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Friday, January 3, 2014

A Russian shawl kitting. American dvd

I did a review of a warm shawl description once in an american magazine here 
 It looks like when things end up in the video it is more interesting.
I did watch dvd by Galina Khmeleva about what she presents as Orenburg lace shawl knitting technique.
It was nice to see Olga Fedorova gossamers in background once again, it was very nice to see the close ups of Olga's lace while the presenter was talking about stitch definition and when I got past English language mistakes and heavy accent it did become a bit better for me to listen to it.
It's a good idea to make a DVD about once personal knitting method. It's not necessary that that method supposed to have name Orenburg gossamer method on it. The presenter references Olga Fedorova as her teacher and the fact that her presentation is by the Olga's teachings. These particular statements, very heavy aran yarn and thick knitting needles did pick my interest.
So, let's take a closer look at what Olga did and what other lace makers do and if there is that short row turning corners anywhere in Olga's book or on her shawls, or on any Orenburg museum catalog shawls for example.
In my own work and in my own rather humble by Orenburg museum measure (not more then 1\3 when it comes to items count) collection I did not see anything like what Galina shows - short rows. There is no extra tooth at the corner.

It turn out Olga Fedorova did not teach that kind of a thing as short rows at school of arts according to her successor. Her book teaches it differently. It's how her students I personally know knit - no short rows, no extra teeth. Olga has passed, her book is printed, her students knit as many other women in Orenburg region, and that region is not very far from civilization as that dvd presenter states in the very beginning of the part 1. Not too far to not have internet and such.
Let's take a look. here is the short rows and extra teeth at the bottom.

and the dvd teaches to do same complicated short row thing at the top.
what's interesting is that her other samples and all the shawl she bought in Orenburg region she has in the background do not have short rows and extra teeth either. Here is a sampler that has no short rows.
 and in fact it can not...
that bit of lace under double diagonals prevents that. and indeed that would be quite common for this lace for the complex teeth. Orenburg lace is a folk art form, they do not have a habit to develop multiple tricks and features to handle this and that. It if's teeth it's one method, no matter how complex they are. Think about it as about technology, well tested  one.

Let's take a look at Olga's book how is it done there. Here is my copy.
please take a look at the picture that show general template for a gossamer and please pay attention how the teeth are positioned. this way is in her charts as well
Now let's go to the pages with the sample shawl
Please take a look at the picture. it's 4x4 teeth square. there is no extra 5-th and 6-th tooth at the bottom, neither at the top. no short rows were there. what was there? Same thing as on many many shawls from that region and same thing that is on my own shawls. Knit that last tooth to the narrowest point of it and pick up the bottom and flat side of the ribbon stitches, knit to left tooth, turn work around, knit back to the end of the row. Done. That's it. And it works and worked for many many shawls with simple and complex teeth. It does not work on aran yarns. Because no one makes gossamers from aran yarns to begin with. This is what in Olga's book and on the gray shawl (one would recognize very particular wide border on the gray shawl and very particular 5-circle pattern from Fedorova house hold, it's her sister's own shawl. My mother owns it now, and I take care of it.)
The book pages: teeth ribbon start
bottom teeth turning
the page and the next ones

even if one can not read Russian the pictures tell the story. there is simply no extra 2 teeth in them.
Neither there is any additional teeth ad the top.

Gray shawl.
Fedorova signature pattern close up

it's corners counter clockwise 1,2,3,4 from bottom left, right, top right, left
Here is another shawl that has traveled many exhibitions around the world . all 4 it's corners
Where are short rows and extra teeth on these? they do not exist. the corners are turned at their narrowest points. Here is mine, I do not have short rows either.
no short rows, take a look how is it blocked
there is a video as well to prove there is no short rows on this one and it has wide complex teeth and as you can see it's not broken or deformed etc, no described in dvd potential 'corner disaster'.

In this particular dvd the corners of the shawl are simply turned at a widest point. In Orenburg lace the teeth are turned at the narrow point.
Why one would invent something like that or present it as a common regional technique? There is a small statement in the dvd that suggests that the idea was rejected by the knitting professional community in the region. I suspect it's because simple teeth could be turned that way, not complex ones so, the lace would be shifted by short rows plus and minus stitches and create not desirable holes and pull the yo where they not supposed to be going. Only a tooth that has solid garter triangle and enough of it (4 stitches garter area to be exact) can survive short rows method without making undesirable holes in the lace.

Nothing wrong with describing a personal method in a DVD. Nothing wrong with teaching something on heavy yarns. If one really feels strongly that's how they want to teach more power to them. It's not necessary that this kind of educational material should have Orenburg lace making label on it. It's is quite... innovative... to try to stick gossamer pattern on aran yarn ... by Orenburg measure. Orenburg lace knitting students or children or adults are not taught on yarns heavier than iris cotton yarn, think your average crochet 20/2 yarn basically. It's quite a lot thinner than aran. Why would one teach like that I can not quite understand. We have digital cameras these days, they have no issues with resolution to handle fine yarns and show that clearly. It's being that way for over 10 years in professional film makers world.
I do not teach personally on heavy yarns what applies to gossamer yarns.
Orenburg knitters do not knit by looking at it, they do not struggle with contrast yarn-needles selection. They watch tv and knit at the same time, well that folk have seeing on news several times. When they see that a pro knits and reads at the same time some observers do freak out so, kind of 'blow ones mind effect' is happening. It's not really much different then when folk eat their breakfast and read a morning news paper. humans multitask quite well. Orenbureg lace knitting for a pro is more tactile than visual. That's why they learn on particular yarns. They train hands. Aran would feel different, a lot different.

Regarding the needles. I'm not sure why one would suggest to make gossamer lace on us size 0-3 needles. Orenburg lace warm shawls are made on 1.75-2 mm needles or finer 1.5 mm ; 2 mm is US size 0. Gossamers are done on 1.5 mm and finer. beaded shawl of 1000 stitches and up - 1 mm needles, 1.25 top.
I did make a gossamer item on 2 mm needles. It does come out with less fine gauge than I personally like, and I put it when I want over simplified almost rustic-military feel to it, it's an exception for me more than a rule. gossamer average needles are 1.5mm. Why? Because that's how Russian dpn's come. they are 1.5mm. That simple.

So where are these short rows in Olga's work.
Does anyone have a shawl that belongs to her hand that has extra teeth on it?.. Anyone?
Are these as difficult to locate as Galina's own shawl made by her from fiber to hand spun yarn to finished object? Items made from commercial yarn and simple lace patterns - I've seeing plenty. Expert level hand spun shawls - that I never came across, neither came across someone who have seeing one of them. Meaning not the shawls she bough in Russia and shows in her classes or videos. Ones that she made herself.
I keep reading from Interveawe and affiliated sources that she is an expert in this lace. They have published plenty nice looking marketing articles. Lot's of promotional effort.
Orenburg lace makers measure that simple - show your shawl. Done.
Did anyone see her shawl? Something above common pattern from Orenburg or Saractash bazar (her 3 pattern book), something above writing up another pro lace maker shawl (Eastern star pattern description).
Orenburg pro's usually do not count simple scarves, the train children like that.
Did anyone see her shawl or has a picture? I'd love to see one of those.


  1. Wow You really know your knotting, I do knitting at times, but I am still like a child in the area. Your article is very interesting and I do tatting or frivolite I think in other places it is called that.
    I understand what you are saying and I feel this woman's work is not to be found because she only studies and teaches and uses others work for demonstrations. I is very hard when someone with fame makes a statement, everyone just believes it and life goes on. The sad thing about most fiber Art is that there is no signature to go with it. I hope people care about your work and realize what you are saying, and it does matter. Thank You for postings and greetings from Carollyn :)

    1. Thank you for your comment Carollyn.
      I did a simple thing, put video conference between US and Orenburg and streamed that video to several pros, including successor of Olga Fedorova and her friend. I'll write up a small report to that account and I have the permission to post their comments about the dvd content. They feel like they need to respond to this

  2. Hello, Dear! I read your post and now try to recall Galina Khmeleva's DVD. I borrowed it from our guild and watched. I honestly MADE myself to watch it. It was painful to see and listen. So much pride and so little true Orenburg knitting knowledge. So sad that people buy this DVD thinking it is the way and it is only the way.... Seriously thinking of going to Interweave store and write a short review about this so called Orenburg lace of hers.

    1. yes, it is quite sad that material quality for this particular knitting and spinning techniques Interveave has chosen to publish is significantly different from what they publish regarding American, English, Shetland, Australian techniques.
      I'd much prefer to see the same level I've seen on Margaret Stove DVD's or Judith McKenzie to name a few examples.
      Second dvd like that makes me ask a question is there some kind of particular love Interveave is expressing in this way to Russian professional shawl making community

  3. And another note. It is not some kind of super top secret exclusive knowledge the DVD speaker possesses and claims that's was passed to her. Orenburg lace is not about secrets. The knowledge is gladly passed upon those who is seeking it. This is taught at public schools.
    What DVD presenter explains is rather complicated, it requires her to be present as a class instructor. Orenburg lace is not that over complicated and secretive. It never has being. It never had a reason to be that way.

  4. Sounds like she is trying to take all the credit, and had to tell the world that she is the only one that can do this. We have that problem with some women that do tatting they think they invented it :) The internet is great but some people found a way to make up things and we in the other part of the world don't know any better.

  5. I don't understand why Russian Lily needs to tear down Galina's work. There must be some personal issues going on here. But I do have an issue with her misinterpretations stated above such as the weight of the yarn (which Galina uses so that students can see clearly what she is doing) and the critique about an assumed point in the corner (which is due to an unblocked swatch). Galina has never taught that there is a tooth in the corner. I think that Russian Lily is either jealous or needs an attitude adjustment.

    1. Regarding the way how Russians are taught ... say children or knitting students. They are taught on lace weight for warm shawls and gossamer for gossamers, that has never changed, you can pull Russian videos for that, plenty to see on youtube. Any American based teacher is free to teach the way they desire and find suitable, that is their thing. I teach basic knitting class on heavy yarns. Gossamer class is taught on lace weight for warm shawls and on gossamer for gossamers. Students need to know how to control such a yarn and what to do with it. I'm not making money in it it's a charity kind of a thing, I'm not in this business. However modern video equipment has no issues with capturing such a yarn weight, if one would like a good example from the same video produces then videos of Margaret Stove would be a good example. From me as a consumer I'd like to see documentary versus marketing video. Others like more marketing videos than me, nothing wrong with that at all. I disagree with marketing strategy and labels used on that particular DVD. It describes her own fusion method.
      Regarding the way how corners are turned I'd like to refer you to Galina's book and you can see there the short rows. This kind of a method never took off in Orenburg region, locals do not use it. That kind of method is used by some knitters who used to work Haapsaluy yarn and shawls and try other regional methods or do internet knowledge fusion. When it comes to tradition of the particular region they should be described as they are if the dvd is about them, they are geared for the particular type of the yarn, that's all to it, why change? If dvd is about personal method, then call it that way, why one should be shy about it?
      If Galina does not sell that yarn and sells something different she naturally adapts her method for the yarns she sells. That would make perfect marketing sense. DVD is a marketing tool, seems logical to present there what works for her. It is not necessary exactly same thing that is used in Orenburg region. Fusion is not bad, it is fusion. Tradition is not bad either, it is tradition. They are different and both exist.
      Narrow market yarn business.., let's be realistic, all the time on the road, modest income from trade shows, a lot of marketing work, and the list goes on. People do not get ultra rich in narrow market of crafts and arts. Small volumes, a lot of time on the road. Do you feel jealous about such a job? I do not. If I'd do textiles investments then high risk narrow market would be far from the top of my list to invest my resources in the current market