You probably cast on or joined with the stitches on the far side of the tube instead of closer to you, then knit the wrong direction. I understand the ECO to be the e/backward loop CO which puts the sts at the end of the row on the ear flap. It may work better for you to do the knit CO as if at the beginning of the row, then turn and knit the sts on the other earflap. Turn the knitting, CO 24 stitches then turn back and with the new sts on the R needle, join them to start row 18.
sue- knitting heretic