Friday, 10 August 2012

Elephant No. 313: Crocheted Wire

I've crocheted with wire before, although never into anything other than a square or a long line. Since I'm not great at crochet, I feared this might end up being a square that I then folded into an origami elephant or something, but I figured I'd at least try to make a three-dimensional elephant.

I've already covered the history of crocheting, and of wire, for this blog, so I'll just cover the activity as it unfolded.

I started by pulling out all the jewellery-weight wire I have. Because I went through a phase of making knitted wire brooches, I have several interesting colours. I ultimately settled on a turquoise/peacock blue for the elephant, and magenta and lime green for a scarf, all in a 30-gauge size.

I had no pattern for this, and I'm useless at writing things down as I go, so I can't really share the number of stitches and so forth. I'm also pretty useless at crocheting, althoughI like the technique for its ability to generate pretty much any shape you want—as long as no one looks too closely at how it was made. For my previous adventures in crocheting for this blog, you can look at my crocheted lace and crocheted wool. Feel free to laugh.

Using a 1.25 mm crochet hook, I started by making a circle until it seemed about as wide as I wanted the tiny little head. Once I'd reached the diameter I liked, I stopped enlarging it and began making it smaller again.

As I made this first circle smaller, I was also able to taper the shape into the beginnings of a trunk. From the little trunk base, I chained enough stitches for what looked like an acceptable length of trunk, then turned back from the tip and crocheted single crochet back towards the head, where I finished the shape and pulled the ends inside.

I turned my attention to the body next, making a sort of oval using a similar technique, albeit not tapered to the same extent. I left a small neck opening at the end of the body, and crocheted this onto the head.

I added legs next. To do this, I made a slip knot and attached the wire through the lower body. I chained a few stitches—seven for the front legs and five for the back. I then used single crochet to make my way back up to the body, where I stitched through the body once, then back down with single crochet, finishing off at the bottom. I made each leg individually using this technique.

I added a tail next by attaching wire with a slip stitch through the top of the elephant's back end, and simply chained a few stitches. At the end of the tail, I left a small bit of wire.

For the ears, I chained three stitches through the head on each side, going around these stitches on both sides until I liked the shape, adding fewer stitches at the base of the ear. I also stitched through the head each time I went around.

To give the elephant a little scarf, I chained about twenty stitches in magenta and lime green, making two separate strands that I then twisted together. To finish off, I poked and squeezed the elephant into shape, then added the scarf and shaped it.

It took me two hours to make the elephant, but I'm quite happy with this little guy. He's not a work of art, but as a tiny little blue elephant, I think he's pretty cute.

Elephant Lore of the Day
Although today's elephant lore is about one of the most famous elephants in history, I've avoided writing about it because it's such a heartbreaking story.

Mary was a five-tonne Asian elephant who performed in the Sparks World Famous Shows circus. In September 1916, the circus was in Kingsport, Tennessee, and took on a few locals as temporary circus hands. A hotel worker named Red Eldridge was among them—hired as an assistant elephant trainer, despite a complete lack of experience.

On the evening of September 12, he took Mary to a pond to splash and have a drink. According to one witnesss, Eldridge poked her behind the ear with a hook when Mary reached down to nibble at a piece of watermelon. This enraged Mary, who snatched Eldridge with her trunk, tossed him against a drink stand, then crushed his head by stepping on it.

The sensationalist newspapers of the time went even further in their accounts, claiming that Mary had tossed Eldridge in the air, skewered him with her tusks (despite the fact that female Asian elephants don't have tusks), then trampled him "with all the force of her beastly fury."

Accounts of what followed are somewhat confused, although most say that Mary calmed down immediately afterwards and didn't charge the crowd or appear aggressive. A crowd surrounded Mary, however, chanting "Kill the elephant!" A few minutes later, a local blacksmith shot at her five times, with no real effect. Mary was chained up while the circus decided what to do with her.

In the meantime, the leaders of several nearby towns threatened to cancel circus performances if Mary was part of the show. Circus owner Charlie Sparks reluctantly decided that the only way to solve the problem was to execute Mary in public.

On September 13, 1916, Mary was transported by train to a railyard in Erwin, Tennessee, where a crowd of more than 2,500 people—including the town's children—gathered to watch. Mary was hanged by the neck from an industrial crane mounted on a railcar. The first attempt broke the chain, dropping Mary to the ground and breaking her hip.

As people fled in horror, the severely injured Mary was hauled up again, dying in agony during this second attempt. She was buried by the railway tracks.

This was not the end of Mary's legacy, however. For one thing, it was the last time an elephant was hanged as a means of execution, although there have been other equally stupid and inhumane methods used over the years. More importantly, Mary's sad story has been enshrined in a number of plays, stories and even songs as a cautionary tale about our mistreatment of other species.

Although heavily doctored, this photograph is apparently
similar to most images of Mary's death.

To Support Elephant Welfare
Elephant sanctuaries (this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information
on a number of sanctuaries around the world)

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