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Tuesday
Dec092008

Whit's Knits: Holiday Bird Ornaments

The song and flight of birds are miracles of nature perfectly compatible with the miraculous spirit of the holiday season, a spirit of industry, generosity and joy. Everything we make this time of year seems to be imbued with cheer, like the excited chirp of one bird to another.

I had a lot of fun experimenting with different fibers to bring these five unique birds to life, each with its own personality. Some have the happy chubbiness of city sparrows, while others appear to be on more intense missions, streamlined for efficiency. They're so quick and easy to knit that you'll have your own ornothological family before you know it!

Materials

I used very small amounts of mostly fingering weight yarns to make my ornaments, although any weight will do. Bigger yarn will make bigger ornaments; smaller yarn, smaller ornaments...

These yarns, from the top left, are:

For needles, I used US #2 double pointed needles. If you're using different yarns or knit at a different tension than I do, just make sure that you choose double pointed needles that are one or two sizes smaller than you would normally use. You want the yarn to knit up quite tight so the stuffing doesn't show through the stitches.

The Pattern

Gauge

The gauge is not important for this pattern (yippee!). You just want the stitches to be close enough together that the stuffing doesn't show through the knitting.

Finished Size

Using fingering (or sock weight) yarn, 3 inches from tail to beak.

Note

For this bird I used Koigu's Premium Merino (pink for the tail and wings and white for the body and beak). There are photos and descriptions of other yarn combinations at the end of the pattern.

Tail

Cast 8 stitches onto a double pointed needle.

Using two double pointed needles, knitting back and forth:

Row 1: Slip 1 knitwise, knit to end.

Row 2: Repeat Row 1.

Row 3: Slip 1 knitwise, ssk, k2, k2tog, k1. (6 stitches)

Rows 4 and 5: Repeat Row 1.

Row 6: Slip 1 knitwise, ssk, k2tog, k1. (4 stitches)

Row 7: Use a cable cast on to cast on 2 stitches at the beginning of the row...

...and knit to end of row. (6 stitches)

Next: Using the cable cast on, cast on 2 stitches at the beginning of the next row. Don't knit the row. (8 stitches)

Body

Distribute the 8 stitches onto three double pointed needles.

Note: If you want the tail to be a different color than the body, now would be a good time to start with the new color. You won't actually join the work into the round until Round 2. That's ok!

Round 1: Join for working in the round, and knit to end of round.

Round 2: Knit into the front and back (kfb), knit to the last stitch, kfb. (2 stitches increased)

Rounds 3 - 5: Repeat Round 2. (16 stitches)

Knit 10 rounds.

You might want to start stuffing the bird now because you're about to do some decreasing...

Next Round: K2tog, knit to the last 2 stitches, ssk. (2 stitches decreased)

Repeat last round 2 more times. (10 stitches)

Stuff some more!

Head

Round 1: *Kfb, k1, repeat from * to end of round. (15 stitches)

Knit 5 rounds.

Get some stuffing in the head...

Next Round: *K1, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (10 stitches)

Next Round: *K2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (5 stitches)

Use the tip of a knitting needle to poke a last bit of stuffing into the head.

Beak

Note: If you want the beak to be a different color than the head, now is when you should start using the new color.

Knit 2 rounds.

Squeeze a tiny bit of stuffing into the beak.

Next round: K2tog, k1, k2tog. (3 stitches)

Cut the yarn and sew it through the 3 remaining stitches.

Sew the tail down through the end of the beak into the body of the bird. Pull it out of the bird somewhere and cut the tail. (If you want the hanging cord to be the same color as the beak you can pull the tail out the top of the bird's back, and don't cut the tail.)

Left Wing

Note: The "left" wing is the one that is on the left as you look the bird in the face.

Slide a double pointed needle under a column of 6 stitches near the top of the bird to mark the location of the left wing. You should see 6 "ladders" (horizontal bars).

Now is a good time to mark the placement of the right wing too, as symmetrically to the left wing as you can.

Returning to the left wing, hold the bird so the back (not the belly) is facing you. Start at the tail end of the 6 ladders, and pick up 6 stitches.

Working back and forth with two double pointed needles:

Row 1: Slip 1 knitwise, knit to end.

Rows 2 and 3: Repeat Row 1.

Row 4: Slip 1 knitwise, k to last 3 stitches, k2tog, k1. (1 stitch decreased)

Row 5: Repeat Row 1.

Rows 6 - 9: Repeat Rows 4 and 5 two more times. (3 stitches)

Cut the yarn and thread it through the remaining 3 stitches.

If you changed colors for the wing, you'll notice a body-colored stitch at the base of the wing that bothers me and may bother you. If it does, thread the tail down the side of the wing...

...and sew over that offensive stitch to make it go away!

Right Wing

Start at the head end of the 6 ladders you have on hold for the right wing...

...and pick up 6 stitches.

Row 1: Slip 1 knitwise, knit to end.

Rows 2 and 3: Repeat Row 1.

Row 4: Slip 1 knitwise, ssk, knit to end. (1 stitch decreased)

Row 5: Repeat Row 1.

Rows 6 - 9: Repeat Rows 4 and 5 two more times. (3 stitches)

Cut the yarn and thread the tail through the remaining 3 stitches.

Two wings!

Finishing

Hanging Cord

Decide what yarn you want the hanging cord to be. Sew two tails of that yarn through the bird to the top center. Hang the bird from your fingers to make sure the cords are at the center of gravity. You may have adjust the placement a few times to get it right. Tie a knot to make a loop.

Eyes

Decide what color you want the eyes to be, and sew a tail of that yarn through the body to where you want the first eye.

Sew whatever kind of eye you want. Bring the tail to other side of the head to make a matching eye.

Ends

Sew up the base of the tail with a nearby end of yarn.

Sew the remaining ends through the body of the bird. Bring the yarn out anywhere.

Then cut the tails.

And you're done!

Variations

There are countless ways to play with this basic pattern. You can decorate your bird with duplicate stitch, or knit stripes, or use multi colored yarns, or add plumes and crests.

For my bird ornament collection, I explored different yarn combinations:

This bird is made out of Alchemy's Silken Straw and Blue Sky's Brushed Suri...

This one is Tilli Tomas's Beaded Lace and the Brushed Suri...

This bird is the Beaded Lace and Koigu's Premium Merino...

And here's another all Koigu version...

Have fun devising your own combinations and variations. We would love to see the results!

Reader Comments (9)

This little bird is just adorable!!! If I didn't already have a million projects I would have these little guys on the needles in a heartbeat. So cute!!!!
December 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMary Glynn
I just made one and it turned out just adorable!!! Thanks for the tutorial! Also, I added two more rows onto the end of each wing and that made them slightly more proportionate to the body.
December 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
These are precious. What a great baby mobile they will make!
December 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRobin
Oh i can't wait to make these. I just love them, they are so dainty. I bought myself a collection of double pointed needles for Christmas and this is the perfect project for me to do to get use to using them.
January 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoAnna
What "holiday" are these birds for? I see patterns for several holidays, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Valentine's Day. What holiday should I infer from these birds?
February 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKmbold
Hi Kmbold,
Whichever holiday seems appropriate to you. We made them for our Christmas Tree, but they'd be pretty sweet as a valentine gift too.
February 6, 2009 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Ah, CHRISTMAS! Thank you.
February 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKmbold
çok teşekkür ederim.Hemen örmeyi deneyeceğim.İSTANBUL dan selamlar
April 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNEŞE
Thank you for the free bird pattern
Australia
April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLorraine

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