When I cast on for my Olympics project, a sample-size Orenberg lace shawl, it struck me that here I am, an American knitter, pursuing Olympic gold using a Russian technique.
An action shot of my first row:
I'd like to draw your attention to the needles. They were a surprise gift from my grandmother, who doesn't knit. Apparently they belonged to my great-grandmother, Mary Hudak, who did. They, along with a few other needle sets, were destined to be thrown away or sold at a yard sale until Grandma heard that Susan and I had taken up knitting, so she decided we might like to have them. Susan took the larger sizes and I took these.
The Orenberg Method So Far
Pure genius. The little shawl begins with a mere seven stitches, and the first thing to be knitted is the lower center border. Then, you modify what you're doing at the edge of that border slightly, and whammo, you've turned the lower right corner. Then you knit back across the piece and pick up the bottom half of the cast-on stitches (seen above on a stitch holder), knit a slightly modified version of the border in the other direction and whammo, you've turned the lower left corner.
From this point, you knit upwards in one piece until you reach the point where it's necessary to turn the upper right corner and begin the top border. The center of the shawl occupies the space between the markers. The left and right borders are knitted at the same time with the same yarn.
I had read Galina Khmeleva's instructions (in Gossamer Webs) for this project over and over before I cast on, but it wasn't until I was actually at work that the genius of the method struck me. The simplicity is magnificent, given the apparent complexity of a true Orenberg when it's complete.
I've progressed about two inches beyond the picture above, but before I began I truly did stop for a minute and bless the memory of the generations of women, knitting by oil lamps or candlelight in tiny cottages, who were clever enough to work this out. What a gift to the knitters who have come after them.