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Valentina’s Shawl to Knit

Olga Fedorova designed this Orenburg-style lace shawl in 1991. Her sister, Valentina, has been knitting the pattern from memory since then.

Galina Khmeleva Nov 25, 2019 - 18 min read

Valentina’s Shawl to Knit Primary Image

This absolutely gorgeous shawl with traditional Orenburg elements was designed by Olga Fedorova and knitted with a blend of silk and camel yarn by Kim Wilson, one of Galina Khmeleva’s students. Photos by Matt Graves.

For much of Valentina Fedorova’s adult life, she worked in the shadow of her older sister Olga Fedorova, a lace-knitting prodigy. I first met Olga and Valentina in June 1990, during a visit to Orenburg and the Orenburg Regional Museum of Fine Arts. I had the opportunity to develop a close working relationship with Olga, and I was honored to learn from her. At that time, Valentina worked as a bookkeeper for a local gas company, though she continued to develop and foster her creative side.

My early attempts to market Orenburg knitted lace shawls in Europe did not meet with much success: Europe’s mild climate wasn’t suitable for this type of lace, and the local Orenburg women never embraced it. After a subsequent show in Paris, I traveled back to Orenburg to meet with the Fedorova sisters about the prospect of starting production of triangular Orenburg-style shawls. According to some in the local Orenburg knitting community, a triangle-shaped shawl was nothing more than a “poor women’s shawl,” which is reminiscent of an old Russian saying: “a goat is a poor man’s cow.” Nevertheless, the classical Orenburg triangle found its genesis during this period in Olga Fedorova’s creative mind.

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