Counting in Russian

It’s embarrassing to say so, but I know nothing about Russia beyond bits and pieces. Watching a few movies, enjoying some historical fiction, and reading just enough non-fiction to drop some key phrases into my history lectures doesn’t make me an expert, by a long shot. (My 7+ years of grad school didn’t take me past 1650 or out of the Mediterranean region.) However, I do know–and love–knitted lace. When Interweave asked me to offer a CraftU course on Orenburg lace, opportunities to teach lace and learn about Russia came together.

Learn how to create this timeless look with elegant Orenburg lace knitting!

Orenburg and gossamer and warm shawls from Galina Khmeleva’s collection.
Photos by Joe Coca.

My lace adventures have produced sweaters, shawls, scarves, hats, socks, and probably some stuff I can’t remember. My chosen patterns show the influence of every ethnic style of knitted lace, plus I’ve made some authentic Faroese and Shetland items. I’ve knitted a lace cowl from stainless steel and wool yarn. I’ve created a Tolkien-inspired vest from my handspun yarn that involved 12 charts and a k7tog. In short, nothing about lace knitting has ever frightened me for long. Has every project succeeded? Eventually, after some (or much) frogging and cussing. Lace requires concentration, counting, and chart management–really, that’s all there is to it.

Learn how to create this timeless look with elegant Orenburg knitting! #lace

An Orenburg lace shawl is so elegant and dreamy. Learn how to master Orenburg knitting in this online course!

Two Orenburg shawls knitted by lace-knitting legend Olga Alexandrovna Fedorova, Galina Khmeleva’s mentor. The shawl is now in Galina’s collection.

If you’ve hesitated to knit lace, or you’ve never experienced Orenburg lace, come join me on CraftU for a 3-week Orenburg Knitting Online Workshop. Included in the course is Galina Khmeleva’s comprehensive video, which surveys the traditional goat-down yarn, gossamer and warm shawls, and their place in the Russian economy, as well as techniques specific to these shawls. Once we explore charting techniques, we’ll knit an Orenburg sampler designed by Galina, troubleshooting as we go so you don’t have to buy a swear jar. By the time we’re done, you’ll have a lovely lace sampler to enjoy, and you’ll know all the motifs (elements, in Orenburg terminology) Russian knitters have traditionally deployed in their lace designs.

And we’ll make counting more fun by tying it to historical facts. Here’s a teaser:

10 elements in modern Orenburg knitting 10 cities outside of the USSR and Russia recognized Yuri Gagarin (Russian pilot and cosmonaut, trained in Orenburg) with honorary citizenship or keys to the city.
3 forgotten elements Galina discovered 3rd time’s the charm: the first two attempts to build Orenburg failed.
13 total elements in the sampler project 13 cities inside the USSR/Russia have claimed Yuri Gagarin as an honorary citizen.
1 beautiful sampler 1 big peasant rebellion in 1773–1774 (Pugachev’s Rebellion) tried to take over Orenburg because the city symbolized Catherine the Great’s oppression.

Help me add to this list in class, because I’ve hit the limits of my Russian knowledge. In return, build your expertise in Orenburg lace. We can count on each other.

–Deb