Musings on Orenburg lace

Today is the third consecutive day of wind speeds over 45mph and I am heartily sick of it. It has also poured with rain for much of that time, but today we have sleet and snow for a change. None of it is settling though, thanks to the gales. The rivers are high and are breaching their banks all over the county, yet again. Many trains and flights have been cancelled, lorries are being blown over on the motorways and mature trees are rocking alarmingly. It is weather fit only for staying indoors and enjoying crafty pursuits.

Tank topI am slogging away on the sleeveless sweater I’m knitting. 238 stitches in fine yarn in a simple 4-row broken rib is proving tedious, but I’ll reach the armholes soon and then at least it will get more interesting. I’m going to work the back first, then the front, on two needles, as I did for the gansey I made in 2014.

natalie feather-stitch sweaterAs for the neckline, I think a round neck would be best, and about the same depth as this Natalie sweater. That was worked in a similar oiled 4-ply, which means I might be able to just copy the decreases from that pattern (it’s from a book called ‘Knit Vintage’) and avoid having to work them out. I’ll first need to check that the tension is much the same, of course.

Senses LaceWhile knitting this simple stuff, my unstretched mind has been wandering to what I might make next. On a whim a couple of years ago I bought two balls of a 20% mohair, 80% acrylic yarn by Stylecraft called called Senses Lace. It was reduced in a local branch of Boyes to a mere 50p per 50g ball – silly not to at that price, right? But I had no idea what to do with it, partly because it’s a rather unusual deep red/purple shade that is hard to match with anything.

Browsing Ravelry, I came across a lace tradition I hadn’t heard of before, Orenburg. Orenburg lace originates from the Russian city of the same name, which is near the Kazakhstan border. The lace is (mostly) worked on a garter stitch ground and used for downy shawls made from the local super-fine goat hair. The stitch patterns are simple combinations of yarnovers and K2togs, and the lace appears similar to many Shetland lace patterns. The classic square Orenburg shawl also looks (from the little research I have done, at least) very like many a Shetland shawl, with a method of construction that bears some resemblance too, and an equal reputation for being able to pass through a wedding ring.

I’ve only 500m of the Senses Lace yarn, which means I will have to use it for something lacy if I want anything bigger than a pair of gloves or a beanie. I fancy a little shoulder poncho to wear over a sleeveless top or sundress on summer evenings. There’s a design on Ravelry, Calypso Capelet, that ticks many of my boxes, except that it starts with the lower border knitted flat (and then joined) before stitches are picked up to work the body of the garment in the round. I don’t like picking up stitches on something so light and airy that will be worn against bare skin – the additional bulk may be visible and it may rub – and I would rather have a top-down design so that I can keep going for as long as the yarn does. I’m going to have to produce my own pattern.

Cat’s paw

With that in mind, I’ve been looking into the various Orenburg stitch patterns. I found the marvellous blog Knitting Today that covers the subject in a post entitled How to Knit Orenburg Lace. One of the ten stitch patterns featured is even called Cat’s Paws, just like its Shetland equivalent. I will need to knit a swatch of all of these patterns and decide which to incorporate in my poncho. The other basic steps are to decide what size and shape it should be, and to choose what needle size to use so that I can work out how many stitches are needed at each stage as I work from the lower edge up to the neckline.

About yorkshirecrafter

I live and work in West Yorkshire.  I've always enjoyed crafts of all types, from woodwork to lace-making.  I also enjoy anything mathematical, which makes knitting a favourite pastime, especially complicated designs.  I've been advising businesses and industry on environmental matters for 30 years and also have an interest in green living, especially where it saves me money. I live with my husband and our Maine Coon in a 100-year-old cottage that constantly needs something doing to it.  Fortunately, I enjoy DIY too.
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