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How to Knit a Hat

How to Knit a Hat

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A hat is an ideal knitting project. It’s small, uses little yarn, and doesn’t need to be tailored to fit. A knit hat is practical, too, keeping heads warm and covering up bad-hair days. From a knitting point of view, it’s a stashbuster, meaning it uses up leftover yarn. Hats can be knit in any size and with almost any type of yarn; in this guide you’ll learn a basic recipe that will work for any size hat and a range of yarns and gauges.

Skills You Will Need

Knitting in the round

Knit/purl combinations

Basic decreases (K2tog and ssk)

A pinch of basic math

Deciding On Size

Luckily for the knitter, head size doesn’t vary nearly as much as body size, so you can usually pick an average size and it will fit. But if you can, measure the wearer’s head just above the eyebrows. Then calculate the size of the hat by subtracting about 1-3 inches for stretch. (For example, if the person’s head measures 22 inches, aim for a hat that is about 20 inches.) The amount you subtract depends on the wearer’s preference. If you don’t like hats to crush your hair, only subtract 1 inch, but if you want your hat to be quite snug, you’ll need to subtract more.

Yarn

This recipe will work for any yarn. Most hats can be made with 1 or 2 50 gram balls. The finer the yarn and the larger the hat, the more yardage you’ll need, but in general, for an adult hat, allow 150 yards for medium weight yarn, and 225 yards for fingering weight yarn.

Gauge

This recipe will work for any gauge from 12 to 28 stitches over 4 inches (10 cm).

The Basic Recipe

All you need are the four numbers to plug in the spots A, B, C, and D (see Personalizing Your Recipe, below).

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

Work in K2/P2 ribbing until the hat measures B inches from the cast on edge.

Work in stockinette until the hat measures C inches from the cast on edge.

Shaping the crown

First decrease round: [K2tog, knit D stitches, ssk] 4 times—8 stitches decreased.

Knit 1 round.

Next decrease round: [K2tog, knit (D-2) stitches, ssk] 4 times—8 stitches decreased.

Knit 1 round.

Next decrease round: [K2tog, knit (D-4) stitches, ssk] 4 times—8 stitches decreased.

Knit 1 round.

Continue decreasing every other round as established until about a third of your cast on remains.

Then decrease every round until you have between 6 and 20 stitches remaining. The more you have remaining at this point, the more gathered the top will look.

Break the yarn and thread through the remaining stitches. Pull tight and weave the yarn end in on the wrong side of the hat.

Block and weave in ends.

Personalizing Your Recipe

A. Find your cast on. Find the size of hat you want to make (across the top). Then, find your gauge over 4 inches (along the left). Pick the number where the size column and gauge row intersect. There are age guidelines across the top, but please note these are averaged guidelines only. Everyone’s head is different!

Hat circumference
preemieinfantchildadult small/kid largeadult mediumadult large
Gauge12″13″14″15″16″17″18″19″20″21″22″23″24″
12 sts36404444485256566064686872
13 sts40444448525660606468727680
14 sts44444852566064687272768084
15 sts44485256606468727680848892
16 sts48525660646872768084889296
17 sts525660646872768084889296104
18 sts56606468727680849296100104108
19 sts566068727680849296100104108116
20 sts6064727680849296100104112116120
21 sts64687280848896100104112116120128
22 sts687276848892100104112116120128132
23 sts687680889296104108116120128132140
24 sts7280849296104108116120128132140144
25 sts76808892100108112120124132136144152
26 sts80849296104112116124132136144148156
27 sts808896100108116120128136140148156164
28 sts8492100104112120128132140148156160168

B. Decide on a folded or non-folded brim. This tells you how many inches of ribbing you’re going to work.

12″13″14″15″16″17″18″19″20″21″22″23″24″
not-folded111.251.251.251.251.51.51.51.51.751.751.75
folded222.52.52.52.533333.53.53.5

C. Decide on your style: beanie, toque, or slouch. This determines how tall to make the hat before you shape the crown.

12″13″14″15″16″17″18″19″20″21″22″23″24″
beanie444.54.54.54.555555.55.55.5
toque5.255.255.755.755.755.756.56.56.56.57.257.257.25
slouch6.756.757.257.257.257.2588888.758.758.75

D. Find your size and gauge on this table to determine how many stitches to work between decreases when shaping the crown.

Gauge12″13″14″15″16″17″18″19″20″21″22″23″24″
12 sts56778910101112131314
13 sts677891011111213141516
14 sts7789101112131414151617
15 sts78910111213141516171819
16 sts891011121314151617181920
17 sts9101112131415161718192022
18 sts10111213141516171920212223
19 sts10111314151617192021222325
20 sts11121415161719202122242526
21 sts12131416171820212224252628
22 sts13141517181921222425262829
23 sts13151618192022232526282931
24 sts14161719202223252628293132
25 sts15161819212324262729303234
26 sts16171920222425272930323335
27 sts16182021232526283031333537
28 sts17192122242628293133353638

Sample 1

Size: Infant, 14 inches around

Style: not-folded, beanie

Yarn: medium weight yarn Knit Picks Reverie (finished hat weight 15 grams)

Gauge: 18 stitches = 4 inches (10 cm) on 4.5mm needles

Begin by finding the four numbers from A, B, C, D tables.

A (cast on): 64 stitches

B (height of ribbing): 1.25 inches

C (height before crown): 4.5 inches

D (space between decreases): 12 stitches

The personalized pattern for sample 1

Cast on 64 stitches. Join for working in the round, being careful not to twist stitches.

Work in K2/P2 ribbing until the hat measures 1.25 inches from the cast on edge.

Work in stockinette until the hat measures 4.5 inches from the cast on edge.

Shaping the crown

First decrease round: [K2tog, k12, ssk] 4 times—8 stitches decreased.

Knit 1 round.

Next decrease round: [K2tog, k10, ssk] 4 times—8 stitches decreased.

Knit 1 round.

Next decrease round: [K2tog, k8, ssk] 4 times—8 stitches decreased.

Knit 1 round.

Continue decreasing every other round as established until 24 stitches remain.

Then decrease every round until 8 stitches remain.

Break the yarn and thread through the remaining stitches. Pull tight and weave the yarn end in on the wrong side of the hat.

Block and weave in ends.

Hats

Sample 2

Size: Adult size medium, 20 inches around

Style: not-folded brim, toque

Yarn: sport weight yarn Knit Picks Galileo (finished hat weighs 65 grams)

Gauge: 26 stitches = 4 inches (10 cm) on 3.5 mm needles

Begin by finding the four numbers from A, B, C, D tables.

A (cast on): 132 stitches

B (height of ribbing): 1.5 inches

C (height before crown): 6.5 inches

D (space between decreases): 29 stitches

The personalized pattern for sample 2

Cast on 132 stitches. Join for working in the round, being careful not to twist stitches.

Work in K2/P2 ribbing until the hat measures 1.5 inches from the cast on edge.

Work in stockinette until the hat measures 6.5 inches from the cast on edge.

Tip: The hat pictured was used as a stashbusting opportunity, which accounts for the stripes. When you work in the round with stripes, you get something called a “jog” at the color change. This is because working in the round is actually working in a spiral. To minimize the jog, here’s the easiest thing to do: On the round after you start a new color, slip the first stitch of the round.

Shaping the crown

First decrease round: [K2tog, k29, ssk] 4 times—8 stitches decreased.

Knit 1 round.

Next decrease round: [K2tog, k27, ssk] 4 times—8 stitches decreased.

Knit 1 round.

Next decrease round: [K2tog, k25, ssk] 4 times—8 stitches decreased.

Knit 1 round.

Continue decreasing every other round as established until 44 stitches remain.

Then decrease every round until 20 stitches remain.

Break the yarn and thread through the remaining stitches. Pull tight and weave the yarn end in on the wrong side of the hat.

Block and weave in ends.

Now that you know how to knit a hat, it’s time to gather up some yarn and get started. Happy stitching!

by Megan Goodacre, author of Idiot’s Guides: Knitting