This post is all about turning an owl into a chicken!
We don't know who was the first knitter to turn cables into little owls, but we do know the first person to write it up as a pattern was Janice Straker in the 1970s. Since then, her popular pattern--for babies in fingering weight yarn and children in sport weight yarn, has been distributed for decades by her daughter Penny Straker. More recently, many have used that darling cabled owl in numerous patterns for adult and children's sweaters--Kate Davies popular sweaters comes to mind, plus mittens, hats, afghans--the list goes on and on. I'm sure you've even made a few. I sure have!
Taking the cabled owl and tweaking it into a chicky was not my idea, but since I could not find the pattern published anywhere, I decided to show you what I did. This is not a pattern for a sweater, but instead shows you how to turn the cabled owl into a chicken by changing ONE row. This will work with any cabled owl.
With the owl, most patterns have you use the same (or very similar) cable row three times; one for the feet, the second for the neck, and the last to shape the top of the head and to make the ears. To make a chicken, you merely change the top-of-the-head row from back crosses to front crosses and vice versa.
Here's what I did:
The pattern I used reads the cable row as thus: Slip 3 sts. onto cable needle, hold in back of work, K 2 sts., then knit 3 sts. from cable needle. Slip next 2 sts. onto cable needle, hold in front of work, K 3 sts. then knit 2 sts. from cable needle.
I changed it to this: Slip 2 sts. onto cable needle, hold in front of work, K 3 sts., then knit 2 sts. from cable needle. Slip next 3 sts. onto cable needle, hold in back of work, K 2 sts., then knit 3 sts. from cable needle. You will only change the top-of-head shaping cable; the other rows will stay the same.
Your cable pattern may not read exactly as mine, but you shouldn't have any problems modifying it. Now make the features. Eyes and beak: Sew buttons for his eyes and make an orange 4-stitch beak, or applique a tiny felt triangle--I tried both ways and couldn't decide what I liked best--see above for both options. Top Feathers: Make the top-feathers with 3 strands of yarn, and using a crochet hook, attach the strands through a stitch/loop at the top of the head and pull tightly through the stitch, then clip to a little less than 1/2". Feet: Feet are optional, but you can make 3-stitch chicken feet at the bottom cable if you like.
I am thrilled with the way the sweater came out and it's just in time for Easter!
I used Rowan's Super Fine Merino 4 Ply, which is 100% superwash merino and feels like 100% cashmere. After being introduced in 2015, this has become my absolute favorite fingering weight yarn. It's completely lovely to knit and makes an ultra-soft, super-squishy, even-textured fabric. It's machine washable and so perfect for baby and his busy mom. I could not be happier with this little sweater.
Baby Owl pattern by Penny Straker
(I would die if I didn't have this pattern, I love it that much!)
Chicky Baby on Ravelry
Rowan Super Fine Merino 4 Ply is available at your local Rowan stockist and online at
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