The Finished Product
Level of Authenticity: none/modern project
Who/Where/When: I made these as presents for various members of the Order of the Pelican in Avacal (Mistress Coryn of the Wode, Master Bjar the Blue, and Master Jean de Chauliac) and I have plans to make more in the future. These were all given out this summer but were not given in commemoration of any special occasion. The white pelican, made for Mistress Coryn, is named Percy Virens, and the black pelican with the yellow beak, made for Blue, is named Lord Soth. I don’t know if the pelican made for Jean has a name.
What: Pelican amigurumi/stuffies
Why: I made these because they are cute and fast to make and I like to give presents to my friends! Also they use up leftover yarn. Although I usually like to research and make period things (in fact, it’s the reason I joined the SCA in the first place), I also recognize that there is a place for us to make and enjoy things that are not necessarily period but that celebrate the culture and history of the SCA itself.
Materials: For Percy, I used three colours of Sandnes Garn Lanett Babyull Superwash, a 3 ply/light fingering weight 100% Merino wool. For Lord Soth, I used Brown Sheep Lanaloft Worsted (100% wool, worsted weight) for the body, beak, and feet of the pelican and more of the Lanett Babyull for the fish. For the unnamed pelican, I again used the Lanaloft Worsted for the body of the pelican and Berroco Ultra Alpaca (50% wool, 50% alpaca, worsted weight) for the beak and feet and for the fish. Percy and his fish got plastic craft eyes while the other two pelicans and their fish got eyes embroidered with yarn from the projects. Since they are Dark Side Pelicans, they and their fish have eyes in the shape of cartoon Xs, but if I make any more Light Side Pelicans I will probably try to embroider eyes that look alive and non-evil.
All three pelicans are stuffed with polyester fibre fill. I really like to use natural fibres any time I can, and although it’s a preference that started through my efforts to make garments that are more period, it has carried over into non-SCA projects. For non-SCA garments, including non-SCA knitting projects, I like natural fibres because I don’t sweat as much in them and if I do, the sweat wicks away instead of clammily sitting there. In the case of stuffies, I could make the case that polyfill is more flammable than a natural fibre alternative, but in the end, the two natural fibre alternatives I could think of had significant disadvantages compared to polyfill. One option would have been to fill the pelicans with fabric scraps. I have previously stuffed other items with fabric scraps and, in order to reach the same visual level of stuffed-ness, a really significant volume of fabric scraps is needed and the item becomes very heavy. Another option would have been to fill the pelicans with unspun wool. Not only would this have been expensive, but also the wool fibres would have tended to felt down over time, causing the stuffies to lose their shape.
Tools: I made Percy first, and I made him straight from a commercial pattern, “Percy the Pelican” by Amanda Berry. His pattern called for 3.75mm (US Size 5) straight needles and double knit weight yarn. By the time I was done, I had some ideas about what I wanted to do differently so for the other two, I made some adaptations to the pattern and used 3.5mm (US Size 4) double pointed needles and worsted weight yarn, which made pieces that were stiffer and less delicate. I also used a selection of darning needles. For a while I had a plastic one given to me by my student, Taletta of Circle Hill, but somewhere about halfway through Lord Soth that needle snapped and I moved on to steel needles, which were what I had on hand when it needed to be done.
Techniques: Percy’s pattern calls for knitting pieces back and forth flat and stitching them together into round shapes after knitting is complete. Some pieces also use Kitchener stitch/grafting technique in shaping. As I am a beginner knitter, I faithfully followed the instructions exactly as written for Percy. This produced a nice enough end product but I didn’t love the way the seam looked and I found the seaming process a bit fiddly, especially on the smaller pieces. Percy’s pattern also calls for using felt and beads to make eyes, but I didn’t have these materials and didn’t want to go out and get them for a single project, so I used safety back craft eyes that I had left over from another project. I found these difficult to place nicely and they were really a little too big to have used on the fish. Finally, after I had presented him to Mistress Coryn, she gave me feedback that it would have been nice to have some method of preventing the fish from getting lost.
For Lord Soth, as well as changing the ratio between the weight of my yarn and the size of my needles, I decided to knit the body, the feet, and the fish in the round instead of flat with a seam, as it would both save a step and give a nicer finish. I had already knit several other pieces flat and several round, so it was not very difficult for me to convert the body to a round pattern. The fish and the feet were a little more difficult. The pattern calls for them to be knit from widest to narrowest, but I had not yet learned Judy’s Magic Cast-On, which would have allowed me to cast on the widest part in the round. As a result, I needed to cast on the narrowest part and work towards the widest, which meant I needed to work the pattern backwards. In the original flat pattern, some decreases are worked with ssk and some with k2tog, which gives some web shaping and texture to the foot. When I did this project I had only learned one increase, kfb, which meant that the web shaping and texture was lost. In order to fix this in a future project, I could do some research to find out what increases I could use to imitate or replicate the web pattern, but since I have now learned JMCO, another option is for me to proceed from widest to narrowest as the pattern is written. The way I knit the pieces for Lord Soth, I still had to use Kitchener stitch in some places to join two edges together. I had now tried Kitchener stitch several times and found it very awkward to work, requiring a lot of turning of the piece and a lot of switching the needle back and forth between my left and right hands. When I struggle with a technique like this, I tend to assume it’s because I’m left handed and that right handed people find the same technique much easier. I hadn’t liked the plastic craft eyes I used for Percy so I decided to proceed with eyes embroidered in self yarn, and in order to respond to Mistress Coryn’s feedback about the fish potentially getting lost, I left a long tail of its yarn on it and stitched the end of the yarn into the pelican’s mouth.
I was reasonably satisfied with these pattern alterations when I got to the unnamed pelican and I used more or less all the same techniques. By this time however I had the opportunity to learn three-needle bind-off for another project and I was struck by how much simpler it was for me to work than Kitchener. These two techniques produce slightly different finished products but are both used to attach two parallel rows of live stitches to one another. Although a straight substitution of one for the other probably wouldn’t be appropriate in every circumstance, I decided it was a good enough substitution here, so for the unnamed pelican the major difference from the previous projects was that I used three-needle bind-off in all the places that Kitchener stitch was called for in the original pattern.