Somewhere, somehow, the thought occurred to me to spin and knit lace shawls in the traditional ways of different places around the world. First it was the Icelandic shawl. Now it's cashmere.
When I first started spinning, I did not love spindles. My first spindle was a drop spindle, and I always say it's called a "drop" spindle for a reason. But when I learned how to spin on a wheel, suddenly spindles made sense, and I somehow began collecting them.
And years before that, I'd checked out Galina Khmeleva's book Gossamer Webs: The History and Techniques of Orenburg Lace Shawls. At the time, I'd just finished knitting my second lace shawl and was intrigued to find out more about lace knitting, but felt the intricate Orenburg shawls a bit out of my reach, both in terms of skills and budget.
But last spring, when I saw Galina's company, Skaska Designs, at a fiber festival, it made sense that I should pick up a Russian spindle of my own.
Russian spindles are typically support spindles - meaning they don't hang suspended while you're spinning like with a drop spindle. Instead, you use a bowl and spin the spindle like a top. It took me a bit of practice - and watching some videos - to get the hang of it, but once I did, it was pretty easy.
Of course, since I was spinning laceweight yarn, it took me quite a while to spin the singles. I had about two ounces of cashmere, and from what I can tell, I started spinning it in early June. By November, I'd spun it all onto two spindles, and had purchased plying silk and a plying spindle for the next stage of the project.
Orenburg spinners ply their goat down singles with commercial silk, so that is what I used (top photo, far right). Since the cashmere I used was a creamy off-white, I decided to skip white silk and try something different. The gold color adds depth to the yarn.
Plying was completely different than anything I'd done before too. You wind the two yarns to be plied (one ply cashmere, one ply silk) onto a plying spindle (top photo, center). Only after all the yarn has been wound on the plying spindle do you add twist. And as twist is added, you wind the yarn around a paper disc to make a little ball. Watching Galina Khmeleva do it makes me feel painfully slow, but it's certainly an interesting technique. The twist is set by steaming the balls.
Now it's time to knit, and I have my eye on this pattern. I really have no idea how much yarn I have, and whether it will be enough, but it's a fun experiment!
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