Knitty: little purls of wisdom
Ruby Lane

For almost as long as I’ve been a knitter, I’ve been fascinated by the history of knitting. I’ve especially enjoyed the mind-twisting process of working with the often obtuse and obfuscatory language of antique patterns. There’s a thrill, I find, in watching a project emerge row by row and knowing that other knitters, long gone, followed the same path.

The process of decoding, testing and correcting isn’t for everyone, though; and so in this column I hope to share the excitement of the journey by removing as many of the roadblocks as possible. You don’t need to be a historian to come along–just a knitter with a curious mind.

beauty shot

Translated by Franklin Habit from "Nursery Elephant of Wool," anonymously published c. 1930-1949, with revisions c. 1950 by Sue Rothschild.






spacer photos: Franklin Habit


Length: approx. 10 inches
Height: approx. 8.5 inches
Width: approx. 5 inches


spacer [MC] Cascade 220 Quatro  [100% wool; 220yd/201m per 100g skein]; color: #5011 Crème Brulée; 2 skeins
spacer [CC] Cascade 220 [100% wool; 220yd/201m per 100g skein]; color: #9421 Blue Hawaii; 1 skein.

Recommended needle size
[always use a needle size that gives you the gauge listed below -- every knitter's gauge is unique]
spacer 1 set US #4/3.5mm straight needles
spacer 1 US #D/3 / 3.25mm crochet hook size (optional; see Pattern Notes)

spacer Row counter (optional but recommended)
spacer Safety pins or locking stitch markers
spacer Stitch holders
spacer Yarn needle
spacer Approx. 6-7 oz polyfil stuffing or cotton batting



24 sts/32 rows = 4" in stockinette stitch
Note: For this project, the yarn is knit more tightly than the recommended ball band gauge. This will produce a very firm fabric, for a toy that will hold its shape and look well when stuffed.

[Knitty's list of standard abbreviations and techniques can be found here.]

Flo is worked entirely in garter stitch (knit all stitches) on two needles. Because the fabric is reversible, no RS or WS is noted. For the Sides and Ears, both right and left sides are worked in the same way; the RS of one piece will be the same as the WS of the other piece.

The original pattern called for feet worked in crochet; instructions for these are included below, along with a knitted alternative (shown).

inc1: The increase used for this pattern is the backward loop increase. It is the first increase shown here, referred to as m1. This increase is different from the m1 increase used in most Knitty patterns.

Instructions for the Cable Cast On can be found here.

Instructions for Blanket Stitch can be found here.

Instructions for Mattress Stitch can be found here.

Instructions for Lazy Daisy Stitch can be found here.



SIDES (Make 2):
Using MC, CO 10 sts.
Row 1: [K1, kfb] twice, k to end. 12 sts.

Row 2: [K1, kfb] five times, k to end. 17 sts.

Rows 3-6: Work as for Rows 1-2. 31 sts.

Row 7: K1, kfb, k to end. 32 sts.

Row 8: [K1, kfb] five times, k to end. 37 sts.

Row 9: K1, kfb, k to end. 38 sts.

Row 10: [K1, kfb] twice, k to end. 40 sts.

Rows 11-18: Work as for Rows 9-10. 52 sts.

Row 19: K all sts.

Row 20: [K1, kfb] twice, k to end. 54 sts.

Row 21: K all sts.

Row 22: K1, kfb, k to end. 55 sts.

Rows 23-28: Work as for Rows 21-22. 58 sts.

Rows 29-40: K all sts.

Row 41: K to last 3 st, k2tog, k1. 57 sts.

Rows 42-44: K all sts.

Row 45: K to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. 56 sts.

Row 46: K42, place all sts just worked on st holder; BO 1 st, k to end. Trunk will be worked over remaining 13 sts.

Rows 47-49: K all sts.
Row 50: K1, k2tog, k to end. 12 sts.
Rows 51-58: Work as for Rows 47-50. 10 sts.
Rows 59-61: K all sts.
Row 62: K1, k2tog, k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. 8 sts.
Rows 63-66: Work as for Rows 59-62. 6 sts.
Rows 67-69: K all sts.
Row 70: K1, k2tog, k2tog, k1. 4 sts.
Rows 71-80: K all sts.
BO all sts and break yarn, leaving a tail approx. 6 inches long.

Lower Body and Legs:
Transfer held sts back to needle, beginning at tail end of piece so that tip of needle ends up at head end (next to trunk). Join yarn at head end.

K 13 rows, ending with yarn at tail end.
Next Row: K16, BO 10 sts, k to end. Two sets of 16 sts.

Front Leg:
Working only over set of sts with yarn attached, k 23 rows. BO these 16 sts.

Back Leg:
Join yarn to remaining sts at inner edge (next to bound off sts).
K 20 rows. BO all sts.

Note: When casting on sts for legs, use Cable Cast On method.

Lower Neck:
CO 1 st.
Row 1: Kfb. 2 sts.
Row 2: K1, inc1, k1. 3 sts.
Rows 3-8: K1, inc1, k to end. 9 sts.

Front Legs:
Row 9: CO 18 sts; k these sts, k to end. 27 sts.
Row 10: CO 18 sts; k these sts, k to end. 45 sts.
Rows 11-27: K all sts.
Row 28: BO 14 sts, k16 (17 sts on right needle), BO 14 sts. Break yarn, turn work.

Join yarn to remaining 17 sts. K 18 rows.

Back Legs:
Next Row: CO 12 sts; k these sts, k to end. 29 sts.
Next Row: CO 12 sts; k these sts, k to end. 41 sts.
K 27 rows.
Next Row: BO 16 sts, k8 (9 sts on right needle), BO 16 sts. Break yarn, turn work.

Join yarn to remaining 9 sts.
Next Row: K1, k2tog, k to end. 8 sts.
Repeat this row 6 times more. 2 sts remain.

Next Row: K2tog. Break yarn, leaving a tail approx. 6 inches long; draw tail through remaining st.

Use safety pin or split ring marker to mark CO end of work; this point is designated Point B in schematic.

EAR (Make 2)
CO 16 sts.
Row 1: K1, inc1, k to last st, inc1, k1. 18 sts.
Row 2. K1, inc1, k to end. 19 sts.
Rows 3-8: Work as for Rows 1-2. 28 sts.

Row 9: K1, inc1, k to end. 29 sts.
Row 10: K all sts.
Row 11: K1, inc1, k to end. 30 sts.
Rows 12-15: K all sts.

Row 16: [K1, k2tog] twice, k to end. 28 sts.
Row 17: K all sts.
Rows 18-21: Work as for Rows 16-17. 24 sts.

Row 22: K1, k2tog, k to end. 23 sts.
Row 23: K all sts.
Rows 24-27: Work as for Rows 22-23. 21 sts.
Row 28: K1, k2tog, k to end. 20 sts.

Row 29: BO 8 sts, k to end. 12 sts.
Rows 30-43: Work as for Rows 22-23. 5 sts.
Row 44: K1, k2tog, k to end. 4 sts.
BO remaining sts.

FEET (Make 4 of either knitted or crocheted version):

Knitted Version:
CO 5 sts.
Row 1: K all sts.
Row 2: K2, inc1, k1, inc1, k2. 7 sts.
Rows 3-10: K all sts.
Row 11: K1, ssk, k1, k2tog, k1. 5 sts.
Row 12: K all sts.
BO all sts.

Crocheted Version:
Ch 2.
Work 8 sc into second ch from hook. Place split ring marker in first sc to indicate beginning of round; foot is worked in the round, in a spiral.
Next 2 Rounds: Work 1 sc into each sc.
Fasten off.

CO 10 sts.
K 34 rows. BO all sts.


Wash and gently block all pieces. Weave in ends, except for yarn tail at tip of trunk on one of the side pieces.

Finish ears by sewing edges A and B together (see schematic).
If desired, use CC to work four-petal Lazy Daisy motifs on Side pieces as shown.

Pin Side pieces together along top edges. Beginning at Point A (see schematic) and working toward  head, sew pieces together using mattress stitch. Continue seam over head and down top of trunk, around tip of trunk (leave yarn tail at tip of trunk hanging on RS of work), and up underside of trunk, ending at third garter st ridge below upper inside edge of trunk (Point B on Side schematic).

Firmly stuff head and trunk. Join Point B of Underbody to Point B of Sides. Sew side and leg seams, leaving bottoms of legs open. Finish stuffing body through leg openings. Note that stuffing must be firm enough for toy to hold its shape after squeezing. (Give it a test hug – it should bounce back.)

Sew footpads in place.

Beginning at BO end, roll tail piece tightly, so that it forms a small, firm log shape, with CO edge at outside of roll. Sew CO edge in place, sew one end of roll to secure, then sew other end to rump of elephant.

Sew ears securely to sides of head from Points C (3 inches from front seam and 2 inches from top seam) to D, indicated on Side schematic.

Thread the yarn end at the tip of the trunk onto yarn needle and run it into and up along inside of trunk, causing trunk to curl upwards. Bring end of yarn to outside of piece and fasten securely, just about where Flo’s chin would be if she had one.

Using CC, embroider eyes as shown. If desired, use CC to edge feet and ears with blanket stitch.

Historical note: The original pattern calls for tying a length of satin ribbon in a flat bow around the finished elephant, and attaching a jingle bell to the tip of the trunk. As even a firmly-sewn jingle bell may pose a choking hazard; we do not recommend adding it if the toy will be played with by babies or very young children.

Franklin Habit is the proprietor of the popular knitting blog The Panopticon and author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoonslink (Interweave Press), which has recently spawned both the Work in Progress Notebook and a 2011 calendar.

He lives in Chicago, near the zoo, which has no elephants.