Yesterday evening, we had the monthly meeting of the Huddersfield Knitting & Crochet Guild, and I managed to get to it (with some help). The theme of the meetings this year is 'Around the world in knitting and crochet', and yesterday we were in Russia. Marie had done a lot of research (and a lot of work) on Orenburg lace shawls, and gave us a fascinating talk on its history. She had bought a hank of Volgograd goat down yarn to show to us, and had acquired a sample of the original goat down - you can feel how warm and light it is just by letting it sit on the palm of your hand for a little while. (Or so I'm told - the palms of my hands are still covered by the casts on my wrists, and it doesn't work quite as well on fingers.) To make the yarn stronger, it's plied with another fibre - silk for the finest shawls.
Marie talked about the construction method used for the shawls: you knit the bottom border first, in a long strip; then turn the corner, and pick up stitches along the straight edge of the border; then knit the centre of the shawl and the left and right borders all together, side to side; then turn the corner at top right and knit the top border, taking in the stitches from the top edge of the centre part as you go. then finally at the top left corner, you join the top border and left border by grafting. Not the grafting that you use on sock toes (aka Kitchener stitch), but Russian grafting. Which was amazing to me, because I wrote about Russian grafting on this blog way back in 2010. I had never heard of Orenburg lace back then, and it never occurred to me to wonder what Russian knitters might use Russian grafting for - I just thought it was a really neat way of joining shoulder seams (which it is). But it is also (and I suppose originally) used for finishing Orenburg lace shawls.
Marie talked about the traditional motifs used in Orenburg lace, and had knitted a lot of samples to show them. The samples are constructed in the same way as a full-size shawl, with a border. Most of them were knitted in Rowan Kid Silk Haze, including the rectangular one at top, and this one with the lovely chain of hearts motif.
|Chain of Hearts sample|
And to emulate the finest Orenburg shawls, Marie had knitted a sample in an incredibly fine yarn - Heirloom Knitting's Ethereal CashSilk (70% cashmere, 30% silk). There are 1500m. of yarn in a 25g ball, amazingly - it's finer than sewing thread, and I don't know how it's possible to knit with it. But evidently some people can, including Marie. (Ethereal is an apt name, I think - "Extremely delicate and light in a way that seems not to be of this world".)
|Lace sample in Ethereal Cashsilk|