These extremely fine shawls have been traditionally knit by ladies in and around Orenburg, Russia. The designs are quite geometric and the construction unique and efficient. The traditional yarn--goat down plied with thin single-ply silk--is handspun on lightweight supported spindles.
Unlike Shetland shawl knitting, which is popular enough to support commercially available yarn and a wealth of patterns, genuine Orenburg yarn cannot be purchased and charted designs are basically limited to those in Galina's books. In fact, Ravelry's knitqueen05 has knitted most of Galina's patterns--over and over and over. Yike!
I am intrigued by the fineness of the spinning and the luxurious feel of these shawls (I got to fondle them at the Skaska booth at Stitches South). I am intrigued enough to actually think about spinning again. (Opal, I don't want to hear about it.)
The thought made my brain cramp--I was shearing sheep and spinning before most of you were even born. My flock of rare non-white sheep and the byproducts thereof put me through graduate school.
I can't say that I enjoyed spinning. I recall with a grimace the lady who brought me Samoyed dog combings every year so I could spin sweater yarn for her. No matter how carefully or with what I washed the yarn, it retained its appalling dog odor and had to be dried as far from my house as possible. Worse, my cats hated the stuff and I had to leave it hanging in the barn lest it get clawed back into fluff again.
However, I did win several blue ribbons at the state fair for my fine skeins of lace yarns (90 wpi!), so the thought of spinning yarn for an Orenburg doesn't make me faint.
Times have changed since the 60's, when only a few types of wheels were available for purchase. As I wandered around the Internet spinning sites, I chanced upon the perfect solution for whipping out fine yarns without straining the shoulder or knee.
Warning!! All you spinners out there are about to toss rotten tomatoes at your screen. Spinning snobs should exit now!!!
Look: an electric charkha!
Fetchingly made from PVC pipe, a wheelchair wheel, and a knitting needle, Babe's Electric Liten Spindle Charkha Wheel entranced me. It weighs only two pounds and disassembles into a small box of giblets for compact storage. It's made for spinning gossamer-weight yarns and the motor assures a nice even pace for drafting.
I haven't quite justified the cost to myself yet. I may decide that the entire concept is too much trouble and just use some gossamer-weight cashmere to knit an Orenburg. On the other hand, new horizons beckon. I wouldn't want to get bored, now would I?
Harry, of course, thinks the concept is wonderful. At last he will have someone who can repair his disgraceful web. "Male spiders may knit, but they don't waste their time producing spider silk," he sniffed. "And cashmere batt will make an excellent mattress."