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From Russia, With Love

March 2, 2013

Did you see them? Those sister-in-laws of mine? Did they stop in? I gave them two whole months!

No matter, I have more important things to tell you about anyway.

Sometimes, when they are young and impetuous, people do things. Whether it is piercing something, moving far away, a tattoo, or getting married, they spend the next decade wondering if that was a smart thing to do. Not me. I have always known that the man I married was the perfect man for me. I am well aware that I can’t be the easiest person to be married to, yet he has stuck by me through thick and thin, through all of the crisises that have arisen and through all of the craziness that seems to follow me around (OK, that may be caused by me, if we are being honest here.)

This week, however, this week, he went above and beyond the call of duty. This week, as the husband of a crazy knitter, he became a Super Star.

My husband got an invitation to speak at a conference. In Moscow. It was an opportunity that was just too amazing to pass up. Sadly, given the costs and the family obligations here at home, I wasn’t able to accompany him. Trust me, if I could have found a sane way to make it happen, I would have gone. He left on Monday, flew 12+ hours across the pond, had a 10 hr time change, and spent the next two days performing his conference speaking duties in a country where he couldn’t read or understand the language and had to rely on interpreters. While he was doing that, I was at home, wishing I was there with him and scouring the internets for information on knitting traditions of Russia, the locations of yarn stores, and any and all wooly subjects I could find. I sent him email after email and text after text of things he needed to look for when he had his ONE day of sightseeing and shopping on Thursday.

Now that I look back on it, I may have been a little greedy in my demands. From the amount of emails I sent, it would seem that I wanted it all. From the threats I may or may not have made (does “DO NOT come home without yarn!” sound like a threat?) I may have seemed unreasonable. To some. I figured, he knew me by now, knew that I would be happy just to have him back and enjoy whatever small thing he had a chance to get me. At least, I hoped he knew that.

This poor man, this long suffering husband of a knitter with a huge stash of yarn already, this tired, jet lagged man in Moscow, he did it. He got me everything I wanted. With the assistance of his host, he rode the Metro all over Moscow, ended up in places he had no idea where he was, and he succeeded. How well did he do? Let me show you.

First off, upon searching Russian knitting techniques, I stumbled across Orenburg shawls. According to the Wikipedia entry, “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.”

I became obessed with these shawls. I started searching for books on the subject, tried to find out where I could get (or direct Super Husband to get) my hands on the yarn, found patterns and sent text after text about what they were and where he might find them. I had no idea if the store addresses I sent him, all in Russian of course, were accurate or not but I gave it my all. This is what he came home with.




I wish I could capture the shine and softness of this shawl. I wish I could take an accurate photo of the gorgeous color it is, and the soft halo that the down gives off. This shawl is amazing. It has the most delicate lace pattern all over it and it is huge! 4 feet x 4 feet! It can also fit through a wedding ring. I tried.

This shawl in and of itself would be enough of a present but he wasn’t through with his shopping. Oh no. In my internet searching, and a tip from Super Husband from a brochure he read in the hotel, I discovered Pavlovsky Posad wool shawls. Pavolvsky Posad is a town outside of Moscow that is well known for their shawls. According to their website, “Among unique, world-wide known products, presenting pride and glory of Russia, a particular place occupy shawls from an ancient town of Pavlovsky Posad. Every year “Pavlovo Posad Shawl Manufactory” issues around 300 kinds of shawls, kerchiefs, scarves, cache-nez, tablecloths of natural fibers: wool, cotton, silk. Recognition of a high art and cultural value of our products is the fact that to the factory is given a title of a folk art craft of Russia.” I wanted a shawl.



This is another huge shawl, 4 feet x 4 feet. It is 100% wool. The body of the shawl is woven and then the pattern in screen printed on, front and back. There are at least 10 different colors in this shawl, probably more. The fringe around the shawl is entirely hand tied. You can read about the shawls from the website, These are truly amazing works of art.

Two shawls! Two beautiful shawls from Moscow. A girl should count her blessings and feel incredibly special to have gotten TWO shawls from Russia. However, remember, how I may or may not have told him that he better bring me back some yarn?





Yep. He got me yarn. 100% wool yarn. In two colors. One a worsted weight, one a sport/dk weight. 10 balls of each! Enough yarn to knit 4 sweaters!! He went all over Moscow for this yarn. To a run down, 5 story building that contained everything from furniture to clothing to anything you could imagine. To finally find a small store that had a small section of yarn. On sale even! Here is a website for the yarn that he got me.

While I know that all of the things he brought back from Russia are available in one way or another on the internet, the fact that he went all over Moscow to get them and then brought them back with him makes each and every one of these things incredibly special. I am one lucky girl who got some amazing presents from Moscow.

There was one more thing that came home with him. On Super husband’s last day in Moscow, the man who worked with him and was one of the main people who organized the conference acted as his tour guide. Pavel guided Mike around the city of Moscow on their quest for yarn. The Thursday morning before they met up, Pavel took a train and hour each way to pick up a present for me. Handmade by his mother. That present was this.




My very own handmade wrap from Russia. This is a work of art. I can’t describe it with words or pictures. There are four cables running length wise through the wrap bracketing the lace pattern between them. It is so delicate I am afraid to wear it. This wrap has an ethereal quality about it, between the delicate lace and the halo from the yarn and it is soft as a cloud. I am awed at the thought of someone making this and giving it to me. The fact that someone I have never met before was willing to take a train for two hours to get it for me is even more humbling. Thank you Pavel. Thank you Pavel’s mother. I will cherish this forever. I am trying to think of something to knit and send back as a thank you gift. What do you make for someone who can make something as beautiful as this?

That’s it. That’s what my Super Husband brought me from Russia. Truthfully, I would have been happy with any one of the things that he brought me. The fact that he got them all is astounding. I had better be a good wife for a long while. Which means I had better get off the computer and go do the dishes. And clean the house. And vacuum. And do the laundry . . . For the next year.

Wow. Being a good wife is hard work. Good thing my husband knows me so well. The dishes thing isn’t going to last long.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. sheila permalink
    March 4, 2013 11:02 am

    Lovely, just lovely. Good job, Mike.

  2. March 14, 2013 6:06 pm

    Oh, my, my, my! That IS a wonderful husband. You can tell yourself that by giving him a quest, a set of quests, actually, you got him to see more of the city, but still, that is crazy wonderful. That his host brought him a wrap knit by his mother just knocks me over.

    Your husband must be quite a speaker, too!

    • March 14, 2013 7:53 pm

      I was absolutely blown away by the knitted wrap. It humbled me completely. My quest certanly took him out of the heart of Moscow and the area around the Red Square and into areas that showed him how the “real” people live. I do like to think that I helped him see more than he would have otherwise. I only wish I could have seen it with him. Next time. Next time.

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