A Day With the Orenburg Lace Shawls

Note from Sandi: When I worked in the Colorado offices of Interweave, one of my favorite things to do was to pop into the PieceWork office and see what kind of knitted glories the editor, Jeane Hutchins, had there. I loved when Jeane would let me put on white gloves and gently examine the stitches, done by some woman whom I will never know, but whose work I got to admire for a few moments. Jeane emailed me when the Orenburg shawls came in…but I was in Canada. I think my wails at missing the chance to see these lace artworks were heard for miles.

However, here's Jeane to tell you all about the day the Orenburg shawls came to visit Interweave: 

A typical workday for me is filled with juggling: e-mails, correspondence, and phone calls; editing; deciding whether objects will be sent here for photography or will we need to contact the museum in Cairo for rights and fees; contacting authors/designers with questions that must be answered before moving on; answering questions from authors/designers who are working on future issue projects; fact checking (was Marie Antoinette actually born in 1755, for example); communicating with our production coordinator (“I promise I will have the file for you in five minutes!”); and so on. But then there are days like “My Lace Shawl” day.

In early January, I met with Galina Khmeleva to go over her article and project for PieceWork's May/June 2009 Special Lace Issue. Galina and I live in the same town about 30 minutes north of Interweave, so I often stop by to pick up or drop off a project, but this time was a little different. While we were in total agreement that her article should be a tribute to her late friend, mentor, and master Orenburg lace knitter, Olga Alexandrovna Fedorova, and that the project would be an Orenburg shawl inspired by Olga and her work, I had no clue about the treat that was in store for me that day.

We started by looking at photographs of Olga that Galina had, some taken in Russia, others during Olga’s trip here in 1996 for Galina’s first Orenburg Knitted Lace workshop tour. Then we paged through Orenburgskii Pukhovyi Platok [The Orenburg Down Shawl], a limited-edition book published in Russia in 2005, which examines the centuries-old tradition of Orenburg lace knitting. We also looked at a catalog that documents the lace collection, including work by Olga, of the Orenburg Museum of Fine Arts. Both books are filled with beautiful examples of this art. Then came the icing on the cake for me: Galina opened up a trunk and extracted a quite large bundle wrapped in muslin. Inside the muslin were dozens of shawls made by Olga, including the last shawl she completed. Exquisitely made knitted-lace shawls in all shapes and sizes surrounded me; I could hold them, drape them over my shoulders, and twirl around like a small child playing dress up; I could examine them closely and marvel at Olga’s workmanship. Sheer joy. After much deliberation, I selected six to borrow for our photo shoot. Then I saw Galina’s finished project, which is magnificent. My cake wouldn’t even hold more icing.

Both putting together all the pieces of the puzzle that becomes each issue of PieceWork and special days such as mine with Galina are indications of why I truly love my job! Throw in the fact that I am totally smitten by knitted lace, and you’ll see why this May/June issue is a favorite. I do hope it will provide some icing for your cake!

— Jeane Hutchins
Editor, PieceWork magazine

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Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. She is now the author of the popular Knitting Daily blog: What's on Sandi's Needles.

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