Stag Head Pillow KAL

Welcome to the official Mountain Hollow Farm Stag Head Pillow KAL page!

Stag Head Pillow

This page is designed to support you throughout your project.  The KAL dates are October 13 – December 22, 2018. As a KAL participant, you are welcome to add comments or questions to this post and I will respond ASAP during that time frame.

Live KAL support will also be offered in our store during the following times:

    • Thursdays 2-4 pm
    • Thursdays 6-8 pm
  • Saturdays 10-noon

In this KAL, we are converting the Stag Head Pullover pattern into a pillow. You will need the pullover pattern in order to complete this pillow.  The instructions for the pillow refer to the body panel chart and stag chart in the pullover pattern.

Getting Started

The size of your pillow will be determined by the size of your yarn and the gauge at which you knit it. I strongly recommend that you use a needle at least 1-2 sizes smaller than you normally would for the yarn you choose. Your pillow will look better if your stitches are fairly tight.

I am making my pillow with Plymouth Worsted Merino Superwash, a worsted weight yarn, with size 4 needles (I would ordinarily use size 6 with worsted weight yarn). My pillow will be 12” square.

Yarn Selection

I recommend using worsted weight yarn or thicker, in a medium to light solid or semi-solid color. Some yarns that we carry in the shop that would be good choices are:

  • Plymouth Worsted Merino Superwash – worsted weight & superwash (3 skeins)
  • Cestari Mount Vernon Worsted – this is actually Aran weight yarn, 100% merino (3 skeins)
  • Kraemer Naturally Nazareth – worsted weight, 100% domestic merino (3 skeins)
  • Kraemer Perfection Super Bulky – 70% acrylic, 30% domestic merino, machine washable (5 skeins)
  • Malabrigo Twist – 100% baby merino (3 skeins)

All of these yarns will produce nice cables, which is essential for this pattern.

Worsted weight yarn should yield a 12” pillow. Thicker yarns will make a bigger pillow.

Tools You Will Need

    • Knitting needles, as discussed in the Gauge section below, for the main part of the pillow. If you are using single point needles for the pillow, you will also need the same size DPNs or circular needles for the icord trim.
    • Knitting needles one size smaller than your main needles for the ribbing
    • Cable needle
    • Stitch markers
    • Tapestry needle
    • 5 buttons, at least ⅞”
  • Pillow form, as discussed in the Gauge section below


  • P2tog (on rows 69 & above) are only shown as 1 stitch instead of 2. In this chart excerpt, I’ve highlighted the stitches in red. Everything in the chart is correct, except the P2tog symbol should have spanned 2 stitches, as highlighted in red below. (Out of respect for the pattern designer, I’ve shaded out the parts of the chart that don’t matter.)

Stag Head Pillow Chart Correction


    • There are a lot of cables in this chart. To figure out which cable is represented in the Chart, count the # of sts immediately below or above the cable to figure out how many total stitches are in the cable. Then use the picture and written description to find the matching cable in the key. Note that the:
        • 4/2 RT-inc and 4/2 LT-inc cables use 6 stitches but create 8 stitches
        • 4/2 RT-dec and 4/2 LT-dec cables use 6 stitches but create 5 stitches
      • 2/2 RT-inc and 2/2 LT-inc cables use 4 stitches but create 5 stitches
    • If you’re using a paper pattern, use highlighter tape to keep your place in the charts. Position the tape directly above the row you are working on, so it does not obscure the rows you’ve already knit.
  • Lifelines are usually associated with lace knitting. However, this is a great pattern for lifelines. The cables can be tricky, especially in the antlers, and a lifeline just might save you from hours of frogging and reknitting. Click here to read my blog post about lifelines.

Knitting Your Stag Head Pillow


Gauge is a little tricky for this project. What I discovered in the process of making this pillow is that you need to use a needle at least 1-2 sizes smaller than you normally would for the yarn you choose. You DON’T want to knit battle armor, but you DO want to stretch your pillow slightly over the pillow form and you don’t want the pillow form to show through your knitting.

So… pick a yarn, choose a needle 2 sizes smaller than you normally would use for that yarn, and knit a 6”x6” swatch to see how the fabric turns out (Click here for detailed swatching instructions). If the stitches are tight but not “battle armor” tight, cast on for your pillow. If you’re unsure, continue knitting on that swatch, but go up or down a needle size. Keep testing needles until you get a fabric you like. Then cast on for the pillow.

SAVE YOUR SWATCH! You will need it if you want to figure out what size pillow form you need before you finish your pillow. Knit fabrics change when they are washed and blocked. To predict the final size of your pillow:

    1. Measure the length and width
    1. Write the unblocked measurements down on your pattern
    1. Wash and block your swatch
    1. Measure it again
  1. Write the blocked measurements down on your pattern

If you’re good with math, you might be tempted to try to figure out what size pillow form you will need before you begin your pillow. Don’t bother. Cables pull the fabric tighter, so a stockinette swatch is not going to give you an accurate estimation of the final size.

By the time you finish 6” of your pillow, you will be able to tell which size pillow form it will fit. Remember to account for the change in size due to blocking and the fact that you want to stretch your pillow slightly over the form for the best look.

Use the following formula to figure out what size pillow form to purchase:

Width of pillow x width of blocked swatch / width of unblocked swatch = finished width of pillow

Round up when choosing a pillow form. For example, if your finished width is 16.12”, round up to an 18” pillow form, not down to 16”.

We can order square pillow forms in the following sizes: 12”, 14”, 16”, 18”, 20” and 24”.

DO NOT knit your pillow loosely to get a bigger pillow. You WILL be disappointed in the result.

The Stag Head Pillow Pattern

This is more like a recipe than a pattern. The steps are numbered for easy reference. You will follow these steps and use the Body Panel chart and Stag chart from the Stag Head Pullover pattern.

  1. CO 85 sts with smaller needles. Use whatever CO you like. I used the cable cast on.
  2. Work in 1×1 rib starting with purl for 15 rows… in other words,
    • Row 1 and all odd rows: (p1, k1) to the end of the row, ending with p1
    • Row 2 and all even rows: (k1, p1) to the end of the row, ending with k1
  3. On 16th row, m1r purlwise after the 31st st
    • m1r purlwise = make one right purlwise: Click here for written and video instructions.
  4. Change to larger needles
  5. Do 6 repeats of the Body Panel Chart (48 rows total)
  6. (RS) Knit 1 row
  7. (WS) knit across to form a purl ridge on the RS
    • This will form a natural fold for the bottom of the pillow and make an easy “seam” for picking up the icord edging.
  8. (RS) Knit 1 row
  9. Knit row 2 of the Stag Panel chart, then Repeat rows 1 & 2 of the Stag Panel chart two times (5 rows total), with the following modification: work the center 8 stitches in reverse stockinette (purl the right side rows and knit the wrong side rows)
  10. Continue with row 3 of the Stag Panel chart, with the following modification: purl the 2 sts on either side of the cable that forms the deer’s lip, rather than knit them
  11. Follow the Stag Panel chart as written for rows 4 through row 98
  12. (RS) Knit one row
  13. Seam row (WS): (k16, m1L) 4 times, k to end
  14. (RS) Knit one row
  15. Begin Body Panel Chart on row 2 (wrong side row) and work through the whole chart (7 rows total)
  16. Repeat the Body Panel Chart 3 more times
  17. Repeat rows 1-4 of the Body Panel chart
  18. Change to smaller needles
  19. Set up rib row: (p1, k1) 27 times, p1, kfb, (k1, p1) to the end of the row (86 sts)
    • Kfb = knit into the front and back of the stitch. Click here for video instructions
  20. Continue in 1×1 ribbing for 7 rows
    • Row 1 and all odd rows: (k1, p1) to the end of the row, ending with k1
    • Row 2 and all even rows: (p1, k1) to the end of the row, ending with p1
  21. Buttonhole row (row 8): Continuing to work in 1×1 rib, use these one-row horizontal buttonhole (ORHB) written instructions or these video instructions to form the buttonholes. Choose the 4-stitch buttonholes for larger buttons, or the 3-stitch buttonholes for smaller buttons:
    • 4-stitch buttonhole row: Work 5 sts, make ORHB, (work 13 sts, make ORHB) 4 times, work 5 sts
    • 3-stitch buttonhole row: Work 5 sts, make ORHB, (work 14 sts, make ORHB) 4 times, work 6 sts
  22. Continue in 1×1 ribbing for 8 more rows (16 total rows of ribbing)
  23. Bind off in pattern
  24. Start the i-cord border. I’ve included 2 videos below: One that I created to explain how to do the applied i-cord specifically for the Stag Head Pillow, and one to show you how to do an applied i-cord edging. I recommend that you view my video first to get an overview of how to do the i-cord on the pillow, then watch the other one to learn how to knit an applied i-cord. If you’d prefer to crochet your edging, I’ve also included vidoes below for single crochet and crab stitch borders.
    • My video specifically for the Stag Head Pillow i-cord
    • How to knit an applied i-cord video by The Sweater Collective:
      Note: I would NOT do the provisional cast on. Use whatever cast on you like, then follow the instructions below to graft your i-cord ends. 
    • If you’d rather not knit an applied i-cord, you could do a single crochet border or crab stitch (reverse single crochet) border. I recommend you still watch my i-cord video for tips on how to handle the overlapping button band and how to pick up stitches on the pillow.
    • Single crochet edge video by Knit Purl Hunter:
    • Crab stitch edge video by iknitwithcatfur:
  25. Graft your i-cord ends. This is a great video on how to do that by Mimi Kezer:
  26. Sew your ends in and block your pillow.
  27. Sew your buttons on.
    • Estimate the button placement by attaching stitch markers through the buttonholes onto the button band

      Stag Head Pillow Buttons 1
      Stag Head Pillow Buttons 2

    • Realign stitch markers to be equidistant from each other and in a horizontal line

      Stag Head Pillow Buttons 3
    • Move stitch markers down approximately 3 rows since the pillow insert will cause the top flap to pull up

      Stag Head Pillow Buttons 4
    • Sew the buttons on where the stitch markers are. I sewed my buttons on OVER the stitch markers to make sure they weren’t too tight, then I removed the stitch markers.
  28. To choose the proper size pillow insert, measure the outside dimensions of your pillow. If you die the i-cord trim, measure inside of it. Your pillow should be approximately square. Purchase a pillow form approximately the same size as your pillow.Here are 2 completed pillows. Mine (the gold one) has a very full pillow form and Judy’s has a pillow form that is not quite so fluffy and firm. They are both 12″ forms. You can see that my plump pillow form adds a bit of stress on the buttons to form a wavy button band edge (which I kind of like), indicating that it is a bit large.

    Another indication that your pillow form might be too large is that you can see it through your stitches. On a light color pillow, this might be OK, but on a dark pillow you’ll want to use a smaller form or make a cover for your pillow form in a color to match your pillow.
    If your pillow form is too small, your pillow will look sloppy.


I hope you’ve enjoyed knitting your Stag Head Pillow! Now post your finished photos on Ravelry!

If you have not already done so, add your project to Ravelry, post your finished photos, and share your project with the Mountain Hollow Farm & Studio group using the box on the right-hand side of your project page. To join the Mountain Hollow Farm and Studio Ravelry group, click here.

If you found this page helpful, please go to my Ravelry project page and click the “Yes” button beside the “are these notes helpful?” question below the notes section.

Lastly, sign up for our email list here to be notified of future knit alongs.

Edit History

Updated step 11 to end the chart after row 98
Added Conclusion section

Updated steps 8 & 9 to add another knit row
Added steps 13-16

Fixed mistakes in steps 9 & 11
Deleted old step 11

Added steps 16-23

Added steps 24-28
Clarified how to do the ribbing in steps 2 & 20
Increased the # of skeins required for Plymouth Worsted Merino Superwash and Kraemer Naturally Nazareth yarns

Added info about sewing on buttons and choosing a pillow form

  1. Hi Beth,
    I’m having a very frustrating time getting started on my stag pillow. I am using the Cestari worsted and number 6 needles, and after cast on and a few rows I can see that the pillow is going to be enormous, around 24 inches. I know I’m supposed to use a 5 to do the rib, but I don’t have that size at home, so I didn’t think using the 6 would make that much difference. I made a swatch and washed and blocked it by following the instructions on the website, turned out really nice, but not sure what I learned.
    Can you give me your thoughts as to what I’m doing wrong?

    • Annie,
      I’m sorry you’re frustrated. I have a couple thoughts. First, can you tell me how many stitches you have in 4″ on your swatch, and what stitch you used for the swatch? This will help me determine if you are knitting really loosely.

      Assuming you are not knitting very loosely, I’d encourage you to knit more of the ribbing to see how it reacts. Ribbing pulls in after you get a few inches of it knit. I suspect with the Cestari yarn knit at the appropriate gauge, you will end up with a 16″ or 18″ pillow.

      I’m almost done my pillow with worsted weight superwash merino and it will be a 14″ pillow.

  2. Beth,
    Thanks for all the assistance you gave me at the kal on Thursday. I am on track now and the ribbing is looking very nice.


  3. hi Beth
    this is Judy I have just completed my pillow buttons and all! loved doing this kal with you, your directions and video’s were so helpful. cant wait for another project. I will try to stop in and show it to you before I get it sent off for Christmas present!

    • Judy,
      That’s fantastic! I just finished my pillow last night too (I procrastinated a little on blocking and sewing the buttons on)! I look forward to seeing you.

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