One of the great pleasures of watching Outlander includes admiring all of the gorgeous costumes and accessories that adorn all of the characters. The knitted wool items have featured heavily, and have definitely caught my eye. As I am devoid of the skill of knitting, I have a great admiration for the talent. I seem to recall hearing once, on a tour of a croft house in the Scottish Highlands, that traditionally all family members in the household would have learned to knit. Because they did not have the luxury of idle time, knitting was a task that was accomplished during times of limiting physical circumstances, i.e. winter, while shepherding, or by those who were infirm. It has caused me to wonder recently; could Jamie have knit Claire’s cowl?
As confirmed by the Victoria and Albert Museum, knitting had been practiced by both men and women since the 16th Century in the British Isles. When Jamie was a wee lad it is likely that he may have been taught by his mother or his older sister Jenny how to knit, as knitting had already been a much practiced and valued skill for nearly 200 years.
Perhaps Jamie whiled away his time knitting while he was waiting to raid the cattle in the Scottish Borders after his return from France? Or, was it possible that Jamie spent some of his evenings in front of the fire showing Claire how to work the needles, while creating a beautiful cowl to adorn her lovely neck?
In my mind, their conversation might go something like this:
Jamie: “Cast on, wrap, pull the loop; repeat, Sassenach.”
Claire: “Oh Jamie, I’m trying, but this is more difficult than field surgery!”
Jamie: “Steady Lass, you canna be so rough with the wool!”
With the dawn of the second Jacobite rising, and the increased surveillance of the Highlanders by the British Army, there would have been little time for Jamie to devote to such a task as knitting.
Add to that Jamie’s troubles with protecting Claire and himself from the likes of Black Jack Randall, and it would have made it highly unlikely that he had the time, or desire, to knit.
While Jamie would have certainly had the opportunity to learn how to knit, it would be unlikely that he would have taken to the needles at any time later in life after his ordeal at Wentworth prison. His hand would have been far too damaged from his encounter with Black Jack to make knitting an easy or neat task for him to accomplish. The person whom would have been responsible for creating the lovely knit items that Claire wore would have lovingly crafted them over a period of hours or days, from locally sourced wool. We are very fortunate that the craft of knitting has endured for so many centuries, so that we, too, might wear and enjoy hand-knit reproductions of such lovely items, like Claire's Chunky Cowl.