Your Basic Hat

Continuing with this week’s knitting theme, let’s talk hats. Over the weekend, I’ve rediscovered the knitting of caps. There are many reasons to specialize in noggin covers:

You can:

  • Knit one in the time it takes to watch [insert two-hour activity e.g., Iron Man, election coverage, hockey game]
  • Use up your leftover yarn
  • Use that one special skein you got in a swap
  • Try out a new pattern
  • Practice knitting in the round with double pointed needles
  • Test drive a design before committing $200 in yarn for the sweater version

So here is your basic hat pattern:

Cast on Stitches

Before you start, you need to know the circumference of the hat you wish to make. Either measure around the head to be covered with a tape measure, or use one of these standard measures: Women’s hats are about 21 to 22 inches in circumference, men’s hats are about 22 to 24 inches around. Lucia has a great chart on her blog on the bottom of this page.

Then you need to determine your gauge (aka how many stitches equal one inch and I leave it up to you and your confessional whether you actually knit up a swatch or blindly trust the banderole information on your skein), plug in your numbers in this formula.

(number of stitches per inch) X circumference in inches
number of stitches to cast on

You may need to adjust this number, depending on

  1. the requirements of the pattern you are using. For example, if you will have a 2 knit 2 purl ribbing around the edge, you need a number you can divide by four. And,
  2. the decreases you wish to take when you knit up the crown of the hat. For the hats in this picture, I gradually decreased the number of stitches at the crown at six different points. Consequently, the number of stitches I cast on had to be divisible by six.

Example: For the pink hat, the gauge was 2.6 stitches = 1 inch. For a hat with a 21 inch circumference, the calculation is 2.6 X 21 = 54.6. The pattern at the bottom of the hat had to be divisible by 5, so I rounded the 54 stitches up and cast on 55 stitches. The number of stitches at the crown however, had to be divisible by 6. When I got to that point, I knitted two stitches together (54) and then proceeded to decrease the stitches 6 times over the round.

Using either a short, 16 inch, circular needle or a set of double pointed needles, cast on your calculated number of stitches and close the round.

Knit the Hat

This is the fun part, knit whatever pattern you selected until your hat is approximately 6 1/2 inches tall. If you’re making a men’s hat, you may want to add an inch. For the pink hat, I used Nicky Epstein’s Eyelet Rib (sans bobbles). Right now I’m trying out a false flame stitch with this hat.

Shape the Crown

Make even decreases around the round to shape the crown. This is what six evenly spaced decreases look like.

Example: Using the infamous pink hat one more time: If you want to take those six decreases, follow this pattern: 54:6=9

  • Round 1: *knit 8 stitches, knit 2 together* repeat five times, equals 48 stitches
  • Round 2: *knit 7 stitches, knit 2 together* repeat five times, equals 42 stitches
  • Round 3: *knit 6 stitches, knit 2 together* repeat five times, equals 36 stitches
  • Round 4: *knit 5 stitches, knit 2 together* repeat five times, equals 30 stitches
  • Round 5: *knit 4 stitches, knit 2 together* repeat five times, equals 24 stitches
  • Round 6: *knit 3 stitches, knit 2 together* repeat five times, equals 18 stitches
  • Round 7: *knit 2 stitches, knit 2 together* repeat five times, equals 12 stitches
  • Round 8: *knit 1 stitch, knit 2 together* repeat five times, equals 6 stitches

Cut off yarn leaving a 10 inch tail. Thread tail through remaining six stitches. Pull tight and sew in the end.


Now is the time to decorate. Sew on some pretty buttons. Add a little crochet something. Try your hand at needle felting. Sew on a ribbon, or just leave it plain.


If you get addicted to this pasttime and even your mom smiles painfully when you offer her another hat, here are some charities that gratefully accept your work:

Knitting for Noggins collects hats for patients at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Afghans for Afghans collects knit and crocheted goods to send to Afghanistan.
Cubs for Kids collects clothing for teddy bear cubs. The dressed up bears are distributed to children in homeless shelters.
Interweave Knits has an extensive list of knitting charities.

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One Response to Your Basic Hat

  1. Jenny says:

    I really should learn to knit. Very cute hat.

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