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I couldn't think of a rhino pun (and that's probably for the best)

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I couldn't think of a rhino pun (and that's probably for the best)

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After the hippo was all done, I said to dagmarian that he needed a girlfriend - but right after that I thought hey, why so srs heteronormative? So I was going to make a second hippo in purple. Then when I was telling stormdog and moiracoon about all this on Saturday evening, Moira said, "Or you could make a purple rhino." She went on to explain that she was referencing a symbol that was briefly used for gay rights activism on the east coast in the 70s.

Considering the context, that was pretty much darned perfect, so after they headed home, I looked for rhinoceros patterns. As it turns out, there appears to be a paucity of crocheted rhinoceros patterns on the internet, and there was certainly not one of a size to be a good buddy/partner/whatever to the Hungry Hungry Hippo, so I decided to use HHH as a template for designing my own - at the very least this would keep him roughly the same size. I had not meant to try such an endeavor until I'd made another couple of other people's patterns, but some ideas simply must be enacted immediately upon conception.

To skip the design notes and just see all the progress pictures, go here.

The Design Process

At every step except the horn, I started by doing a related Google Images search. I do not appear to be either a geometric genius or a Wild Kingdom savant, so research, brain sweat and trial and error had to be my tools. Since my template was a toy designed to resemble a different animal, the question I asked at every step was not, "How is a rhino shaped?" or even "How is a rhino shaped differently from a hippo?" but "Is a rhino's _____(s) shaped differently from this hippo rendering?" The answer in every particular was yes. I could not say what the design would have been like starting from scratch instead of with that constant 1:1 comparison. However, I had a cute and cartoonishly inaccurate end product in mind, so I wasn't all THAT worried about accuracy; I just wanted enough to give some cues to support the horn in announcing, "Hey, this is a rhino!"

I thought a lot about the basic shapes that make up the body. It felt sort of like how artists sketch, but in 3D.


The difference that stood out to me most after the horn was the body, so that is where I started. An actual hippo's body is pretty much an oval; in the HHH pattern that was rendered as a sphere that extends into a cylinder (made convex by stuffing) before narrowing in a cone. by contrast, rhinos have obvious hips, so I modified the body to be more hourglassy, for a proper rhino with junk in the trunk:


What I was going for was two spheres on either end of a... I don't know the name of a concave cylinder; a double hyperbolic paraboloid, maybe? I dunno. In any case, I did this by taking the total number of rows from the hippo's torso and laying out, in the same number of rows, a ball that extended instead of closing and then widened back to the same diameter before ending like a ball on the other side. It looked like a purple peanut, which I am bearing in mind for later.

Difficulty: this step was easy. I knew what I wanted to do right away and wrote it out without much trouble - I made a few errors when writing the directions but they were easily seen and fixed once I reached that point in what I'd written.


For the head I was starting from scratch. A rhino's head goes from a triangle at the front to a rectangular middle part to the rounded top of the skull. On this one I couldn't project enough to write out directions because I wasn't really sure how to attain what I wanted. I had to see what was happening based on what I tried and write it out as I went in case that ended up being what worked. I flat out dropped the rectangular part, because I don't yet know how to make crochet in the round hold even soft corners like those. It didn't bother me, because the head was already going to be the least "actually like a rhino" part - there really is no neck to speak of on an actual rhino, but the wibbly head was the thing I liked best about Mr. Hippo, so Bernie the Rhino (the name being that of one of the purple rhino image creators) was also getting one.

The idea that finally worked for the triangle was to crochet into the back of one round of stitches - I'd already successfully made a triangle shape but crocheting as normal meant the shape was lost, so this emphasized it. This also made the front stay flat, and in conjunction with the way I did the increases to the crown of the skull, it caused a little ridge where I could later put the horn:


Difficulty: oh man, the head was absolutely the hardest part! This is where the bulk of the trial and error happened, and I spent as much time trying to get this thing into a shape I liked as I did on every other part of it cumulatively. Maybe more, even - I spent about 14 hours on Sunday thinking, planning, testing and undoing before I finally had that breakthrough and could get on to the easier parts. Even when it was frustrating, though, it was still satisfying because I knew I was going to get it sooner or later. Also, I have not seen crocheting into the back used this way as a technique in any of the toys I've looked at so far. I can't say I've invented anything - my knowledge right now is the opposite of encyclopedic - but since I hadn't seen it, trying it and having it do what I hoped felt really good.


The horn is just a teensy cornucopia. I made it curve by drawing the string back through one side and pulling it taut. I started from the opening and narrowed to the tip, which is backward from all the crochet I have seen. Plenty of things narrow to a point but they usually also start at a point as well rather than an open circle. As with the front of the snout, I have not seen anyone use starting at the usual middle point this way. I will be looking for it as as I keep trying other people's patterns, but meanwhile I was very pleased with the horn and with myself:


Difficulty: super easy. In retrospect I could have looked for cornucopia patterns, but I didn't need to; I thought of what to do right away, and it worked just right on the first try.


The hippo ears were made of straight out circles sewn together at the bottom, but hippo ears are rounded, so that works. Since rhino ears are fluted, I wanted mine to at least have a point, and I went with the pink inner ears again (not really anatomically correct, but dude, it's a purple rhino, verisimilitude is already a lost cause):

I forgot to take a picture of them sewn up before attaching them, but here they are on the head:


Difficulty: easy. I had to test a couple of times to get the shaping I wanted, but it worked pretty close to how I first envisioned it, and they were so small that the testing was no sweat. It came out slightly angled to the left, so for the final design I'm going to make a reverse one for the right ear.


I wanted the feet to be flat, since a rhino has a round flat foot. I have no pics of the feet by themselves, unfortunately, but here they are on the body:


Difficulty: easy but buggy. I successfully made the feet flatter on the bottom than they would have been had I gone with the design from the hippo (which is exactly the same as the arms on the Cthulhu and seems pretty standard from other patterns I have seen), but I would have liked them to be flatter still, and that will be the goal when I make another. I also had to go back and modify them to fix a design flaw that didn't become evident until I was ready to attach them to the body, to make the flat bottoms all point downward. That was easy, too, but I'd rather have had it perfect the first time. The retrofit helped me figure out how to do the final design, though, so I am ok with it.

He's gonna charge!


Yes, that's totally a tat.

What I Learned

These I will note down as they occur to me, but I really just want to put the post up now.

I had one overarching problem to overcome for the whole project - it was my first pattern. In creating it, I identified and started developing three of the elements I need for design: the ability to think about shapes as ratios and numbers; the ability to express those numbers as stitches and convert back and forth; and the ability to write in crochet notation. Design means using all three of these imperfectly mastered skills simultaneously, and I've never even done anything analogous to give me crossover skills to work with, so, unsurprisingly, I made plenty of errors in plotting over the course of the project. It was a pretty awesome immersive learning experience.

-- On the head, I initially wanted to incorporate all three shapes into one piece and still not have it be topheavy, but it was a little bit beyond me. I'm not sure yet that you CAN make crochet in the round hold a square shape in 3D (of course it can for granny squares. I'm going to try for a later project, but I haven't seen anyone else manage it yet (not that someone else may not have done so, I just don't know about it) and given the other challenges I had to work through I opted not to also experiment on that for longer than just a few minutes for this project. I will give it a more extensive try later, and if that doesn't work then I am confident that making an unassembled box shape and sewing it together will work, but I'm going to try the one piece method first.

-- When using a string drawn through a section to create or hold shaping through tension (the horn, the flat feet), don't tie it down until the end when everything's been attached together. Manipulating the parts can cause some of that tension to relax. The horn was fine but I wanted the feet flatter. Still pretty darned happy with them, though.

-- Using scrap yarn to mark the attachment points for the head did not work at all. That idea was a total bust.

Attaching the head in concentric rings worked - the small center attachment let me properly place and angle the head easily, and then attaching again at a wider point let me control the wibbliness.
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