I don't know how I stumbled upon them in the first place... or why I did not find them sooner! But apparently there are lots and lots of Russian knitting podcasts out there. And watching some has felt like getting transported into a parallel knitting universe that's simultaneously strange and familiar.
Since all of the podcasts I've come across are Russian-Language with no English subtitles, I thought perhaps some of you might be interested in a brief report on what's going on with knitters in that part of the world. Yes?
Okay! So firstly, the Russian podcasters are amazingly prolific. They knit lots, and often. Garments seem to be more popular than accessories. Sweaters, cardigans, tunics, dresses, appear to casually fall off their needles and land into neat stacks on the dining room table in time for each new episode.
Perhaps it's to keep up with this level of output, that Russian knitters like to buy yarn in cones. That is not to say yarn is not sold in skeins. But cones seem to be a normal and readily available option in most yarn shops over there, which blows my mind! Look at the background in the screen-shot on the right. The podcaster Anna Paul is reporting from a St. Petersburg yarn shop called Wooly. Look at all those cones! This shop only sells coned yarns, she explains. But don't worry: If you need to buy a 'small amount' to complete a project, they are willing to wind up a 150g mini-skein. Wow.
Now, the yarn brands: Some of the yarns mentioned are the usual suspects we all know. But in addition, Russian knitters seem to have access to a variety of European brands not available here. The Swiss-made Lang Yarns and the Barcelona-based Katia are particularly popular, as well as a slew of Italian brands I have never heard of.
The fibre content knitters are drawn to differs as well. Cashmere, yak, and alpaca are quite popular with Russian knitting podcasters, as are mohair-silk blends. And remember I mentioned cashmere? I do not mean a blend with a small percentage of cashmere content. No, I am talking 100% cashmere. It seems to be normal to knit with it, and not in a decadent, once-in-a-lifetime project kind of way, but for everyday garments. In the photo on the left, Nastasia of Knit Petit is wearing an oversized, pure-cashmere cardigan she has just completed. In another episode, she gives a comparative review of cashmere yarns from a variety of manufacturers. Now, just for kicks, I have since tried to find 100% cashmere yarn for sale online from a British, Irish, or American vendor and have found nothing. But it appears that this is a standard product in Russian yarn shops. Not bad!
But again, when the podcasters discuss cashmere, they are not like 'Mmmmm, luxury.' They are more like 'This will keep you warm and is suitable for sensitive skin.' Practical. In general, the Russian knitters tend to talk about the purpose and functionality of their knits more than their English-speaking counterparts. There is concern with adequate warmth/coverage for various weather conditions, as well as breathability. A yarn gets a bad review if it 'makes you sweat,' as this can lead to catching cold or pneumonia. A finished item is considered a failure if it doesn't perform as expected.
There is never, ever any mention of patterns in any of the Russian knitting podcasts I have watched. In fact, I don't even know what the correct term for 'knitting pattern' would be in Russian, since I've never come across these words used anywhere. Russian knitters don't learn from patterns; they learn techniques, stitch motifs, and how to make generic versions of specific types of items (cowl, beanie, cardigan, raglan pullover, etc). They then combine these elements to knit whatever they want. It is a different perspective, and one I can relate to considering my own knitting history.
All this aside, there is one thing that Russian knitting podcasters have in common with the majority of English-language ones I am familiar with: Most of them are (relatively) new knitters. Of course this makes sense: It is common to start blogs and podcasts when you are learning a new thing, because you want to share that newfound passion and excitement. The Russians also follow the usual podcasting format - with discussions of works in progress, finished works, tutorials and demonstrations, reviews, give-aways, etc., so that part is not so different at all.
And finally, another thing that's not so different: Donegal tweed seems to be wildly popular over there! Funny. They tend to knit with the fingering version of the yarn. And of course, they buy it in cones...
I hope you enjoyed this little cultural excursion. If you ever watch non-English speaking knitting podcasts, I would love to hear all about it.