Search The Purl Bee
Sign up for our newsletter!

Idea Center
Follow The Purl Bee
« Molly's Sketchbook: Long Pom Pom Cowl | Main | Molly's Sketchbook: Twenty Minute Totes in Outside Oslo Fabric »

Whit's Knits: Big Snowy Owl

There's something about owls. Is it their baby-wide eyes? Their mysterious nighttime habits? Or their totemic gumdrop shape? I'm not sure, but owls somehow manage to be simultaneously enigmatic and totally lovable.

This one is heavy on the lovable! With a big, pudgy belly and a cozy soft alpaca-blend yarn, the Big Snowy Owl is one heck of a hugger. At a foot and a half tall and a yard around, he's just right for little arms to squeeze and for young imaginations to love. Although, you're never too old for an unconditionally amiable friend!

Making the Big Snowy Owl was probably the most fun knitting I've done all year. From easy stitch patterns to simple shaping, there's never a dull moment! Plus I love just being around the downy softness of Blue Sky Bulky, big wonderful stitch after big wonderful stitch!


The Materials

  • For the Main Yarn: 4 skeins of Blue Sky's Bulky, 50% Alpaca and 50% Wool. I used the color Polar Bear. NOTE: If you're not very careful with your gauge and conservative with your tails, you may need 5 skeins - it's close! (Looking for another option? Try 2 skeins of Cascade's Magnum.)
  • For the Contrast Yarns: 3 skeins of Blue Sky's Bulky. These colors are Silver Mink, Frost and Gray Wolf. (Want to save a little? Just one skein would be enough!)


The Pattern


2 1/2 stitches = 1 inch in stockinette

Finished Size

17 inches from ground to top of ear

38 inches in circumference

The Bottom

With the Main Yarn and the double pointed needles, cast on 8 stitches. (NOTE: If you're using Blue Sky Bulky and following this design exactly, you'll end up using almost all of the 4 skeins. So to be on the safe side, don't leave super long tails. Stick to 6 to 8 inch tails and you'll be fine!)

Place a stitch marker and join for working in the round, being careful to not twist your stitches.

Round 1: Knit into the front and back (kfb) 8 times. (16 stitches)

Round 2: Purl.

Round 3: *P1, kfb, repeat from * to end of round. (24 stitches)

Round 4: Purl.

Round 5: *P2, kfb, repeat from * to end of round. (32 stitches)

Round 6: Purl.

Round 7: *P3, kfb, repeat from * to end of round. (40 stitches)

Round 8: Purl.

Round 9: *P4, kfb, repeat from * to end of round. (48 stitches)

Round 10: Purl.

Round 11: *P5, kfb, repeat from * to end of round. (56 stitches)

Switching to the 20 inch circular needle...

Round 12: Purl.

Round 13: *P13, kfb, repeat from * to end of round. (60 stitches)

Purl 6 rounds.

The Body

Round 1: *P1, k9, p1, k1, repeat from * to end of round.

Round 2: *K1, p1, k7, p1, k1, p1, repeat from * to end of round. 

Round 3: *P1, k1, p1, k5, (p1, k1) 2 times, repeat from * to end of round.

Round 4: *(K1, p1) 2 times, k3, p1, k1, p1, k2, repeat from * to end of round.

Round 5: *K2, (p1, k1) 3 times, p1, k3, repeat from * to end of round.

Round 6: *K3, (p1, k1) 2 times, p1, k4, repeat from * to end of round.

Round 7: *K4, p1, k1, p1, k5, repeat from * to end of round.

Round 8: Repeat Round 6.

Round 9: Repeat Round 5.

Round 10: Repeat Round 4.

Round 11: Repeat Round 3.

Round 12: Repeat Round 2.

Repeat Rounds 1-12 one more time.

Repeat Rounds 1-7.

The Head

Rounds 1-6: Knit.

Round 7: *K8, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (54 stitches)

Rounds 8 and 9: Knit.

Round 10: *K7, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (48 stitches)

Rounds 11 and 12: Knit.

Round 13: *K6, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (42 stitches)

Rounds 14 and 15: Knit.

Round 16: *K5, k2tog, repeat from * to end of round. (36 stitches)

Rounds 17 and 18: Knit.

Turn the piece inside out and weave in the ends. Then turn it right side out and fill the owl with a bag of stuffing.

The Ears

Remove the stitch marker, and slip the last 5 stitches you knit onto a double pointed needle.

With a second double pointed needle, knit the next 5 stitches.

Rearrange these 10 stitches onto three double pointed needles (3 stitches on two and 4 stitches on the third). Join for working in the round.

**Rounds 1-3: Knit.

Round 4: (K3, k2tog) 2 times. (8 stitches)

Round 5: (K2, k2tog) 2 times. (6 stitches)

Round 6: (K1, k2tog) 2 times. (4 stitches)

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

Orient your owl so the ear you just made is on the right (as in the above picture). Use the back circular needle to slip 8 stitches from the front needle.

Slip the next 10 stitches onto three double pointed needles (3 stitches on two and 4 stitches on the third).

Join new yarn, and repeat from ** to ***, joining into the round at the beginning of the second round.

Finish stuffing your owl, making it firm and plump. Don't forget to stuff the ears too!

Separate the 16 remaining stitches so that there are 8 stitches at each end of the needle.

Cut a piece of the Main Yarn about 24 inches long. Thread it onto a tapestry needle and graft the two sides of the owl's head together using the Kitchener Stitch.

As you weave in the tails, sew closed the holes.

The Eyes

With Color A (Frost), cast 8 stitches onto the double pointed needles.

Join for working in the round, being careful to not twist the stitches.

Round 1: Kfb 8 times. (16 stitches)

Round 2: *K1, kfb, repeat from * to end of round. (24 stitches)

Change to Color B (Polar Bear).

Round 3: Knit.

Round 4: *K2, kfb, repeat from * to end of round. (32 stitches)

Change to Color C (Silver Mink).

Round 5: Knit.

Round 6: *K3, kfb, repeat from * to end of round. (40 stitches)

Bind off, leaving a 24 inch tail. Weave in all the ends, except the tail. Use the tail to close the circle.

Make another eye identical to the first.

Place the edge of one eye half way between the ears and down at the center of the head. Use the tail to sew the outside edge of the eye to the head. To do this, I sewed under a ladder stitch of the head...

...then up through a bind off stitch...

...and down through the adjacent bind off stitch, ready to sew under the next ladder stitch.

Sew the second eye down also, lining up the outside edge so that the two eyes meet in the middle of the head.

Cut a 30 inch piece of Color D (I used Gray Wolf) and thread it onto a tapestry needle. Embroider around the inside of the first eye by bringing the needle down through the center of the eye and up through the first round of knitting, then back down through the center...

...until you have gone all the way around the center of the eye. Weave in the ends.

Embroider around the second eye in the same way.

The Beak

With Color D and a double pointed needle, pick up 6 stitches along the inside curve of the owl's left eye.

Flip the owl upside down, and with a second double pointed needle, pick up 6 stitches down the inside of the right eye. (12 stitches)

For the beak, you'll work back and forth in rows, working across the first double pointed needle and then the second. Turn the work over between rows.

Row 1: Purl.

Row 2: K3, k2tog, k2, ssk, k3. (10 stitches)

Row 3: Purl.

Row 4: K2, k2tog, k2, ssk, k2. (8 stitches)

Now, with 4 stitches on each needle, cut the yarn, leaving an 18 inch tail.

Hold the two needles parallel to each other, and graft them together using the Kitchener Stitch.

Weave in the ends.

If you have any ends left over, weave them in. Then give your Big Snowy owl a big squeeze!


Reader Comments (76)

This could also easily be adapted to make a Totoro, if one was so inclined.
September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKelly
WOW!!! This is incredible and I just can't wait to have one on my couch! As always, purl bee and staff have outdone themselves...again.
September 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkelli
Awww, this is too cute. Just in time to make for nieces and nephews for Christmas. Thank you!
September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaige
Beautiful ! So cute ! Thanks for this pattern !
September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKat
Love it! I am going through an owl fetish at the moment, I am knitting little baby 10cm tall owls at the moment, and just made my daughter a big owl cushion to snuggle up with. Can't wait to start this one!
September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca (Australia)
So, cute. I am amazed that you come up with always wonderful projects. Thank you for sharing.
September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMiwako
I have been following purlbee for years - i think this project may be the cutest I have ever seen on it's pages. how creative you are whitney!
September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTabatha M.
This is so cute I can't wait to knit it! I love purlbee!
Thanks! : )
September 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie
This is SOOOOOO cute! I really want to make a pair of these. Thanks for keeping these amazing patterns coming to us. Very inspiring!!
September 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBetsy Pratt
I can't find 20-inch #15 circular needles. Is that a standard size? Should it be 16-inch or 24-inch?
October 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVero
HI Vero-

The 20" size is a standard size that we carry. It's available here (towards the bottom of the page):

Thank you for your question!

- Molly
October 10, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
if i wanted to try this in crochet, how many skeins do you think it would take? also, what stitch would you suggest using? I've made stuffed animals before using a single-crochet, but I'd like to still achieve this look with the bulky yarn.
October 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterstacey
Can this be done in a worsted weight yarn with appropriate-size needles? i realize it will be smailer, but . . . I already bought some pink malabrigo that my granddaughter (a harry potter fanatic) requested and would like to be able to use it.
October 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJudy
Hi Stacey-

I would guess that 7 skeins of the Blue Sky Bulky would be enough (crochet generally uses about a third more yarn than knitting). I think that most crocheted animals are made out of single crochet because it's the tightest stitch and won't allow the stuffing to show through. If you like the diamond pattern of the knit version, it might be cool achieve the same thing using two colors!

Thanks for your question and good luck!
October 17, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
HI Judy,

Yes, definitely! Since the owl doesn't have to fit anybody, it can be done with absolutely any size yarn! Pink Malabrigo sounds like a wonderful choice!

Thanks for your question!
October 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Thanks, Whitney! I cannot wait to get started . . .
October 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJudy
Just finished this sweet owl and shipped it to my newly expectant daughter. I loved working on it and was so happy with all your instructions. Thanks so much.
October 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Murtagh
This is sooooo gorgeous! I must do two of them: one for an auntie and the other for me. It will be my first attempt with so many knitting needles at a time! Thanks, purl bee!
November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLigoakoma
Favoloso! Bravissima!
December 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCriCri
Love this owl! One question: when you embroider around the center of the eye with the dark grey yarn, did you only stitch around the inside edge of the eye itself, or did you loop it through a few of the stitches from the body of the owl underneath the eye so the stitches are attached to the body?
January 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
Hi Rachel,

I just embroidered around the edge of the eye without actually attaching it the body...

Thanks for the great question!
January 6, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I do not know how to knit...even a little bit. I came across this adorable owl and fell in LOVE. This is my first time on the site and I saw hours and shipping. Is this something that would be available for purchase or would you only sell the materials to knit with the instructions above? I really love the ideas on the site. May take up knitting just yet! Thanks for posting such great things!
January 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley
Made this for Christmas and it was the most-envied gift ever! Thanks for the wonderful pattern!
January 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRenee
I absolutely love this pattern! I am at the part where I transfer the bottom onto the circular needles... I have a size 15, 24" will this work? Or do I really need a 20"? Your advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrittany

I love your Snowy Owl pattern! So cute! I'm looking forward to knitting a Snowy Owl in the near future. :)
I did have a question. Are the Purl Bee patterns copyrighted? I do not have any interest in selling items made from them! I am a designer myself and use my own patterns. But the reason I ask is because I have encountered your Snowy Owl for sale on etsy. Prices range from $40-$75. Just wanted to give you a heads up.
January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHolly
Hi Holly-

Our patterns are copyrighted and cannot be re-sold like this. Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention. If you wouldn't mind could you send us a link to where it's being sold to Molly AT purlsoho DOT com?

Thanks again for the heads up!

January 23, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
HI Brittany,

I think that you'll get away with the 24 inch needle. I'd definitely give it a try. You'll probably need to knit the head with double pointed needles, but that's not the end of the world!

Thanks for asking and good luck!
January 23, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I love this! I want to make this but only half the size. I want to use the same yarn you chose, but I'm not positive how to half it. The bottom is simple, but the body I'm thinking I can start with round 3. What is your opinion?
Thank you!
January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarie
Just finished this owl and I LOVE it! What a well written pattern and great up close pictures to guide you through. The only hard part was waiting for the 20 inch #15 needles to be delivered but wow your shipping on those was very fast too! Thanks for sharing this pattern!
January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPam P
Hi Marie,

I would actually just knit Rounds 1 through 12 one time (without repeating them the way the pattern does). This will give you exactly half the height!

Good luck!
January 24, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee

I'm a beginner in knitting and as I loved your owl and the pattern in crosses, I tried it (the belly part) before getting to the owl part and I'm having some problems. I'm french so I'm not used to US knitting standarts and I can't get the pattern right. As a matter of fact, I can't really see it, although I'm using the same yarn and US 17 needles (French 12 mm). Do you have an idea of what is wrong with my interpretation (maybe a misinterpretation in the abbreviations K, p, k...) ?
Really love what you're doing, this is what gave me the final push to start learning to knit !
January 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmmanuelle
Hi Emmanuelle,

I'd have to know more specifically what kind of problems you're having in order to fix them, but it sounds like you may need some help translating the pattern from English into French. Check out these sites for some commonly used terms: and . Here also is a list of standard knitting abbreviations in English: .

I hope this helps!

Thanks for your questions and good luck
January 31, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
A question: I want to make this owl, but I don't like to knit with metal needles, and cannot seem to locate a set of wooden #15s @ 20" length. I note that you recommended using the 24" circulars to another knitter. Could one use the 16" or will that be too much yarn to deal with on the needle? It appears that 16" wooden circulars are readily available...
February 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathy
This owl is so cute, my daughter would adore it. I really wish I knew how to knit! Maybe someday I will learn and get to make it for her. Adorable!
February 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmilia
Hi Kathy,

I do think that 60 bulky stitches on a 16 inch needle would be challenging, but probably not impossible. If avoiding a metal needle is important to you (and it sounds like it is!), then I would go ahead and try it. Another option might be to knit the owl on 4 double pointed needles, using the fifth as the working needle.

Thanks for your question and good luck!
February 2, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
This pattern and a tutorial are really great! Thank you so much for sharing this. I've finished the owl and it's so cute and adorable ^_^
February 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAgnieszka
Hi, I have just completed the body of this owl, and even though I followed the directions to a t regarding not leaving more than a tiny tail on any joined yarn, I have run out. I ordered exactly what was suggested for the pattern. I am really disappointed! I have about a foot of polar bear yarn left, and still have to do the eyes. I would really rather not buy another skein for just a few rows for the eyes, particularly since the yarn is rather pricey. Any thoughts? Thanks!
March 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

Does anyone have any tricks to start the kfb in the round? I start off with a crossover join and kfb all 8 stitches. My problem comes when I get to the first purl row. When I get to the end of the first needle, I purl the 4th stitch and as I slide it off the left needle, it untwists into a huge loop. It's like it was never a real stitch.

I've also tried to isolate the problem by knitting the first 8 stitches and then starting the kfb, but I hit the same problem when I start to purl. So I'm thinking it's got to be my kfb.

Sorry this might sound weird, but I thought maybe someone else might have had the same problem at some point.

March 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

I was wondering how much the yarn all together would cost to make one of these cuties? I want to learn knitting specfically to make this owl! I love owls and want to make one of my own. If anyone could give me an estimate of how much it costs that would be great! Also, is knitting really hard to learn???
March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCasi
Hi Casi-

You can knit this with a few different combinations of yarn. If you did it with the lowest priced option (2 skeins of Magnum and 1 skein of Blue Sky Bulky in a contrasting color) it would be $58.90 or, with the most expensive option (4 skeins of Blue Sky Bulky for the body and 3 skeins for the contrast) it would be $95.90.

Knitting is not hard to learn but this is not a good first project for a beginner. We would recommend completing a simple scarf and then a pair of mittens or a hat before starting on this owl.

Thank you!

April 2, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Angela,

I'm not really sure what could be going wrong. It could just be the normal looseness that occurs between double pointed needles when you work the first round. This tightens up as you continue to knit. Or, as you suggest, it is sounds possible that the problem is with your kfb. Have you checked out our Increase Tutorial? It has photos of how to knit into the front and back and might clear up your problem:

Please let us know if you still have trouble and we'll try again to pinpoint the problem!

Good luck!
April 3, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hey Whitney, thanks for the reply. I actually ended up figuring out where I was going wrong and finished the owl (minus eyes and beak) today.

Thanks for the great pattern! I can't wait to give my owl as a gift to a friend's new baby boy.

April 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngela
You probably hear this a lot....but sooo sweet...I wish this big guy was a crochet pattern...looks super simple to make in that regard...especially the eyes...No jumbo size snowy owl patterns...
August 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMamma J
I just completed this adorable guy for my first grandchild. It was the most popular gift at the baby shower and so much fun to watch it come together! Thanks for sharing the darling pattern
October 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie
Finally made this and I love it. Great instructions and photos helped!
October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEllen
Love this pattern, i'm almost done making my own owl but wanted to ask a question. Is the beak left open at the bottom? Not stitched onto the owl body?
October 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterInga
I just finished this owl for my sister. Used yarn out of my stash so mine is a sort of variegated grey. It looks awesome!!! Thank you for the pattern.
October 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSindy
I made this owl for my daughter's owl-themed baby shower. Today, he sits on a perch in my granddaughter's room, keeping a wise, loving, careful look-out! It was one of the most well-written patterns - and so fun to make. The suggested yarn is perfect for this project - a little pricey, but worth it.
December 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkathryn
Hi Purl Bee! I am currently making this owl as a present. I am having trouble with the Kitchener stitch. I have never done this stitch before and I am using your tutorial. I got to the very end and my needles slipped and now I have one stitch left on the back needle without any idea of how to weave it in! Do you have any ideas? Thank you!
December 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth
Hi Elizabeth,

If you're overwhelmed by backtracking (which, honestly, is a little tricky with the Kitchener Stitch), then I would suggest just threading your tail through the remaining stitch purlwise. Then, use the tail to sew up the holes. Should work fine!

Thanks for asking and please let us know if you have any other questions!

December 14, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.