Let me present our little elephant. He will be very cozy this Halloween!
(In case you are concerned about how Wyatt can see through or around this hat, don't be. He was looking down for this photo for full elephant effect. The hat does not cover his face.)
As I mentioned in an earlier post, we started working on the hat for this costume in June. June may sound like a crazy time to start working on a warm, wooly hat, but we live in San Francisco, and for the last two years, June has been the absolute perfect time for Halloween hat making.
Wyatt opted for the elephant hat pattern from Vanessa Mooncie's Animal Hats book. The yarn we chose was Lamb's Pride, Charcoal Heather, in bulky weight, and I purchased it locally from Imagiknit. Lamb's Pride is 85% wool and 15% mohair, and is made by the Brown Sheep Company, a family owned and operated yarn spinning mill in Mitchell, Nebraska. The company has been around for decades, and over the last several years, they have updated their equipment and developed ways to reuse 70-90% of their waste water every day. The yarn is soft and warm, and it looks like it would felt very easily.
Once the hat was mostly finished (only the lining was left), I put the elephant costume project on pause until September.
In September, I started working on the body of the costume, the elephant suit, as Wyatt calls it, knitting it out of Balance yarn by O-Wool.
As I neared the end of the elephant suit, I realized we would need buttons, as well as lining and matching thread for the hat. And I realized that to stay true to my plan to use sustainable materials for this costume, I would need to do some research. I first looked for vintage buttons, but couldn't find the sixteen I needed in the right size, never mind in colors we wanted. After some further poking around online, I found Honey Be Good. They sell unfinished wooden buttons (made in the USA from sustainable hardwood) and some cute, organic patterned interlock fabric.
I consulted with Wyatt on the buttons and the lining. He was excited about the buttons but really wanted me to use the light pink interlock fabric in my stash to line the hat. His plan worked for me, so I purchased the buttons and light pink thread (to match the lining) from Honey Be Good. The thread I purchased is by Gütermann creativ, 100% recycled polyester, from post-consumer plastic bottles, and is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified.
The next question I faced was what to do with the unfinished buttons. Beeswax polish for a natural finish? Stain? Paint? Natural dye? I considered all of it. Beeswax polish was out because Wyatt and I wanted a pop of color on the suit. Stain and paint would be fine, if I could find a less toxic alternative to what's available in most hardware stores. I looked into mixing my own paint with pigments, but a linseed oil base wouldn't cure in time. I considered milk paint, but I didn't feel willing to commit to such a large amount of paint for such a tiny project. I bought some turmeric root, but after going to two stores, I could not find the alum that would help bind the color to the wood during natural dying. In the end, I stopped overthinking it and went with the acrylic artist paints in my stash. It felt so good to get them out again.
Wyatt and I mixed the paint colors for the buttons of his suit from the three primary colors, plus some magenta and a touch of white. We also used shiny gold paint for one big button, to give the suit the sparkle it needed. Mixing the colors thrilled and delighted Wyatt, and the project engrossed him like no other project I have ever witnessed. He remarked to me as he painted buttons with tiny, thorough brushstrokes, "We're working very hard on these buttons! Let's pretend we are a button factory!"
Later that night, I varnished the buttons after I discovered that the paint color transferred pretty easily to a damp cloth. Color transfer wouldn't do for an elephant suit that still needed to be washed and blocked!
In the morning, Wyatt helped me arrange the order of the colored buttons. The front of the suit was to be mostly in rainbow order, so I did that, and then he set up the buttons for the butt flap.
I sewed on the buttons with gray thread I had in my stash, and I lined the hat while Marc took Wyatt out to the park.
I wet-blocked the suit and it took about three days to fully dry. Once it was dry, I added the tail. Wyatt now spends some of most afternoons as an elephant, until he overheats. I really hope Halloween isn't that hot, or we will have a very sweaty elephant on our hands.