There are several kinds of Orenburg shawls. Firstly, these are grey (seldom white) thick down hair shawls. It was them that gave start to Orenburg down-hair knitting. Secondly, there are also quite dense kerchiefs and pautinkas. They are used for every day wear and they give similar warmth as shawls. Such pautinkas are knitted in Orsk region. The third kind of Orenburg kerchiefs are very thin as “spider line” pautinkas and tippets. As a rule thin pautinkas have got fancy patterns and are used as decoration on special occasions.
The best thin pautinkas are knitted in the settlements of Zholtoje and Shushma of Sarakhtash District. Such pautinka will be a fine decoration for any evening dress of whatever style. As a warp for pautinkas knitters use rayon silk thread and for shawls they use cotton thread. Each knitter spins threads of different thickness. In pautinkas there are usually two thirds of down hair and one third of rayon silk thread. Beside shawls and kerchiefs, there are also other products that are knitted today from Orenburg down hair: sleeveless jackets, poncho, downy and very warm sweaters.
A really good shawl is knitted from non-spun yarn: the knitter–woman will spin a strong down hair yarn and only then spins it on silk thread- warp. Such shawl or kerchief –“spider line” will not look downy from the very beginning. They start downing when they wear. And it will last for a long time. A good knitter can knit two kerchiefs – pautinkas (“spider lines”) of medium size or three tippets a month. It will take a month or more to knit a shawl of big size or a kerchief with pattern or inscription. Because of the high cost of down hair and yarn, an original hand-made Orenburg shawl or kerchief cannot be cheap. Each shawl or kerchief – pautinka is an original piece of art which needed much work and patience of down-hair knitters. Each knitter has her own secrets and patterns. At the heart of traditional pattern of Orenburg shawl there are ancient magic signs. Each shawl presents a picture of the Universe the way every knitter imagines it.
What are good what are bad shawls. How does one tell anyways?
2 Things: price and the source. Cheap shawls are not good, can not be, the price of the materials is high, so is the cost of labor (the hand spun yarn and hand knit shawl - 270h+ in labor)
That brings it to several month of work.
Source: bazar is usually not a good source at all. so are many internet web sites that re-sell machine made shawls for hand made.
Do buy from the trusted source, if you are planning several purchases (aka coop), get one, make your call on it, keep your losses small, if you are satisfied - place another order.
Here is a Russian source that has images of good and bad shawls
images are saved from this page in case if the original article will be archived.
this is how the trade goes, pay attention at the body language of the trader (aka "shark"), they fight for every kopekken (penny :))
the shawl looks good, but the quality is poor - cheap yarn, will shed.
this one stuck heavy angora in it and is very pleased indeed
sells great, nice tourist business...
As many things in Russia Orenburg shawls have 2 sides. One is survival of the fittest in xUSSR economy , and that one was not about them when the country went buy-buy.
No support, on you own you are... That's where bazar comes from, we who buy these lead the market to where it is.
The other side are true craft, true to tradition, produces works of art, and it takes long hours to do so, these do not sell at bazar level, there people do not get it, and no one will buy, better to say bazar crown will protect themselves from these masters and will not let them come, it is not a simple world.
This is how Orenburg shawl supposed to look like and how it was before, these people do save the craft and that's why it still lives.
Masalimov family. 4 generations.
blocked shawl. Venera Massalimova