All About Knitted Hats

Who knows when the first person decided to put something over their head to keep it warm, but knitters know that knitted hats are some of the most fun and easy things to knit.

When they’re worked in the round there is little in the way of shaping, except when you get to the crown.

Most hats are worked from the bottom up, with stitches cast-on and worked in a snug stitch pattern such as ribbing, or in stockinette for a rolled bring hat, using a smaller size needle than is used for the head portion of the hat.

In many hat patterns, the hat is worked straight for the desired length of the crown, then nearly all of the stitches are evenly decreased over the course of just a few rounds.

The yarn is cut, the tail threaded through the remaining stitches, pulled tight, and fastened off to the inside of the hat.

The hat can be topped with a pom pom, i-cord, tassel, or whatever embellishment strikes your fancy.

A great book for learning to make hats is Ann Budd’s Handy Book of Patterns, from which some of the material on this page is excerpted. There are chapters on basic hats as well as the type of hats called “tams.”

Types of Hats

There are several types of hats, but the most popular knitted hats are beanie-type caps, tams (sometimes called “berets”), slouch hats, earflap hats, and tuques.

Beanies: These hats can be super simple or dressed up with a lace or cable patterns. In cooler climates, they’re wonderful gifts for knitters to make.

Tams/Berets: There are so many different stitch patterns to use in this style. Tams and berets can be plain stockinette or intricate Fair Isle. This style of hat is really flattering on just about every face shape, too.

Earflap Hats: These hats are popular in cold climates. They’re great for keeping ears warm and they’re fun to knit. The knitters of Peru specialize in these hats, as shown in the photo at right.

Tuques: Stylish and popular, toques are old-fashioned hats that are coming back into style. Their fashion-forward look is very popular.

Hat Knitting Tips

  • For more rounded top shaping, work the top decreases every other round or every three rounds.

  • If you don’t want to knit a hat in the round and you don’t mind a slightly visible seam on the finished hat, work it back and forth in a single piece and seam the back.
  • Work the inside of a hemmed edge in cotton to make it more comfortable against sensitive skin.
  • To make a hat wind- and water-resistant, work the yarn at a smaller gauge (more stitches per inch) than recommended. For example, use smaller needles to work a worsted weight yarn at six stitches to the inch. (You’ll need to cast on more stitches in this approach, so use your gauge swatch to determine the additional number of stitches needed.)

Source: The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns, by Ann Budd, Interweave, 2002

A Few Notes on Fit

Often a knitted hat will have a finished size that is smaller than the average adult head. That’s because hats meant to fit closely at the brim need a bit of negative ease to help them fit snugly and keep them on the head.

The amount of negative ease refers to the difference between the finished size of the object and the size of body part on which it will be worn. A hat that measures 19″ (48.5 cm) around and is worn on a 22″ (56 cm) head has 3″ (7.5 cm) of negative ease.

A beret-type hat might have negative ease at the brim, but a few inches of positive ease in the body of the hat. The extra fabric is what creates its loose, flowing shape, while the tighter brim keeps it fitted to the head.

Source: Weekend Hats by Cecily Glowik MacDonald and Melissa LaBarre, Interweave, 2011


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