How to Knit a Hat Without a Pattern: Part Two (in which we crown you)

Posted on November 04 2021

garter-stitch hats made without a pattern


Quick recap: In our last post, in which we introduced a method for knitting a hat without a pattern, we explained the first step: Choose your yarn and knit a sample garter-stitch swatch. Note: We're not knitting a gauge swatch for the purpose of measuring and matching. We're knitting a sample to find the best needle size for our yarn, a needle size that yields a resilient, cushy, happy hat fabric. If you need a suggestion for a needle size to start with, try the size suggested on the yarn band or label. But know this: There is no RIGHT needle size for a given yarn. There is only the size that gives you the results you want. Repeat: There is no RIGHT needle size for a given yarn. There is only the size that gives you the results you want.

Once you've found the needle size that fits like Cinderella's slipper, you're ready to begin. The instructions below will yield a garter-stitch cap with a bit of a pointed peak at the top. (We'll discuss other ways to shape the crown in another post). 


Using your favorite cast-on method (we like the long-tail cast on) and a long circular needle for the Magic Loop Method or a double-point if that's your preferred method, cast on 8 stitches. Don't join yet. 

Set up row: Knit across all stitches, place marker for beginning of round (best to put a locking marker on the first stitch, sliding markers fall off the needle), and join for working in the round. As always, pay attention and don’t twist your stitches. (Joining after a single row of knitting creates a little knob at the top and makes it easier not to twist stitches.)

Round 1: Knit.

Round 2 increase round: K1-f/b to end (8 stitches increased)—16 sts.

Round 3: Purl. (Alternating purl rounds with knit rounds creates garter stitch  in the round).

Round 4 place markers: *K2, place marker; rep from * (8 markers placed).

Round 5: Purl.

Round 6 increase round: *K1-f/b, k1, slip marker; repeat from * (8 stitches increased)—24 stitches.

Work Rounds 3, 4, and 5 again.

Next round increase round: *K1-f/b, k2, slip marker; rep from * (8 stitches increased)—32 stitches.

Work rounds 3, 4, and 5 again.

Next round increase round: *K1-f/b, k3, slip marker; rep from * (8 stitches increased)—32 stitches.

And so on. Note the sequence: An increase round followed by three rounds worked in garter stitch. Each increase round adds one more stitch in the section between markers, eight new stitches total. As you knit, you're creating a circle that gets larger by eight stitches on every increase round. 

Work until the circumference of your hat, the outer edge of your knitting, measures what you'd like it to. If you need a little help in determining what the circumference should be, check the chart below for a place to start. I like a hat to be slightly stretched on my head for snugness. So I've given numbers for a hat circumference that measures one inch less than the standard head size. If you're making a hat for yourself, there's no guess work. Measure around your head (include the top of your ears) and use your own number. Remember that industry head sizes are like gauge statements on yarn labels, they're a guess, but they provide a good place to start. 

There are two easy ways to measure the circumference of your hat as you check your progress.

1. Use math: Take a gauge reading. By the time you've worked a few inches of of the crown, you'll have enough area in an increase section to measure stitches per inch. Lay your hat on a flat surface and measure two inches of stitches, then divide by two. Then calculate the number of stitches you'll need on your needle for your target circumference. For example, if you're aiming for a 20" circumference, and your gauge is 5 stitches to the inch, you'll want 100 stitches on your needle at the end of crown shaping.

The formula:

Stitches per inch x number of inches for circumference = total number of stitches to aim for.

2. Use your tape measure: Lay your piece on a flat surface, and with a flexible tape measure, simply measure around. Keep in mind that the stitches on the needle(s) may spread out a bit. 

Left: Measuring around with tape, Right: Taking a gauge reading

Note: Because the hat you're making will increase by 8 stitches on every increase round. If your target is 100 stitches around, you won't end with an increase round that gives you exactly 100 stitches—a number between 96 and 104 (multiples of 8).

No worries. Tailor your last increase round to fit your target number. Work increases on the established stitches, but work fewer of them. For example, after the increase round that takes you to 96 stitches, work 3 rounds in garter, then increase 4 stitches instead of 8 to end with exactly 100 stitches.

Or enjoy your hat slightly smaller or slightly larger than your target measurement. This is a hat, after all. 

Caveat: If you've decided to work a color or stitch pattern in the body of your hat, and it's worked over a 6-stitch repeat, then make sure the number you end on is divisible by six. We'll look at an example in an upcoming hat. 

Next installment: Part Three... TIPS!


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