Evolving Orenburg Lace

We invited video content producer Anne Merrow to give us an inside perspective about Galina Khmeleva's newest video.

Orenburg Knitting

When we think about tradition, we may think of something fixed as if in stone—a practice that sprang up ages ago, the way it’s always been done. And what could be more traditional than lace knitting?

An ingenious method of passing live stitches over each other creates a secure, simple graft.

Orenburg lace may be traditional, but it has a history of evolution and practicality. As Galina Khmeleva explains in her video Orenburg Knitting: Knitting Gossamer Webs, knitting was the livelihood of the women of Orenburg. “Knitters eliminated everything that would slow down production,” she says. Time-saving innovations meant more income, so the traditional lace techniques were actually an ongoing continual laboratory for knitting innovation.

Putting it Together

“Grafting” may strike some knitters as a frightening word, but Galina demonstrates a simple, quick method to join the corners of a lace edging that survives in the hands of Orenburg knitters. Passing live stitches over each other in an alternating pattern creates a secure, nearly invisible join. Best of all, it doesn’t require a sewing needle. Galina shows how the technique can create an elastic join along the sides of a piece without seaming or even introducing new yarn.

Tradition Updated

But Orenburg knitters didn’t make changes just to save time. A new technique that makes a better shawl? Absolutely.

Galina teaches a short-row method that Olga Fedorova developed to turn the corners on Orenburg shawls without puckering.

Galina’s mentor, Olga Fedorova, wasn’t satisfied with the way lace edgings were worked on the corners of the traditional lace shawls. For the sake of simplicity, the lace border on an Orenburg shawl was turned ninety degrees without mitering, which created a rounded and often puckered edge.

In the 1970s, Olga developed a new method that eliminated the curving edge with an unusual short-row variation. Although it takes a little more time to execute, the technique has become more common to prevent gathering and possible damage at the corners of a shawl. Galina shows how a few simple maneuvers can make a lace edging that lies flat. Undaunted by the weight of tradition, one innovative knitter changed the way Orenburg lace shawls are made.

There is no end to the cleverness of knitters!