Big Owl Pattern – Hints and Tips

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The Big Owl pattern is now available in the Natty Knits Etsy shop and on Ravelry and Craftsy. Big Owl can be knitted as a stuffed toy or as a pajama case. Instructions for both are included in this pattern.

Here are some hints and tips to help you get the best from your Big Owl 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

I used a variety of different bulky yarns whilst testing the Big Owl pattern. I found that I liked the heathered yarns best, or yarns with two contasting colors twisted together.

More About Short Row Shaping

The Owl 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.

Gathering End Stitches

If you find that it’s hard to gather together all the end loops on the underside of the Owl’s body, then just pick up every other end loop. The gather will be less lumpy and because you’re using a bulky yarn, there won’t be any gaps.


The pajama case Big Owl calls for two three-stitch buttonholes. A three-stitch buttonhole can be made over two rows, or one row.

Two Row Buttonhole – I’ve always been drawn to this type of buttonhole. Very simply, the two row button hole involves binding off a certain number of stitches in one row and casting on the same number in the next row. Choose your cast on type in the second row carefully, in my experience it’s best to use a backward loop cast on.

One Row Buttonhole – You can also work a button hole over just one row, this is done with a slip stitch bind off and then a wrap and turn to allow you to cast on stitches going back in the other direction. I found this great video tutorial by JadeFletcherKnits which shows this technique very clearly. It creates a well reinforced button hole which looks better over more than three stitches. A variation on this is Techknitter’s Tulips Buttonhole, which is fiddly, especially if you’re not used to handling a crochet hook, but is really worth the effort.

Sewing Techniques

Garter Mattress Stitch

The seams on the top of the Owl’s head 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.

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 back seam of the owl’s body.  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

How you choose to give your owl eyes is up to you, I’ve used felt or buttons before, but you could also use embroidery or safety eyes.

When I cut eyes from felt I choose a button of the right size and make a stencil by drawing around the button and cutting it out of paper, that way the eyes are usually quite even.

If you have any questions or comments which are not covered either in the pattern or here, please contact me through the NattyKnits Etsy shop and I’ll do my best to help you.


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