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A Day With the Orenburg Lace Shawls

May 27, 2009

Note from Sandi: When I worked in the Colorado offices of Interweave, one of my favorite things to do was to pop into the PieceWork office and see what kind of knitted glories the editor, Jeane Hutchins, had there. I loved when Jeane would let me put on white gloves and gently examine the stitches, done by some woman whom I will never know, but whose work I got to admire for a few moments. Jeane emailed me when the Orenburg shawls came in...but I was in Canada. I think my wails at missing the chance to see these lace artworks were heard for miles.

However, here's Jeane to tell you all about the day the Orenburg shawls came to visit Interweave: 

A typical workday for me is filled with juggling: e-mails, correspondence, and phone calls; editing; deciding whether objects will be sent here for photography or will we need to contact the museum in Cairo for rights and fees; contacting authors/designers with questions that must be answered before moving on; answering questions from authors/designers who are working on future issue projects; fact checking (was Marie Antoinette actually born in 1755, for example); communicating with our production coordinator (“I promise I will have the file for you in five minutes!”); and so on. But then there are days like “My Lace Shawl” day.

In early January, I met with Galina Khmeleva to go over her article and project for PieceWork's May/June 2009 Special Lace Issue. Galina and I live in the same town about 30 minutes north of Interweave, so I often stop by to pick up or drop off a project, but this time was a little different. While we were in total agreement that her article should be a tribute to her late friend, mentor, and master Orenburg lace knitter, Olga Alexandrovna Fedorova, and that the project would be an Orenburg shawl inspired by Olga and her work, I had no clue about the treat that was in store for me that day.

We started by looking at photographs of Olga that Galina had, some taken in Russia, others during Olga’s trip here in 1996 for Galina’s first Orenburg Knitted Lace workshop tour. Then we paged through Orenburgskii Pukhovyi Platok [The Orenburg Down Shawl], a limited-edition book published in Russia in 2005, which examines the centuries-old tradition of Orenburg lace knitting. We also looked at a catalog that documents the lace collection, including work by Olga, of the Orenburg Museum of Fine Arts. Both books are filled with beautiful examples of this art. Then came the icing on the cake for me: Galina opened up a trunk and extracted a quite large bundle wrapped in muslin. Inside the muslin were dozens of shawls made by Olga, including the last shawl she completed. Exquisitely made knitted-lace shawls in all shapes and sizes surrounded me; I could hold them, drape them over my shoulders, and twirl around like a small child playing dress up; I could examine them closely and marvel at Olga’s workmanship. Sheer joy. After much deliberation, I selected six to borrow for our photo shoot. Then I saw Galina’s finished project, which is magnificent. My cake wouldn’t even hold more icing.

Both putting together all the pieces of the puzzle that becomes each issue of PieceWork and special days such as mine with Galina are indications of why I truly love my job! Throw in the fact that I am totally smitten by knitted lace, and you’ll see why this May/June issue is a favorite. I do hope it will provide some icing for your cake!

-- Jeane Hutchins
Editor, PieceWork magazine

Ask for the latest PieceWork at your local yarn shop, or purchase it online from us. Or think about it--wouldn't you like it delivered right to your door? Why not subscribe and then you know you would never miss an issue!


Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. She is now the author of the popular Knitting Daily blog: What's on Sandi's Needles.

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Mamawsandy wrote
on May 31, 2009 3:33 PM
I missed out on the interweave instructions. I have never heard of it before. It there a tutorial on this in the site? I would like to read about it. Sandra
Nancy wrote
on May 28, 2009 10:10 AM
Sugar: The issue on the PieceWork is the upcoming July/August issue on Travel. It will be in subscribers homes at the end of the month and on the newsstands July 7th,
Sugar Evans wrote
on May 27, 2009 4:54 PM
What issue of piecework is shown in the bottom ad that has the lace wrist warmers?
CGJ wrote
on May 27, 2009 4:48 PM
At Stitches West, I took 2 lace classes with Galina as the teacher. Not only is she a fantastic teacher, but she brings Orenburg lace Shawls. She lets you touch them. Well, we do not touch, we pet them, and with the oh, oohs and ahs going on, that should tell you the admiration of all knitters in the class for these pieces of art.
MKelley wrote
on May 27, 2009 2:25 PM
What a treat that was!!! I was lucky enough to be able to see and purchase an Orenburg lace shawl at the Field Museum in Chicago in 2001. The museum was doing a Russian exhibit and had the shawls in the gift shop. I must admit I cannot remember what the exhibit was about due to my love for Orenburg lace.
JoannaD@3 wrote
on May 27, 2009 1:35 PM
It was a beautiful tribute to Olga Alexandrovna, and her character came through. I had a class years ago with Galina and always was fascinated by these shawls and their high level of craftsmanship. If you watch "Dr. Zhivago", Julie Christie is wearing what looks a bit like a Orenburg kerchief on her head in one scene--it's very pretty how her head is wrapped up against the cold weather. Rather early in the film. Take a look. Of course, she looked wonderful in it.
LisaD wrote
on May 27, 2009 12:45 PM
I was lucky enough to see several of those shawls in person and to meet Galina and have a short conversation about lace knitting with her at Stitches South in April. I waited impatiently for my Piecework magazine to come in.
sb wrote
on May 27, 2009 12:40 PM
I remember that 1996 trip to the US well. My spinning group was so excited to be having a special session to welcome Galina, George, and Olga to Dayton, Ohio where they would be conducting a workshop. They were the last to arrive at my friend Cay's home, and we all were anxious to meet them. When I saw Olga for the first time, it struck me that she looked much like the older women in my family, who were of Eastern European descent. I sat at her feet that evening and showed her all my spindles and how I used them. We didn't speak the same spoken language but we clearly understood each other. It was my honor to be their chauffeur while they were in Dayton and I spent most of the day with them for three days, going to class to learn to spin and knit in the style of the Orenburg shawls, learning a few words of Russian as we worked, and attending evening activities with the Dayton Knitters Guild and the Weavers Guild of Miami Valley. My knitting has always been more enthusiastic than anything else. Many times during our three days, Olga would say, "Nyet!" then take the needles out of my hands, rip out my stitches, then painstakingly hold my hands in hers as she attempted to make me the knitter she wanted me to be. The only thing I could do to make her smile was to prepare the down and spin it. She was a tolerant teacher, a perfectionist in her work, completely unpretentious though I'm sure she knew that she was the greatest shawl knitter alive. She was a really sweet woman who seemed to enjoy sharing her knowledge, expertise, and love of her craft with a new generation of knitters. The day they left, as I dropped them at their host's home for the last time, Galina told me that Olga had something to say to me. I expected to hear that Olga thought I should give away my knitting needles. Instead, Galina translated as Olga spoke, "From the moment we met, I knew you were the special one!" We hugged and I cried. I knew I probably would not see her again. She left me with the knowledge that you should always strive to make your work the very best it can be. It has been thirteen years, but she still has a special place in my heart. When I look at the Orenburg shawls I own, see an article by Galina, or just see my own Russian spindles among my collection, I remember the days spent with three new friends, and that I should always strive for excellence even if I can't be perfect!
PatK wrote
on May 27, 2009 11:57 AM
Lidija: It's not you; this is the first Knitting Daily blog post since the 22nd. Perhaps Sandi may have been away for the Memorial Day holiday? (Frankly, the "daily" part of Knitting Daily has always struck me as a bit ambitious; I'm a sem-regular blogger and I have a hard time coming up with an entry a week, much less one a day!)
on May 27, 2009 9:18 AM
Hello Sandy, Sorry, but I don't know whom to ask for this kind of help, but I didn't received any Knitting daily on-line issue since 22.May? Is something wrong, I am subscribed and my PC is ok... can you help, please? Lidija