Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hooty Hoo -- Grandmother's Favorite Knitted Owl

Some of the best little knitting patterns are those that are passed on from knitter to knitter, handwritten on an index card or scrap of paper.  Favorites like the potato chip scarf, the feather and fan baby afghan, and of course, the famous dishcloth knit on the bias, aka Grandmother's Favorite.  Since the early days of Knit Night, I have taught this dishcloth as an introduction to easy increases and decreases -- I couldn't even guess at how many GF dishcloths have been made by our knitters.  A few years ago, I worked up a pattern for a triangle shawl and a rectangular shawl using the basic GF formula; one of our knitters won a blue ribbon at the fair for her purple GF afghan!  I was so proud.

Owls are very popular on the crafty blogs lately (plus, they are my high school mascot!); I really want to sew some up, maybe even from some of my felted sweater collection.  But in looking at some of the patterns, I noticed that many of them start with a square of fabric, and this got me thinking that maybe I could make an owl from a square of knitted fabric.  And what's easier than a GF square?  So here are my two versions of the owl; both are knit on the bias, but the smaller one is done just like a GF dishcloth in garter stitch, while the larger owl is done in stockinette.

Grandmother's Favorite Knitted Owl
For the smaller owl
Materials: Kitchen cotton in three colors (I used off white and yellow I had on hand, and Peaches and Cream in the Good Earth color); Size 7 needles, polyfill for stuffing, buttons for eyes (or felt for applique eyes), yarn needle.
Notes: kfb = knit into the front and back of the stitch (this is an increase used instead of the yarn over increase usually found in this dishcloth, which makes an eyelet hole – we want to avoid that!)  Also, if you are making the owl as a toy for a baby or young child, don't use buttons, which could come off and be a choking hazard -- circles of felt applied with a buttonhole embroidery stitch are great!)
Pattern: Starting at the beak, with yellow, cast on 2. Knit 1, kfb. (3 stitches).
Row 2: K1, kfb, k1 (4 stitches)
Row 3: k1, kfb, k2 (5 stitches). Cut yellow and pick up second color.
Row 4: K1, kfb, knit to end. Repeat row 4 until there are 22 stitches on your needle.
Pick up color 3 and repeat row 4 until there are 41 stitches on your needle.
Knit one row.
Decrease rows: k1, k2tog, knit to end. Repeat this row until there are 23 stitches on your needle.
Pick up color 2 and repeat decrease row until there are 3 stitches on your needle. Bind off.   See, you get a dishcloth!
Finishing: Fold all four corners of the square toward the center; secure with pins, if you need.

Using any seaming method, sew up three seams; leave the 4th open for stuffing.

 Stuff the owl as firmly as you like with polyfill, then sew up the last seam. Pinch ½ inch at each corner of the head for ears; using a yarn needle threaded with a length of kitchen cotton, weave needle in and out around the pinch and secure to form ears. Add buttons or felt eyes. Using yarn needle, gather center of the owl and draw up; tie a secure knot and hide it inside the owl.

For larger owl, knit in stockinette:
Materials:  worsted weight yarn in 3 or 4 colors (I used Knit Picks Wool of the Andes from my stash -- the colors have changed, but when I looked at the KP color chart, I think that Caution, Maple Syrup, Almond and Hollyberry are the closest to what I used.  Of course, use your favorite colors!); Size 7 needles; yarn needle; buttons and/or felt appliques; polyfill.

Notes:  1) KFB = knit in the front and back of the stitch.  2) Since this is knit in stockinette, I increased on both ends of each knit row.  3) Slip the first stitch of each row after the 3rd row or so -- this will make it much easier to seam up at the end.  And 4), as I mentioned above, if you are making this owl as a toy for a baby or small child, use felt appliques for the eyes instead of buttons, to avoid a choking hazard.

Pattern:  (Starting with the beak) with yellow, cast on 3
Row 1:  Purl one row
Row 2:  Knit 1, make one, knit one, make one, knit 1 (5 stitches)
Row 3:  Purl
Row 4:  Slip one, kfb, knit 1, kfb, knit one (7 stitches)
Row 5:  Purl
Row 6:  Slip one, kfb, knit to two stitches before end, kfb, knit one. (9 stitches)
Row 7:  Purl
Repeat rows 6 and 7 once more, until there are 11 stitches on needles. Change to color 2
Repeat rows 6 and 7 with color 2 until there are 41 stitches on needles. Change to color 3
Repeat rows 6 and 7 until there are 72 stitches on needles.
Begin decrease rows:  On each knit row, slip one, k2tog, knit to 3 stitches before end of row, k2tog, k1.
Next row:  Purl.
Repeat these two rows until there are 39 stitches on needles; change to color 4 (or back to color 2, if you want.)
Repeat decrease rows until there are 3 stitches on needles; bind off.
Finishing:  Fold all four corners in to the center.  I stitched the point of the beak together with the opposite point, just to keep things in line.

 And, to make the seaming up easier, I slipped a notebook, which was luckily just the right size!) into the owl -- a piece of cardboard under where you are stitching will help you avoid cathing the back of the owl in your seams.
Sew three sides together, leaving the 4th open for stuffing (and removing the cardboard before it gets sewn inside).  
You can seam up the owl with your favorite method; I did a weaving stitch on the outside, catching those slipped stitches on each side:

Stuff the owl with polyfill, and sew up final seam.  Pinch about an inch on each side of the head, and using a strand of yarn and yarn needle, weave around the pinch to form ears.  Add button or applique eyes; here are the felt eyes sewn on with a buttonhole stitch:
Give your owl a hug.


  1. This is super cute, thanks for sharing!

  2. made this as gift for b/f who loves owl ornaments- came out so cute. Did with fingering yarn and size 1's.