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How to Knit a Basic Hat

October 10th, 2008

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I’m the kind of knitter (and crocheter) who likes to make up patterns as I go along. I find that understanding the general idea behind how to make an item lets you be more flexible–and personal–in your designs. In today’s post, I’m going to take you through the steps needed to knit a basic, fitted hat for anyone. There’s–of course–more than one way to knit a hat, but I find that these are the basics that I keep coming back to.

As with any pattern, I recommend you read all of the directions below, before getting started, so you can get comfortable with the general idea. (And as always, all orange text is clickable for more help.)

You will need:

  • 1 skein of your favorite yarn (I like Wool-Ease, Jiffy, and Vanna’s Choice)
  • Double-Pointed Needles (DPNs) or Circular Needles in your preferred size (see step 2 below for more details)

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Measure around the head of the person who the hat is for and write down how many inches around their head your hat will need to be. (If you can’t measure their head–it’s for a gift–estimate based on your own head size; knitted fabrics are generally stretchy enough to accommodate different sizes.)
  2. Knit a gauge swatch in stockinette stitch to find out how many stitches per inch you get with the needles and yarn you are using. (If you’re not sure what size needles to use, start with the size recommended on your yarn’s ball-band, and adjust up or down a size if you want a tighter or looser fabric.)
  3. Multiply the number of stitches per inch by the head circumference (that you wrote down in step 1).
  4. Round this number to the nearest multiple of 8 (for instance, if it’s 4 stitches by 21 inches for my head, it’s 84 stitches, but I round to 88 stitches so that it will be easier to decrease later), and then note what that number is divided by 8. (In my example, 88 divided by 8 equals 11; this will be important for decreasing later.)
  5. Now you have the number of stitches you will cast on. Cast on, join, and divide evenly among your DPNs OR join on your circular needles, depending on which one you’re more comfortable with.
  6. K1 p1 (to create a rib) until you have 2 inches of fabric.
  7. Start knitting every stitch (creating a stockinette) for 5-6 inches. You can even put it on to see if it’s deep enough for your taste (or just your head!).
  8. Now, based on the number we figured out at the end of step 4, place a stitch marker every [insert number here] stitches (in my example, 11 stitches).
  9. For the next round, every time you get to a stitch marker, you will k2tog after the stitch marker.
  10.  The next round, knit every stitch.
  11.  Repeat steps 9 and 10 until you have only 24 stitches. (For those on circular needles, you may choose to switch to DPNs as the stitches get fewer.)
  12.  Stop knitting; use a needle to thread your yarn through your open stitches and pull them tight to form a finished hat.
  13. Weave in your ends.

If you take these basic steps, you’ll get a hat similar to our intern Jess’s or to Michelle Edwards’ pattern, Ed’s Hat.

The great thing about this basic pattern is that you can do so much with it! Increase the length of the ribbed portion, so that it can be folded up as a brim. Make stripes instead of only using one color. Replace the stockinette portion with some other stitch pattern (just make sure to make your gauge swatch in step 2 in the new stitch pattern). Add a pom-pom on top like the hat pictured above. Duplicate stitch a design on top of your basic hat. Use a ssk instead of the k2tog to create decorative, left-leaning decreases.

I’ve even used these basic steps–plus some increases for a puffier look and knitting a longer hat body–to make a loose tam for my mom! The sky’s the limit when it comes to your creativity!

Next time, I’ll go through the steps to crochet a basic hat–it’s also a great way to practice skills that are useful for many of our adorable amigurumi animal patterns.

And for those of you who prefer to follow a set pattern, we have tons of great hat patterns for knitters, crocheters, and loom-knitters available on LionBrand.com! (You can also click on the Wool-Ease Thick & Quick hat pictured above, if you’d like that exact pattern.)

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  • http://blog.ekgheiy.com ekgheiy

    Thanks Zontee!!

  • Sandi

    Thanks for the detailed instructions, they look very helpful for a beginning knitter like me. Just one question: in step 7, you say to knit every stitch (creating stockinette stitch) for 5-6 inches. If you knit every stitch (on every row), doesn’t that create garter stitch?

    Zontee says: Hi Sandi, because you’re knitting in the round and only the “right side” of your project is ever facing you, it creates a stockinette stitch. If you wanted to create a stockinette on a flat piece, you would knit the knit stitches on the right side, and purl the purl stitches on the wrong side.

  • Shannyn

    Are you going to post a blog that goes with the latest podcast?

    I love the email updates- I uploaded one of the Lionbrand Wallpapers! I actually have had a large pic of yarn up on my wallpaper for a long time, but I like this one- it’s very fall-esque!!

    Thanks to everyone at Lion Brand!

    Zontee says: Hi Shannyn, you can always find the blog posts for the latest podcasts by going to the YarnCraft blog, which is separate from this blog, the Lion Brand Notebook.

  • Irene Daschian

    Hi I just finished reading your instructions for “The Basic Knitted Hat”
    I know it states that the hat would be similar to the hat shown. But for a beginner who follows the instructions and is depending on the photo to see how they’re doing, the rib stitch and the edge on the photo wouldn’t be the same and possibly be confusing to a beginner.
    Otherwise it’s a great pattern for one and all.
    Thanks…

    Zontee says: Hi Irene, that’s correct. For the pattern of the hat above, simply the photo. For a hat more similar to the directions I describe, click the orange link to Jessica’s hat as stated in the directions above.

  • T2

    I’m really excited to see the basic crochet pattern. I have some ideas for a hat, but need a template to start from.

  • Diane

    In step eleven it says repeat 9 & 10 until you have 24 stitches – is that correct – it seems like a lot of stitches to end with.

    Thanks for the pattern!!

  • Zontee

    Hi Diane,

    Yes, that’s correct. It may seem like a lot of stitches, but when you pull the yarn through in step 12, it will gather the hat together, and it will look right. Enjoy!

    ~Zontee~

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  • carmen

    me encanta tus diseños quisiera poder entender un poco de tu ideoma

  • Gabby

    in this pattern, it states that you decrease until you have 24 stitches.
    do you decrease to 24 no matter how many stitches you cast on? or is 24 only related to the 88 stitches used in this pattern?

    Zontee says: Hi Gabby, 24 stitches is a pretty good guide if you’re using worsted-weight yarn. If you’re using a thicker (bulky or super bulky) yarn, you may need to decrease to less stitches; if you’re using a thinner yarn, you may want to stop earlier when you have slightly more stitches. Look at your hat and use your judgment.

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