Monday, 28 October 2013

A Herd of Pachyderms - Knitted Elephant Pattern by Sarah Keen

I've been a wee bit quiet on the knitting front recently. Mainly because I have spoilt myself knitting Jean Greenhowe toys, so when I decided to knit the Sarah Keen Elephant pattern I got a bit of a culture shock and I think that slowed me down a bit.

I've wanted a knitted elephant for myself for a while now. I've loved the idea of knitting an elephant and calling him Engelbert for a few years, just like the Tom Paxton song. I like the thought of knitting up little outfits so that he can get dressed up for the royal ball and all that, but it took me a while to find a pattern which called out to me that it could be Engelbert.

When I knit my chickens back in the summer I found that there was rather more making up than I might have been used to in the past. Don't get me wrong, with Jean Greenhowe's patterns there can be a lot of making up, but generally it's little embellishments and added on bits. They're not always totally necessary, and they add to the character of the toy, rather than just being part of it. For example, with Great Uncle Angus MacScarecrow, he would've been perfectly fine with non-tartan trousers and without his bagpipes (hell, I left the bow off the side of his hat and he's just fine), whereas with Sarah Keen's patterns the making up of the chickens included fiddly bits which were essential, like the feet, which I couldn't help but think might have been easier all in one piece.

That didn't put me off my elephants, however, and I am totally thrilled with how they've turned out. They're a bit bigger than I was expecting as well, which makes them wonderfully squishable. I'll get some better photos of them at some point in the future (when it's not all wet and yucky outside) but for now these will do.

I knit all the pieces and finished them up a couple of months ago. I did the three all at the same time on one pair of needles, working the grey bits first, then the pink/purple, then the dark blue. I'm glad I did it that way otherwise I probably would've stopped after the first one. The problem was it left me with so much sewing up at the end.

Part of me thought I should sew up as I went along, like I usually do, but as all the instructions for making up came at the end, it was much easier to put this off too. Of course when I did finally get around to sewing it up I had a bit of fun trying to remember what went with what, which side was which, and so on. Luckily I was able to figure it all out by reading the pattern as well as by feeling for the helpful knots which I'd tied at the very end of the cast off tail (though it took me a while to work out what the knots actually meant, it'd been that long since I'd done them).

Nona & Englebert
The first one to be completed was the grey elephant, who I've named Nona (as in NaNo) because she's not quite perfect but I got her finished which is the main thing. The elephant body is knitted in three separate pieces; front and back (which is just the same bit done twice), then the base. I followed the instructions with Nona and sewed the base on from the outside which wasn't particularly neat. I ended up with a bit of ridge all the way round which doesn't look very neat, but thankfully it's not so obvious now her feet are sewn on.

Engelbert is made with an Arran wool which I discovered I was highly allergic to. I'd get these little blisters all over my hands and fingers, so would have to dose myself up on Piriton before I could do anything with it. For that reason my Engelbert is purely for limited cuddling and mainly display, I dread to think what my face would look like if I slept with him in bed with me!

His eyes were tricky to get in because the dark blue wool was very thick, but the light blue I chose for his eyes was very thin. It took me a while to work out the right number of strands and how many times to wrap them around the knot so that they wouldn't disappear into the knit fabric of the head when I tried to pull them through. I also used a bit of light blue in his tail at the back as well, just to make it look a bit different. It's not terribly noticeable and I kind of wish I'd used a few more strands now.

Engelbert Bum!
The largest of the three elephants is the one I've named Bettina. She's made with this lovely pink and purple variegated wool that I got in a massive 500g ball years ago. It knits up beautifully soft and fleecy, and I stitched her together wrong size out (on purpose) which just adds to the softness. Of course when you're knitting with it, it's like knitted with cheese-wire. The actual thread in the middle of the soft fluffy bits is really hard on your hands. It's been years since I last used it for anything and couldn't think why I'd set it aside for so long, then I started using it and remembered!

She looks a wee bit funny because her base is dark, the front and back are different shades of the pink and purple, but it's an effect that works really well on her head and trunk because that was all knit in the one piece. Plus the wool is very forgiving and hides mistakes very well. Bettina is the best one of the three for cuddling because a) I'm not allergic to her and b) she's massive and squishy.

I'd made these three with the intention of giving two of them away and just keeping Engelbert for myself but then Nona went a bit wrong, so I couldn't give her away and Bettina kind of completes the set of three so at the moment they're just sitting in the living room windowsill at the moment.

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