In Russia, you will not find anyone who has not heard of an Orenburg “downy” shawl—the warm, heavy shawl with the light, delicate lace-patterning called “cobweb.” Downy shawls are distinguished by a center design.
Every Russian also knows the song “The Orenburg Downy Shawl” (composed by G. Ponomarenko/V.Bokov, and performed by L. Zykina). It is a lyrical story of a daughter, who, feeling infinite honor for her dear mother, sends her a present, an Orenburg downy shawl. The song’s story embodies the endless obligation to mothers who gave us life, raised us, loved us, and taught us our values. This song forever united the image of the mother and the shawl in one.
The book The Orenburg Downy Shawl by Irina Bushukhina, published by Orenburg Publishing House in 2012, describes the history of downy shawls from the seventeenth century to today. Bushukhina is the art historian and director of the Orenburg Shawls gallery at the Orenburg Regional Museum of Fine Arts.
Both the song and the book inspired this Medallion shawl project. In geometric Orenburg shawls, the leading role belongs to the Diamond element. A large diamond (a square placed at an angle) decorates the center of the shawl; all other elements are arranged in relation to it and are dependent upon it. In Slavic folklore, the diamond represents the sun and the solar cycle. The diamond pattern in the middle of this shawl symbolically represents the concepts of home, sun, warmth, and well-being.
In addition to the central diamond, I included variations of the Heart element—there are 153 hearts on this shawl! Some were made with yarnovers; others are shadow-patterned. I also used Peas, Beaded Way, Strawberry, and Flies elements.
I believe that one day your Medallion Russian Shawl will protect you from the vicissitudes of life!
Inna Voltchkova was born and raised in Kiev, the oldest city in Eastern Europe, started knitting when she was ten years old, and is a graduate of the Kiev National University of Technology and Design. A trip in 1991 to Chicago introduced her to the love of her life, and she moved to the Chicago area. For the past twenty years her passion has been lace knitting, especially Russian-style lace. She has worked with Galina Khmeleva’s Skaska Designs for many years and is a frequent contributor to PieceWork. Follow her at Russian Knitting Design on Facebook.
Download a copy of the September/October 2015 issue of PieceWork to knit your own “Medallion Russian Shawl to Knit.”