Cow Pattern – Hints and Tips

The Cow pattern is finally finished and is available in the Natty Knits Etsy shop and Ravelry and it’s in the Knit Picks Independent Designer Program library.

Here are some hints and tips to help you get the best from your pattern.

A Note on Gauge

When knitting toys I always use needles that are a mm size smaller than  recommended for the yarn. You don’t have to get the gauge exactly right but at least knit up some garter stitch using smaller than usual needles, until you get a fabric that you can only see pinpricks of light through.

Yarn Suggestions

As always Knit Picks has some beautiful easy care yarns, the brown cow was made with Knit Picks Swish DK in Doe. The blue space cow was knitted in a British favorite Sirdar Snuggly, I like the way it has a bit of sheen on it.


I’ve never made schematics for a toy pattern before and didn’t want to complicate my new pattern layout by including one for the first time now. However, if you like to have schematics, these may help.

Preferred Cast On

I don’t specify a preferred CO method, although if you use the continental long tail CO you will find that you will have tail end yarn in the correct place for seaming.

More About Short Row Shaping

The Cow pattern uses a technique called Short Row Shaping. This involves turning the knitting around before you’ve knitted to the end of the row, so making the knitted fabric 3 dimensional. However, when you turn the knitting, you leave a small hole. There’s a special blog post on how to close the holes and get a smoother finish just here.

Why Sections and No Row Count?

The pattern for the Cow’s body is split into sections to make the pattern easier to follow and to give the knitter a good insight into the symmetrical construction. Each section is knitted one after the other without binding off.

I didn’t put a row count in the pattern because the short rows make row counting difficult, does it count as a row if it doesn’t go all the way across?  If you are struggling with keeping the row count in your head, try taking a note of where your CO tail is when you begin, then if you do get lost you will at least know if you’re on an odd or even row.

Inside/Outside/Right Side/Wrong Side

Technically speaking the right side of garter stitch is identified by the position of your CO tail. Even numbered rows should find your CO tail where it was immediately after you CO and in odd numbered rows your CO tail will be on the opposite side. If you are knitting an odd row, you are looking at the right side of garter stitch. However I would stress that in a pattern with short rows in it, simply chose the best looking side for the outside.

Left Leaning Decrease

The abbreviation SSK stands for “slip two stitches knitwise and then knit them together through the back loop”. This is a Left Leaning Decrease. Please note that *ANY* left leaning decrease will do the same job. There’s an excellent selection of them on the Knitting Help website.

I spent a long time looking for a left leaning decrease I liked, I wrote about it here. where I came to the conclusion that every knitter is different. If a left leaning decrease fills you with fear and frustration, just do a K2tog, anyone who isn’t a knitter probably won’t even notice.

Sewing Techniques

There is a lot of sewing in the Cow pattern. If you find that daunting, I would recommend knitting the head and then sewing it together before knitting the body. That will break up the amount of sewing you will need to do in one sitting.

Garter Mattress Stitch

The seams at the front and back of the Cow’s body are sewn together using the garter stitch version of a mattress stitch. There is a very clear tutorial for how to do this on the Knitty website here (scroll to the bottom for the garter stitch version) there’s also an excellent description in the Stitch n Bitch books by Debbie Stoller.

Fake Grafting

Use Fake Grafting (sometimes called Faux Kitchener) to sew together the top and bottom of stockinette stitch. In the Cow pattern this occurs in the horns and the legs.

Look carefully at where the leg changes from garter to stockinette stitch, with the garter stitch section on the right all sewn together using the weaving method described below, find the first v shaped stitch at the bottom right and sew through the middle of the v from back to front. Then sew behind the corresponding v on the top right from right to left (as shown below). Repeat this all the way along the seam. For the horns begin this seaming method at the base of the horn and seam to the tip.

Weaving Stitch

The following way is an excellent method for sewing the top and bottom of garter stitch knitting, it leaves a nicely hidden seam. This will be useful when sewing the underseam of the cow’s body, the back of the head and the bottom of the feet.  The basic method involves weaving the yarn in and out so that it goes directly over the existing stitches in the knitting. Here’s a diagram:

The important thing to remember when using this method is not to pull the yarn tight as this will just make a nasty mess. It’s a delicately balanced operation, but simple with practice.

Felt features

I recently wrote a blog entry on how to make great looking felt cow eyes but if you wanted to embroider your cow’s eyes or use safety eyes or even buttons, then feel free to do that. Always consider who the toy is for when you are deciding on the type of features.



Filed under Natty Knits Patterns Hints and Tips

2 responses to “Cow Pattern – Hints and Tips

  1. Knit Picks just put your cow on their facebook page! Congrats for you!

  2. nattyknitter

    I just saw that Teresa, thanks for the heads up. I’d love to reply to some of those comments!

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