What I Do for Fun in My Spare Time
And it's not all lounging on the sofa with my feet up eating bon bons and watching soap operas. Neither is it assembling pamphlets or stuffed animals (Make Thousand$ in your $pare Time!) at my kitchen table.
No, what I do is hunt down obscure snippets of information buried in out-of-print books.
Back in January, I went coursing through Google Books for mention of Orenburg shawls, and here are the hares I've run down so far.
1851, Official Descriptive and Illustrated Catalog of the Great Exhibition of London, page 1383:
"358 Prascovia, Olga, Maria, Apolinaria, and Alexandra Bondarevsky, Orenburg. Shawl, made of goat's hair, and presented by the above-named to H. I. M. the Empress of Russia, who has been graciously pleased to send it for exhibition."
1882, Through Siberia, by Henry Lansdell, page 26: "South of Ekaterineburg, towards Orenburg, are villages where may be purchased uncommon souvenirs in the shape of gentlemen's scarves and gloves, together with kozine pookh, or, as they are more commonly called, Orenburg shawls. They are made from the wool of the goats of the Kirghese, who allow the Cossacks to comb their flocks at the rate of from eight- pence to a shilling per head."
The following books specifically mention knitted Orenburg shawls:
1862, Medals and Honourable Mentions Awarded
Number in Catalogue: 562
Name of Exhibitor: Ouskova
Objects Rewarded and Reasons for the Award: Beautiful knit wool shawls made by the wife of a non-commissioned officer of Kozacks in Orenburg"
1876, Turkistan: Notes of a Journey in Russian Turkistan, Khokand, Bukhara, and Kuldja, by Eugene Schuyler, page 16: "At every station we were offered the beautiful Orenburg shawls, both white and grey, knit by the Cossack women of the long fleece of a peculiar breed of goat kept here. Some of the more delicate ones require months and even years for their completion."
1882, A Summer Tour in Russia, Antonio Gallenga, page 186
"You will see Turkish carpets, Persian silks, and above all things the famous Orenburg shawls, so finely knitted, and with such patience that one can (they say, but I have not made the experiment) be made to pass through a lady's ring, though they be so broad on all sides as to wrap the lady all round from head to foot."
1893, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, Illinois:
"The most beautiful fabrics made by these women are the Orenburg shawls, specimens of which were exhibited in the Women's Building among the products illustrative of the cottage industries of Russia. These shawls are so fine that as many as 1,500 stitches are frequently carried upon a single needle. The persistency as well as the skill of these peasant women who knit the shawls is shown by the fact that a year will often be consumed in making them. Those exhibited in Chicago were 7 feet square (covering 49 square feet), weighed only 8 ounces each and could readily be drawn through an ordinary finger ring."
1895, Russian Rambles, by Isabel Hapgood, page 36
"The lady in the velvet shuba, lined with sable or black fox, her soft velvet cap edged with costly otter, her head wrapped in a fleecy knitted shawl of goats-down from the steppes of Orenburg, or pointed hood - the bashlyk - of woven goat's-down from the Caucasus, has driven hither in her sledge or carriage, and has alighted to gratify the curiosity of her sons."
Interesting quote because it distinguishes between knitted or woven.
To wind this up, what got me started on this in the first place was a quote I ran across while looking for information about angora ("Angola") rabbits:
Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, vol. IV, Philadelphia, 1799:
A Disquisition on wool-bearing Animals, by Dr. James Anderson, of North Britain, in a letter dated 6th December 1794.
(… paragraph omitted, but the link is above …)
I had, before that time, received from Russia some wool obtained from the common goat, of a softness that exceeds any thing of the wool kind I have ever seen, a small sample of a shawl made of which I send inclosed. I have since then seen some Angora goats’ wool produced in Britain, which answers in every respect to the characteristics of wool, and not of hair. I have heard of the Angora rabbit also in Britain, but have not seen it as yet;(I will spare you all the initial and medial long esses, otherwise this would say "..received from Ruffia fome wool...".)
Of course, Dr. James Anderson only says "shawl made", not "shawl knitted", drat him.
I guess it's back to the bon bons.