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The Orenburg Shawl is one of the classic symbols of Russian handicraft, along with along with Tula Samovar, Matrioshka, Khohloma painting, Gzhel, Palekh, Vologda lace, Dymkovo toys, Rostov finift (enamel), and Ural malachite. This type of finely knit, down-hair lace shawl originated in the Orenburg area about 250 years ago, in the 18th century. The Orenburg region of Russia is famous for its shawls, known as Orenburg shawls/scarves. In the English-speaking world, they are often called "wedding ring shawls" because, although the shawls are quite large, a shawl knit in the traditional fashion is so fine that it can be pulled through a wedding ring. The shawls are made from a blend of silk and indigenous goat fiber, similar to cashmere or mohair. The goats are brushed each spring to collect the fiber. Each goat gives off about a pound of fiber. The fiber is then handspun using a supported spindle. It is then plied against a commercial silk thread. The silk helps hold the shape of the lace, preventing it from needing to be blocked as often as it would without the silk. Originally the shawls were made entirely of goat fiber, but this was changed. By plying with one silk single and one goat, the price of the shawls decreased, because the labor required to produce a shawl decreased. The silk also increases the strength of the shawl. After the yarn has been spun and plied, the shawl is then knitted, before washing the yarn. The yarn and fiber is not washed until the shawl has been knitted and is ready for blocking and sale. The shawls are knitted into a variety of geometric designs. The shawls are made in many shapes; rectangular, square and triangular. The size varies from a 5 ft by 5 ft square shawl to a headscarf-sized one. Color varies depending on the coloring of the goats. Some shawls contain more than one color.
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