Friday, January 9, 2015

Russian Style: a Short Russian Scarf for Men or Women

I was browsing photos in my archive and this collage seemed to appear on its own - it virtually assembled itself. I just had to put these photos together.

(Left - St. Petersburg, Russia (source); upper right - fashion by Natasha Glazkova (source); bottom right - short wool scarf by MulberryWhisper).

A beautiful collage, is not it? The view of the churches is stunning; the Russian costume is lavish; and our wool scarf made from a vintage Russian shawl looks like it belongs here, too. 

This is our first experiences with mens' scarves, or maybe we should call them unisex, as, of course, they can be worn by women just as well. They are double layered, cosy and bright, in the best traditions of Pavlovo Posad shawls. This shorter Russian scarf can be found in our Etsy shop, MulberryWhisper, and there are others to follow. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Snow Fun with the Dog and Sleighs

Last year we bought a weight pulling harness for the dog to make winter even more fun. My daughter loves her little sleighs, and I thought that some additional exercise would be beneficial for Jager, so I did some research and bought this harness. Obviously, for sleighs like this - small ones, where the rope is fastened at a low level - you need weight pulling harness rather than the more professional sledding harness. A professional sled harness is for taller sleighs, and the vector of effort there goes in parallel with the ground like here:

Obviously, with the children's sleighs like ours, it would be uncomfortable and even damaging for the dog, because there will be a very large pressure on the croup. All that pulling effort actually should go evenly and smoothly to the sleigh, without pressing too hard on any spot on the dog's body, so for our needs a weight pulling harness was the best, according to the professional advice. You can see that there is no pressure on the tail area if the dog pulls. The load distributes evenly to the dog's back. 

This is a cleverly made and inexpensive harness that fits well. I bought it on Ebay from there very nice and helpful US sellers - 5kpetproducts. They make these harnesses themselves with a number of other products, and helped me choose the size properly.

We have had lots of fun with it last year; we even gave a ride to my younger brother...

...only he was not very good at driving this vehicle and got lost somewhere on the way. 

I could not see any difference in the physical shape of the dog, frankly. He is fully grown and, while I think such workouts are beneficial for him, I do not believe they can make his chest wider or muscles bulkier. That was just time well spent. 

If you have a large-size adult strong, healthy and energetic dog, you can try this, too - chances are you will both enjoy playing like this in the snow. And then, who knows, you might become a fan of weight pulling or sledding! Just make sure that you start with empty sleighs and increase the load gradually, and be patient while teaching the dog. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Yelena Merener and Her Unique Handmade Jewelry

It is always interesting for me to see how things are done. How beautiful silk ikat fabric is woven, comfortable walking shoes are made, cakes with meringues and whipped cream are baked and assembled, dogs are trained without stress and pain, lovely perfumes are mixed... the list is endless.

It is like magic, when a person who knows how to do something takes the components and turns them into something new and whole. It is fascinating to watch my mother calculating and drawing a pattern for a new dress; I loved to watch my father making a bowl from clay, and then colouring and baking, so that the unstable raw material turns into a strong and shiny ceramics which can last virtually for centuries.

Jewelry is no exclusion. I have a soft spot for jewelry and love to be able at least to peek at the process - even if only in the photos. Yelena Merener, an Israeli jeweller, has shared photos of he working process, taken by Alexandra Efremova. These photos very well convey the concentration, precision and care invested into the jewelry making process. And of course it also takes creativity, artistic vision, taste for beauty - you name it.

The outcome of this hard work is an eco-pendant with a very touching little elephant, fully handmade from recycled copper and sterling. A perfect gift for those who love animals.

Another piece of animal jewelry by Yelena Merener which I loved is this owl pendant which she called her guarding spirit - and she is ready to give it to the others for protection. It does have a very kind and soothing appearance, does not it? I love those labradorite eyes which seem to emit a light of their own, and the wings opened for embrace.

Yes, to me it is a kind of magic that someone can make beautiful things from cold and hard metal at her small workshop at home. For me, this seems almost impossible, but this is what Yelena really does and enjoys doing. Below is a very striking pendant with turquoise-like blue howlite and beautiful textured metal which mimics the natural pattern in the stone.

You can see more photos of Yelena's working process and more of her jewelry at her Facebook page called Unique Jewelry. She sells her work on Etsy, in her shop called LenaMer. I am thinking of asking her to make a Malinois pendant for me; I am sure it would turn out great! and maybe a matching collar tag for Jager, so that he does not feel neglected.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

I Am a Greedy Person and Do Not Like to Share

At this time of the year, blogs and other types of media are full of motivational articles, New Year resolutions, findings and conclusions from the year past and plans for the new year. I have read a lot of posts by my friends and some posts by other people; there were some fascinating and smart texts and some really boring ones. People have new hopes and plans or want to have them and try to develop or invent them.

For some reason, I do not have the slightest urge to share a summary of the year or plans for the next one. In my case, that would be very artificial and unnatural. I do not write plans; I live as if I were swimming in a river. I guess for many people it might sound horrible, but I feel very comfortable that way. I do have my plans and goals, but it is not a table or bullet points; it is like floating apples or flowers in the water. It is a pleasure to swim to them and grab them, and it is fun, and I do not feel restrained or obliged to stick to the plans. I live and breathe and swim, enjoying the process.

In addition to that, I think that I am a very greedy person. I prefer not to share my most cherished memories and most important hopes, and I only share a limited information on my family. Sometimes I have the urge to show my beautiful dog or our beloved children, but there will not be a lot. Could it be that I do not feel safe enough? Or that is greed, indeed? 

I know that if you share your childhood memories generously, they will somehow fade; at least, for me this is so. They loose the scents and colours and sound, and become like old photographs. Telling about them might help retaining the factual data – who, when, where, what – but the flavour goes away. And I prefer to forget the date, but to keep the warm feeling somewhere deep in my chest. As for the current information on family, yes, I guess I have a deeply rooted feeling that talking too much about them is not good. In the Caucasus, there was a tradition not to talk much about the dearest ones; keeping all to yourselves, if we are to believe Fazil Iskander, a great Abkhazian writer.

So, you will hardly ever find any general motivational posts or plans and outcomes shared here. I can share something very specific, like my studies of Uzbek language, but not life concepts. I am just a swimmer, or maybe even less – a leaf in the stream - and I am content with that. Thank you for watching me.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

How to Care for Your Russian Shawl: Hints and Tips

As we collect, buy and sell Russian shawls, both in their original form and upcycled into infinity scarves, we are often asked about tips on caring for them. 

A Russian shawl is traditionally seen as a valuable asset. Even now they are quite expensive; in my view, a one hundred dollar shawl is not cheap, and I have several of them, and some people own several dozens. Besides, when we are speaking about vintage shawls, they can be rare or even unique, and not just expensive, but very dear to our hearts and virtually irreplaceable. And even if your Russian scarves or shawls are not too costly, they still deserve good care and maintenance, as I am sure you do not want them wasted. And it is not difficult to take a good care of them, anyway.

(a very rare and collectable shawl - "8th of March" by Zlata Olshevskaya)

The authentic Russian shawls of high artistic value and quality are produced by the Pavlovo Posad Manufacture in Moscow, Russia. I am not looking at the numerous Chinese or East European fakes; they can be made of anything and I am not interested in them. They can have any type of fibre content, including acrylic or viscose (rayon), and probably sustain a very rough treatment, or not sustain anything at all. But a real Russian shawl is made from pure wool (unless we talk about silk or cotton shawls which are different breeds), with a colourful print, and needs to be treated with care.

Upon receiving your shawl, it is always a very good idea to put it on quarantine for a while, even if it is new and bought from the authorised dealer. Who knows - there could be some moth in the warehouse, and the nasty larvae could be hiding somewhere in the threads of your shawl, ready to proliferate and destroy all your shawls, throws, and even your cashmere sweaters! The best quarantine facility for a wool shawl is an ordinary freezer; put the shawl there for a couple of days, and all bugs, if any, will be dead. If the freezer is not empty, make sure you put the shawl into a plastic bag so that it does not touch the food.

(this stunning huge Russian shawl has been frozen and ironed and is now offered for sale
it is rare and highly sought after)

It is useful to iron your new shawl with a warm iron (put it on "wool", naturally) for the same purpose and to remove any wrinkles. Please be careful and do not damage the fabric,

I do not expect that you will need to clean your shawl often, unless you plan on spraying it with various perfumes and smudging it with your makeup. Just make sure you do not do this, just like you do not do this to fine jewellery, and the shawl will only need cleaning once in several years. A high quality dry clean is the best solution. In the meantime, you can air it on the line now and then to free it from any odours it might have accumulated.

Russian shawls benefit greatly from airing on cold frosty days; they even seem to become brighter and fresher. You can also put them on the snow in your yard, if the snow is fresh, clean and dry, and if you know that your dog will not play with them. So, snow is good but make sure they are safe. You can sometimes put them into the clean and empty freezer without a plastic bag for the same purpose.

You should never machine wash your Russian shawl, unless you are researching into the easiest ways to ruin it, let alone soaking or tumble drying it. Although modern dyes are of a better quality than before, sometimes they can still run or lose their brilliance, and the print will look faded.

If you bought a used shawl and you feel that it is really dirty so that dry clean will not be enough for you to feel comfortable with it -sometimes we just long for water and detergent to remove the odours and signs of another human being, do not we? - you can take the risk and wash it. We have washed Russian scarves and shawls many times and so far there has been no tragedies, but we still do not recommend this to a novice owner, and especially if this is a valuable shawl.

(this infinity wool scarf is made from a vintage Russian shawl which we had to wash as we did not know where it came from and how clean or dirty it was. as you can see, it looks bright and fresh, and free from any odours! you can buy it in our Etsy shop called Mulberry Whisper here)

Still, if you have to wash it, use lukewarm water and a mild detergent; hair shampoo will do. You can use some vinegar to the water to protect the dyes, like 3-4 spoonfuls of table vinegar to several litres of water. Do not soak; wash it gently like cashmere or lace, and rinse in lukewarm water. For the last rinse, you can use some hair conditioner. Remove water by very gently squeezing the shawl. You can wrap it into a towel and squeeze. Then line dry or flat dry - as you wish - only make sure there are no folds, or there is a chance that it will put dye on itself, producing stains.

This is about all I wanted to say on caring for Russian shawls. If you follow these simple rules, your beautiful Pavlovo Posad shawl will retain its beauty for many years. I could also write about storing and repairing them, but those are big separate topics. Thank you, and take a look at our Russian shawls and scarves, if you are interested! 
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