Saturday, 18 February 2012

Elephant No. 139: Crocheted Wool

For today's elephant, I actually had a different activity in mind, but I needed to have prepared something the day before, so that was out. Instead, I thought I'd try to crochet a little mohair elephant.

I covered crochet history in a recent blog post, so today I'll just describe what I did.

I started out with some wool I had spun—yes, I've finally learned how to make real yarn—but it was a bit too uneven for something like a little animal.

Next I took a pretty lavender yarn made mostly of rayon, but it was too shiny and kept splitting, which was pretty irksome for this particular activity.

Finally I tried some multicoloured mohair left over from a scarf. I liked the way it handled, so that was something. Unfortunately, it didn't really work with any of the patterns I had. I tried three different patterns I found for free online, but none of them was quite right. Although they were all small and not terribly difficult, one would have required more yarn than I had; one was inordinately complicated for the time I had; and one was too hard to make with this particular yarn.

I decided to make up some sort of pattern instead. I'm by no means any kind of crochet expert, but I at least know how to do the basic stitches. More to the point, crochet lends itself remarkably well to making stuff up.

I didn't write anything down, so I can't really tell you how I made this, other than to say it falls primarily into the dog's-breakfast school of crochet—in other words, it's completely chaotic. I'm just lucky that the fluffy mohair yarn hides a multitude of sins.

To start, I chained six stitches, slip stitched the end together, then spiralled around in single crochet, increasing the size of the circle as I went.

Once it had reached a reasonable diameter, I began decreasing the number of stitches to arrive at a hollow shape. When it was almost finished, I stuffed a bunch of fibrefill into the cavity, then continued decreasing the number of stitches in single crochet until I had closed the gap.

Next, I turned my attention to the head. Starting with a ring of four stiches, I created a round ball for the head, using the same method as I'd used for the body. When the head was almost complete, I stuffed the cavity with a small amount of fibrefill. I decreased in single crochet again, as I'd done for the body, closing the opening.

To create the trunk, I picked up four stitches around the front of the face, and spiralled down the trunk in a very weird technique I don't even know how to describe, other than to say you pick up a stitch from the previous row with each spiral. To finish the trunk, I chained two and pulled the yarn end back up through the trunk to hide it.

To add ears, I picked up two stitches on each side of the head, adding single crochet in rows over these two stitches, increasing and decreasing to create a shape I liked.

Next came the legs. These were made by chaining four, and using single crochet to spiral upwards for five rows. For the tail, I picked up a stitch at the back of the elephant, chained four stitches, then tied it off and frayed the end. And finally, to construct the elephant, I sewed the head onto the body, and sewed on the four legs wherever they looked best to me. They're not across from one another, or in line with one another at all—one, because I don't like symmetry; and two, because it gave the elephant a bit more personality.

The neck looked a bit spindly when I was done, so I aded a little scarf, made of three strands of the same wool, simply knotted twice around the wee creature's neck.

This project was monumentally annoying until I settled on a yarn and decided to make up my own pattern. After that, I was much happier with the process.

I'm quite pleased with the final elephant. It's kind of cute, and I like the weird yarn. The mohair makes it impossible to see the individual stitches—and I was too lazy to write anything down as I went—so I'll never be able to repeat this. Then again, maybe that's a good thing.

Elephant Lore of the Day
When I started making today's elephant, the colourful yarn made me think of painted festival elephants. It also looks like an elephant who's just celebrated the Indian festival of Holi. Holi is a two-day spring festival in which people fling coloured powder at one another, often adding water to make it even worse. Most people come away looking like my little mohair elephant.

Holi powder being tossed from elephants during the annual
Jaipur Elephant Festival, India.

Elephants are often an integral part of the Holi festival. In the western Indian state of Rajasthan, the annual elephant festival coincides with Holi. During the festival, people mounted on the backs of painted elephants fling coloured powder at people in the crowd, often dousing the elephants as well.

Pink Holi powder tossed from the back of an elephant,
Jaipur Elephant Festival, India.

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