Kazakh nomads wore vests made from local goat hair to keep warm during severe winters on the Orenburg steppes. The goat hair was among the softest and finest in the world. When Russian settlers arrived in the 17th century, they used it to knit shawls in traditional patterns. Diaphanous and virtually weightless, these shawls are remarkably warm and durable.

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What is it about the yarn used to make Orenburg shawls that makes them so warm, light and transparent?

responded: Sep 20, 2011

Posted by Talore

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The Orenburg shawl is a symbol of Russian handcrafts. It is a finely knit down lace. The fibre comes for the down of the Orenburg goats. The colour of the Orenburg shawls is dependent on the colour of the goat. Orenburg down is the thinnest in the world, which makes it soft and light. The down of the shawls is blended with silk to create a fibre similar to cashmere. This provides strength to the fibres and holds the shape of the lace. An interesting thing I discovered is that there are famous Orenburg shawls known as wedding ring shawls. These garments were knit so finely they could be pulled through a wedding ring. Also these particular shawls were knit so finely and with the whitest down that they were nearly transparent so they could be used as a wedding veil. I find this particular garment stunning! The intricacy of the lace is absolutely beautiful. I find there is such a humanistic value in handcrafted garments that require this amount if precision and complexity.

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