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Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Orenburg region is far away from civilization" - Orenburg Knitting: Knitting Gossamer Webs with Galina Khmeleva Video Part 1 and 2 review

Orenburg Knitting: Knitting Gossamer Webs with Galina Khmeleva Video part one contains significant amount of general historic and cultural information that could use some improvements and considerable amount of marketing material, contains general instructions about continental knitting with thick yarns, no actual shawl knitting is shown in this part of the video, authentic shawls are.demonstrated in the background with some close up shots. Part 2 of the video shows 6x6 teeth sample shawl made of thick yarn on large size needles, after that follows Russian grafting without yarn, overview of grafting with yarn, some base patterns samples are shown already made, no pattern knitting demos, base patterns overview took a bit under 7 minutes in 3h,15 min of the total video material, then followed a dry blocking sample. No patterns samples are shown in gossamer yarn. 2 additional patterns are shown - nups and star made in thick yarn (for a sweater or thicker).

Let's begin the detailed review. I withdraw my comments on multiple mistakes I've spotted in the actual material to keep this post shorter.

Part 1:
0-4:30 min.
"Today we will discuss about Orenburg knitting tradition, because Orenburg kintting tradition is part of my life. I've spended one third of my life to be sure 23 years to research to learn and to teach how to make them and how to take care of them because for many women in Orenurg region this is their whole life business or their activity."

"Orenburg region is far away from civilization, even if it's a big city with like 6 thousand in population and Orenburg region is a little bit smaller than size of France it's quite remote region. This is tight where Russia devide by Ural mountains on European part of Russian and Asia. Ural mountain comes from northern of Russia south of Russia and where is Orenburg region located. Orenburg region is quite low old city originated 1743 you can calculate how old is city. did people live there before? Of course they live. They found out the population of goat that were in wild it's good source of fiber what people start to use to create warm cozy and expensive item for their survival because winter is brutal. Believe me I have being there and I do not recommend you to go somewhere in February or in January because this is snow storm snow blizzard ice everywhere white white white and not so pleasant memory you will can bring from this trip. I recoment you to go in summer time. Growing season very short because people start plan plant all their vegetables after frost similar like everywhere but this will be end of May and frost can be already in Oktober snow on the ground.
Women in this Orenburg region they created their own very unique knitting style. They kick out everything what slow down their process to make money because this is was not a hobby not activity on their spare time this was strictly for survival  reason not only to put shawl on their body to keep body warm but also to earn money."


This is not my English text. This is the actual text from the part 1 of the video as one would hear it there. it does illustrate quite accurately the overall language style. The presenter is speaking with exaggerated Russian accent for some reason. This video text sample somewhat leads me to wiki about Orenburg from which follows that Orenburg is  not quite so far from the civilization; it is a megalopolis with over 500000 people population according to census  and significant trade and industrial center with well over 300 years history.  This "far away from civilization" city  is a home to several large oil and energy companies (TNK, Gasprom to name a few, and Orenburg lace is one of the pet projects for the ladies of those oil-gas tycoons - on the side note) and a large transportation hub, has 4 universities and many colleges. To cut to the chase we are not talking about a tiny village on remote outskirts of Russia. High speed internet there is pretty normal thing among plenty other modern things.
It would be better for Interweave just put 'read that text' monitor and write the text. The rest of the dvd has very similar level of general information accuracy.

And the climate graph one can see just as well with record high and low on the referenced above wiki page.

Having that little bit said to set the tone about the region we are talking about. Not remote, quite modern infrastructure. Every region of Russia has remote villages, just like there is rural America. People live everywhere. When it comes to Orenburg I'm not quite sure why Galina would advise to "do not go there in winter, January-February". Everyone in the region knows that's the Orenburg down buying season. There is none of that fiber of shawl making quality available in summer, all sold out by February-March and pre-spoken even earlier before the beginning of the year. Galina suggests to buy pygora instead. Well if one goes there in summer they can buy combed from the goats by hand Volgograd down that exceeds  quality of  pygora and significantly cheaper there. The dvd has overall quite a lot of marketing (both direct and indirect) of upper scale yarns when it comes to the price of the yarns marketed by this video.

Overall content of the video targets beginning knitters. Cats are very cute. By 30 min in I wanted see knitting demonstrations and wanted to see a lace knitter working the gossamer webs lace.

Galina has quite interesting overview of what Orenburg shawl is and what Orenburg warm shawls are and how they have lace only around edges and that shawl with not 5 holes in teeth "never sleep overnight in Orenburg". Also that a gossamer needs to have not more than 4 elements "because if you put all 10 of them no one will understand what you wanted to show".

It is all quite interesting and not exactly close to reality.
When it comes to amount of holes, 5 is a common, however there are shawls made with 3 holes teeth, 7, 9, 15 or even amount of holes. Largest shawl made has more than 5 holes in it's teeth and it did sleep well over night in Orenburg. was made there.

For example, that one is Guinness World Record of knitting at the same time from what I understood they got it.

Here is the link to GRTK Orenburg news channel video of the same event.
Please pay attention at how their hands work gossamer web yarn. This is what is never shown in Galina's video.

For some reason such things as method of construction (wide border,frame, center, all over lace, medallion, 5-circle) of this type of lace was overlooked. Olga Fedorova shawls in the background are exceptional, the video would greatly benefit if more details of that work were shown versus substitute yarns marketing. Or for example how do real lace makers work.
And that style of knitting has not changed from older documentary
to these days if one would look at the Guinness World Record knitting in Orenburg videos. They do not look when they knit. The needles are 1.25-2mm with most common size 1.5mm, not larger size wooden needles Galina is using in the video. She shows 2mm needles she has collected, used large size ones. The knitting technique is also optimized for the lace. For some reason in both part 1 and part 2 of her video nothing like that is shown. Neither tactile aspect of the lace making was even mentioned anywhere in the Interweave's video.

On disk 1 after 45+ minutes of talking and yarn marketing we finally get to some knitting demonstration.
Russian knitting is called continental possible because Russian a yarn pickers not yarn throwers.
Everything regarding the content that is in that demo from 45 min all the way to the end of the disk 1 any knitter can see on youtube for free in Russian or English if they desire. Published years before for free
archclif channel
and many more. in fact this has more educational material about Russian knitting technique  compared to the content of the dvd past 45 min.
these videos are also listed on ravelry Russian knitting technique forum pages. free.
So by the end of part 1 there was no actual gossamer lace knitting seeing in the video.
That counts for 1h 20 min of time.

And that's a little bit of technology, live video stream to Orenburg and we indeed were talking about it
by the end of disk 1 my colleagues in Russia got lost just I was about where the lace knitting part is in that video is. That has happen in aran thick yarn in disk 2, the sample 6x6 teeth shawl was shown, it counts for slightly more than 1h of video time, it was watched quite carefully and Orenburg lace makers did not recognize any of it at their own techniques. Well except of common knit, yarn over, 2 together stitches. Ekaterina Godovova does not recognize any of Galina's techniques as something Olga Fedorova has taught. She is successor of Olga Fedorova, took her place at Orenburg School of Arts when Olga has retired, , was Olga's student at Orenburg School of arts herself, was Olga's friend, she makes lace for many years, her work  in is Orenburg museum. Neither her lace maker grandmother (makes lace to these days) has recognized any of Galina's techniques as applicable to Orenburg lace. That's what I was asked to pass as the video feedback. She has also commented on overall Galina's way of knitting and how her knitting hands work. You can compare that with how Orenibrg lace maker's hands work. Galina creates much movement and to much instability in her knitting work. That's by Orenburg lace measure.

When it comes to way Orenburg lace makers knit and how they teach, please see some of the documentary I've listed in this post. Whoever has bought Galina's video can compare them and her in the way how their hands work. Both slow speed (older documentary, lady teaching a child) and actual speed of knitting and the way it's done.

After 1h time mark follow base patterns. To 1h7min. About 7 min total overview. They are already made samples, about fingering weight yarn. No knitting demo is provided for them. No samples are shown in actual gossamer yarn. One looks like it's made in warm shawl (lace not gossamer) yarn.
And by the way, accordion is not difficult to knit and one does not need to check charts constantly.Orenburg lace making simply taught differently back home if compared to how Galina's dvd shows or presents it. I would say it is over complicated in her video quite a lot. Not sure why and why it needs to be made to look so complex like no one can do it. Children in Russia can do it.

1h7min-1h20min: Never seen by Galina anywhere outside of Orenburg method of grafting of corners has a name - Russian grafting without yarn. It is quite common thing.  1h7min of video time mark to next over 1h20 min is Russian grafting one can see free on youtube. Just search for "Russian grafting". Ravelry group Russian knitting technique also has this video listed on pages. That's how most of Russian graft. There is also grafting with yarn. And for gossamers that is what used by many Orenburg lace makers.
1h.20-1h.25 - grafting with yarn using k3tog. That method is used in Orenburg.
1:25-1:38 dry block demo followed by a bit more self marketing talking. No frame blocking is shown, no wet blocking.
1h.45 - demo of nups and star pattern. No one knows which way and where does the star pattern  belong in Orenburg lace. Another very own Galina's perspective. nups exist on bazar shawl in in minimum amount on higher end shawls from some areas of Orenburg region. These are listed under "additional patterns" in the video.

What surprised me the most in this video is complete lack of actual gossamer lace making in the video, no tactile and visual references important for actual lace making and no knitting of the base patterns. She suggests to do them by the charts. This is not how Russian lace makers are taught. They are taught to track these pattern and their neighborhoods. Pattern tracking skill set was not mentioned anywhere in the dvd.
In general would I say this video teaches how to make Orenburg lace? Maybe I'm missing something, but I did not see gossamer web knitting in that dvd. I would ask Interweave to put actual real Orenburg lace maker on camera and make documentary at least if they want to show how Orenburg lace is made. In the end one would learn from the lace maker. That's the old way of things. It is not like they all are hiding and impossible to find. There are several waves of Russian immigration for goodness sake in America. Just find the lace maker and start filming. Trust me, you will be surprised how fluid and easy the actual skill set is. You need to film someone making that type of the lace and ask simple questions and act as a child who wants to learn. You will be amazed at the level of knowledge transfer and the willingness to teach if you show you want to learn not just make a quick $$ of it. That's the Russian way. No need to re-invent . After all , dear Interveawe, you put in the video title "Orenburg Knitting: Knitting Gossamer Webs". Just start filming exactly that. Meaning lace maker versus marketing, meaning thread versus aran yarn, meaning properly sized for the yarn needles. And just start filming. Things will fall in place like in any good documentary, they usually do.

I hope to see gossamer lace making in the video from Interweave some day. This video is great as general beginning knitter introduction the personal technique of the particular pattern designer. If the name would be "Knitting with Galina Khmeleva" that would match the content. It would show that this is her personal experience and her personal interpretation. It's great for beginners who are seeking some entertainment and some cultural context  from some foreign and exotic far away place, they may even buy some new yarn and some new needles after that.
When a DVD has in the title "Orenburg Knitting: Knitting Gossamer Webs" it means you are using the particular famous regional lace technique to market your product. And using that name in the title would drive you plenty customers instantly. Thas is well known by many generations of the merchants - the power of Orenburg lace in marketing. For 300 years this name was driving customers to the merchants who were using it. These shawls earned name "Russian white gold", "Russian miracle". It is very particular method, yarns, techniques, tradition. This should not be forgotten among the marketing efforts. None of the video has a person knitting Orenburg gossamer webs. Which mean a person is teaching to work with 60/2 nm or finer yarns if you are trying to use a substitute yarn of some kind. Not aran an fingering at the thinnest. It means there is a person in the video teaching the particular set of base patterns, it would be very nice to have it longer than 7 min overview. The person would be treating the techniques developed in the region to work with these yarns accordingly and accurately. Famous names from that region should not be used for marketing purposes alone. Putting name Orenburg knitting in the tile is saying quite a lot. This name was hard earned by these shawl of exceptional quality of yarn and hand work, they did it centuries before Interweave company was established. It puts certain obligations on the marketing department that decided to use such a famous name. It does set certain expectations.

5 comments:

  1. Your analysis of this person's work is very interesting. I met the author of this work about 20 years ago when she first came to the US, and I wasn't as impressed with her as many people were. That has only continued over the years. I can understand simplifying the process so that less skilled spinners and knitters could produce something similar that they can be proud of, but that doesn't seem to be the way it's being represented.

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  2. Basically it's continental knitting with large needles and yarns with some Russian folk flare on top. It's one particular designer look at things how she believes they are done and how she has adapted those thing to be used with yarns 5-10 times thicker than what authentic yarns are. Gossamer lace techniques are long gone by the time the yarn becomes that thick.. The techniques used in Orenburg gossamer lace making remain beyond the scope of this dvd. It is simply about something else. It does not target a lace maker. It targets some general auditorium, some general knitter that is looking for some next new thing and may buy some yarns and needles if told that particular cool thing is sure is going to be a miracle and luxurious.
    It is different from Russian lace making mindset in it's core. Russian lace maker focuses on teaching the person to make their own lace. It takes a bit more than 7 min lace patterns overview.

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  3. Thank you for this post! I was upset after watching DVD also. It teaches NOTHING of Orenburg and I agree - over-complicates a lot. Another thing - I met Galina at one of the fiber shows and she didn't left me a warm fuzzy feeling... I really was very excited to meet her. Instead I got pure business like women. Very sad.

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    Replies
    1. I think, it's just a simple marketing mistake has happen. Pattern and technique works with the yarn. They are never apart in Russian lace. I agree the dvd gave me the business woman feel as well, the one who is selling yarns and fibers of her personal selection, and that's where her strength is - in sales and marketing, she is very good at it. Interweave got the sale platform wrong.
      The techniques that work with her yarns are in Ukraine, Volgograd, Kazakhstan, they are in warm shawls. Ukrainian lace blows the pattern out and works with mohair and it's fingering yarn. Volgograd has the wide border techniques that withstands yarns of sports weight and with the high halo (at airports when I have my kiddo wrapped in one of those I get 'did you use a lama skin rug?' because they think it's like a woolly-fur blanket :) ), Kazakhstan also blows the lace out and they knit on large needles. Or simply look at Alaskan lace where the locals work with qiviet. That would make a fun eclectic platform to sell her yarns. Lace of Orenburg is cool, many think to make one of these is something beyond an average human. When it’s actually not. I had the other day entire class of people spinning gossamer yarn and some were going down to 60/2 silk thickness in their 2-ply yarns, meaning they all were producing at least 50/1 nm to 120-140/1 nm singles and almost the entire class raised their when I asked who thought they never could do it. It is really not that beyond human abilities, humans are simply amazing learning new things. Age does not matter, background does not mater. What matters is fear and tightness it producers. In the mind and in the body. One simply has guts and not afraid to say, hey folk, these techniques did not work for me on so and so yarns, these yarns are so cool and lovely that I simply do not have a heart to pass on them (no American yarnee would pass any judgment on that one, they totally relate), and that’s what I came up with ad that extra corner does it and that is what I invented. And I use this and this is my very own thing because I love these yarns and I want to use them and make cool things out of them. And then take the lace from other regions and create a fun and eclectic platform. This sets the designer apart from others enough to be notices. And creates her own path. If I’d be at her place and level running around the country traveling most of the time and running a yarn shop that’s what I’d do, because running yarn sales here is tough. One needs to optimize their efforts. And would look like an eclectic and fun platform, they are simply popular platforms. She already has her own platform, it has being so many years. It does not need to have name “Orenburg” attached to it for the sales sake. I’m saying it from lace maker point of view. And maybe to sell her yarns she has to do something different.

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    2. I’d call an eclectic platform ‘warm and cozy lace’ technique. And make items just like that. Modern ones. Lace does not have to be just gossamer to be beautiful. Lace can be warm, cozy, lovely, and it can have beads on it and tussles and fun yarn balls that would remind one Russian northern folk costumes (and other regions just as well) and then take Russian embroidery to it and do lace trim and color work. And there are no limits in thicker yarns. And it’s going to sound like ethno rock to some. And some totally love it. And tada! We have it. That’s what I did with my bactus stuff. I put Orenburg warm shawl border on it, changed 1 stitch in particular place. Tada, ethno rock . No need to put the whole gossamer deal on it. And market it to younger ones. They think it’s cool. Mama thinks when I put Orenburg lace in color that’s not proper. And she is right. Colored lace has to be simple on thicker yarns. I can see a good point in it. That kind of lace can be eclectic. My granny by the end understood that part, she could not do much of anything, the body grew old, but the soul was young in her. That soul got the picture. And I have the modern part of my lace and the classic one. I think Interweave holds Galina back with whole “Orenburg” label attached to what he does on her own. Her own creative part got lost in that marketing deal. That part to me is sad. Maybe it is a reflection of what one has to do to survive in tough market.

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