fisherman and a carpenter. My mom use to knit him “thumb and finger” mittens to allow easy access for pulling the nets from the ocean. I remember him coming home and his mitts being soaking wet, thick and heavy. I knew that this somehow helped keep his hands warm but it wasn’t until later in life that I realized it was an organic process for felting that was occurring and that extensive exposure to the salt water combined with the friction created by pulling the nets caused the wool fibers to bind closer together to increase warmth and water resistance.
Have you ever knit Bonnets before?
No, this was my first time both knitting bonnets and felting them. There hasn’t been a knitting project yet that I haven’t conquered and through trial and error and many balls of wool, I finally got the process down pat.
Can you tell us a little about the process of crafting these beautiful pieces?
I wanted to keep the process as close as possible to the way these would have been created during this era. I used wooden needles and tried different felting processes from using salt water from the ocean to boiling the bonnets on the wood stove.
My favorite place to sit is in my mother’s rocking chair, knitting relentlessly and imagining those days back then. Sometimes I find myself rocking as fast as I knit! Lol Hmmmm...I wonder…if I held on to Mom's chair long enough could I too, go back in time and switch places with Claire? You know, help a sister out?
Stay tuned for our next artisan blog on the making of Sawny.