Introduction: Baby Owl Hat

About: Former long time designer at Instructables. I have a degree in fashion design and like to sew, get crafty, and attempt to use power tools.

Four of my friends just had babies this past month.  Of course this means it's knitting time!  I thought that knitting a baby hat would be easy - just take an adult size hat, and scale it down, right?  So I set to work, and made something that was way too small - apparently newborn heads are larger than I thought.  Fail #1.  My second try was more or less the right circumference, but was too deep and didn't stretch much as I used a very heavy textured yarn.  Fail #2.  Third times a charm, and this one came out perfect.  Now that I've got it down, this super adorable hat is a pretty quick project for any expectant parents out there, and can easily be sized up for kids and adults.

Step 1: Supplies

You can use whatever yarn you like, but I recommend not using anything too bulky unless you are using very large needles, as you'll want your hat to have a lot of stretch.  I also prefer natural fibers for blocking purposes. 

I used the following:

- Lion Brand organic cotton yarn, with scraps of white for the eyes and orange for the beak.
- Size 9 double pointed needles (you may want to use a different size depending on what yarn you use)
- Crochet hook (not super important what size, I used an F)
- 2 buttons for pupils
- Heavy thread to attach pupils (buttons) to crochet white eyes
- Large eyed needle, big enough to thread yarn through for attaching pieces to hat (not pictured).  You could do this with a crochet hook too, but I found it much faster to do it with a needle.

Step 2: Knit the Hat

Knit the hat!  I used this pattern as a base, and sized it down a lot as I used a heavier yarn and therefore different gauge.  Remember that this will vary greatly depending on the yarn and needles used, so I recommend figuring out your gauge first (how many stitches per inch), and then use this handy reference for the head size to determine your total number of stitches.  This pattern is 36 stitches around, with 8 for each earflap, 14 for the front, and 6 for the back, and is just big enough for a premie/newborn.  If you need to have a higher number of total stitches, scale these sections up proportionally, and keep the total number of stitches divisible by 6 for easy decreasing at the top of the cap.  Please note that I am not a super experienced knitter, so if you have suggestions for improvements on this pattern, please feel free to comment!

The adaption I made is as follows:

Ear Flaps
CO 3 stitches.
Row 1: purl row
Row 2: Knit 1, KFB (knit in front and back to add stitch), Knit 1
Keep purling one row, then knitting one row with an added stitch in the middle until you have 6 stitches on your needle.  Then purl one row, and for your last knit row: K1, KFB, K2, KFB, K1.  This is to give the earflap a little curve into the main part of the hat.
Cut yarn, leaving a 12″ tail, and leave the earflap on its double pointed needle.
Repeat for second ear flap.

Cast on 14 stitches to a third needle for the front of the hat, without cutting the yarn when finished (the referenced pattern above calls for cable cast on, however I found I could not get it to be stretchy enough, so I opted for long-tail cast on for this section knowing I would have to block it later due to curl.  If you are using acrylic, you may want to rib knit the first row instead of stockinette so it doesn't curl).

Now start connecting the pieces into a round.  Take your main line of yarn, and start knitting one of your earflaps, connecting it to the front section you just cast on.  Be careful that you are knitting the knit side of the earflap rather than the purl backside, and you may want to knit this onto a new needle so it fits easily.  

Cable cast on 6 stitches for the back of the hat.  

Knit your second earflap, again being careful not to twist stitches and keep the sides of all pieces knit side out.  You should now be ready to close your round, with 36 stitches total on 3 - 4 needles.  Feel free to scoot some of the stitches around to different needles to even out the stitches.  I used 3 needles with 12 stitches on each.

Note that there will be a lot of loose ends, and things may look a little wonky around the earflaps.  Don't worry, we'll fix that when we weave through the ends.

Start knitting rounds, and continue until hat measures 3" from the front of the hat.  Then decrease as follows:

Row 1: K4, K2tog
Row 2: K3, K2tog
Row 3: K2, K2tog
Row 4: K1, K2tog
Row 5: K2tog for whole round, so you are down to 6 stitches

Cut yarn with a long tail, pull through the last 6 stitches and tie off.  You're done with the hard part!

Step 3: Block Your Hat

When you finish knitting your hat, you will have a lot of loose ends around the earflaps.  With a crochet hook, weave those around any weak or loose connection points until they look more continuous, eventually weaving them down to the bottoms of the earflaps.

Once this is finished, it is time to block your hat.  As I used a long tail cast on instead of a cable cast on for the front of the hat, there was a fair amount of curl, which we can take care of by blocking.  This works best with natural fibers, you will have a hard time correcting for this with acrylic.  

With a very steamy iron and press cloth, steam your hat into shape.  You may want to do this a few times, letting it dry in between, until you have eliminated any curl of the ear flaps or front of the hat.

Now that you have your hat base complete, it's time for the fun stuff!

Step 4: Add Ears and Tails

Cut lengths of your three colors of yard for the ears and tails.  

For the ears, pull several strands of each color through a row or two of knitting, and wrap tightly with a separate piece of yarn, knotting several times as you wrap so it is tightly secured.  Run the ends back up through the wrap, so they do not stick out in strange directions.

For the tails, pull longer pieces through the bottom of the earflaps, and braid them to your desired length.  Wrap tightly in the same fashion, knoting as you wrap until it is very secure, and run the ends back through.

Give a little trim to even them out when finished.

Step 5: Make the Face

The last step is to add the face.  

First, crochet two white circles in the round.  I made them about two inches in diameter.  

The beak is a little more tricky, I basically single crocheted for two rows, until I had a remotely triangular piece.  The shape of this will largely be determined when you sew it to the hat, so don't worry if it is not a perfect triangle.

Sew the pupils to the eyes before attaching them to the hat.  Use heavy thread to sew them down, making sure to do so very securely, since babies may pull at them.  I positioned them slightly to the center so it would have a somewhat cross eyed look :)

Now take your large eyed needle, and using the ends of each piece start sewing them down.  Although I sewed the beak on second here, I think it would have looked better to sew it down first.  When sewing the beak and eyes down, try to correct for the natural irregularities and make the shapes more uniform.  Tie off the ends securely when finished.  I kept the loose ends an inch or two long and ran them through the gap between the eyes and the hat, so they would be hidden and less likely to unravel.

With that you're finished!  Sit back and enjoy the cuteness, your job is done.

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