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 21, 2011

Posted by Caitlin M

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Orenburg shawls are made of a unique Russian goat down. The breed of goats in Orenburg provides a soft and light down, which is also very durable. The more the shawl is worn, the better the fabric looks. Although the shawl is very thin it offers warmth in the cold Russian winters. Orenburg knit has a very fine texture of 16-18 micrometers, which makes it very light. It is believed that the damp climate of Orenburg is the reason for the unique qualities of the down texture. In the nineteenth century, the Orenburg goats were imported to France and their hair became very coarse in the new climate. The down used for the Russian shawls is carefully brushed and spun by hand into yarn. The yarn is then knitted into a geometrical pattern, which is as thin as a spider web. Many patterns that are used come from a family’s past generations and are unique to one family. The Orenburg goat down is stronger than wool, which makes it durable for everyday use and a long lasting garment.

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