Posted on Friday, February 24 2012 at 10am
Stuck for a quick gift? Want to try a new technique? If you want to get ahead, get a hat! Our three-part guide from Rosee Woodland covers everything you need to know.
Hats make the perfect learning exercise. For beginners they offer the chance to try out increasing and decreasing on a small project. Intermediate knitters can experiment with knitting in the round, and experienced knitters can use hats to challenge themselves with colourwork.
To knitting designer Elizabeth Zimmerman, hats were ‘giant swatches’, the ideal opportunity to test ideas and hone skills too daunting in a full-sized garment.
Whether sticking to a pattern, or trying out an idea of your own, the basic construction and short knitting time for most hats makes them a fun, quick knit.
Get a round In
If you’ve never tried knitting in the round, why not give it a go with a hat? Try using a 40cm circular needle (look on your ball band to see what needle size you need), and switch to double pointed needles when there are not enough stitches to stretch all the way around.
Cast on using a stretchy method (see ‘Casting on’), work one row straight, and then join to continue in the round, being careful not to twist your stitches, and placing a marker to show you where the round begins and ends. Every time you get back to the marker, just slip it onto your right-hand needle and carry on knitting!
The easiest way to join to work in the round is to cast on one more stitch than you need and then knit the last stitch together with the first stitch to close the gap. alternatively, slip the first and last stitches over each other.
Everything you need to know about hat knitting
The first 2.5-5cm of the hat is usually knitted on smaller needles, in a ‘welt’ pattern. a welt is a section of knitting at the edge of a garment, which uses a stable stitch pattern which does not curl. It might be worked in garter stitch, rib or moss stitch. of course, you don’t have to knit a welt. a rolled edge made with stocking stitch, which curls naturally, is very comfortable and easy to get on and off, making it great for hats for newborn babies.
The Change up
Immediately after the welt, you will normally switch to slightly larger needles, and increase some stitches as well – as long as the edge fits snugly the rest of the hat doesn’t need to be as tight. For a beanie you might only increase 10 per cent of stitches. For a tam o’ shanter or a beret it might be as much as 30 per cent. The more you increase at this point the looser your hat will be. These increases are usually made over just a few rows, often only a single row.
Even though children and adults vary wildly in clothing size, there is very little difference in the hat size of a young child and that of an adult, with crown depth varying between 8 to 10cm.
If you like the look of a child’s hat pattern, try going up one yarn weight (e.g. from 4ply to dK) and one or two needle sizes – this will probably make enough of a difference for it to fit you, but if in doubt, swatch!
Likewise, if you fancy a more grown-up pattern for your youngster, switch down a yarn weight and needle size and you’ve probably done enough to reduce the size.
In part two of this ‘How To’ expert advice series on hat knitting we’ll share our top Hat Knitting Tips