For my entire knitting career, I’ve been pursuing the “perfect hat” – and while I have never recreated that one gift hat, I have found something else. Here, with full detail, is my personal perfect vanilla hat (that is, a basic, plain pattern), complete with all the little details that make it perfect for me. I use a combination of a specific cast-on, needle combination, and ratio of stitches between the ribbing and the hat to make an incredibly stretchy high-memory brim. On top of that (literally!) I follow a specific decrease rhythm for a well-shaped crown, and alter the needles and rhythm at the very end for a dense, fully closed top. I also include recommendations about places YOU can tweak the pattern to start finding your very own kind of perfect.
YOU WILL NEED
- at least 50-60 yards/45-55 meters of super bulky yarn: examples pictured use Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick (I recommend having at least a wool blend for best elasticity & memory, but this has worked well for me in 100% acrylic yarns too.
- One US size 13/9mm straight needle, for casting on
- One US size 11/8mm 16-inch circular needle, for ribbing & body knitting
- Four US size 10.5/6.5mm double-pointed needles, for the very top of the crown
- One large stitch marker
- Tapestry needle for weaving in
KNITTING INSTRUCTIONS – CAST ON & BRIM
- Using the US size 13/9mm straight needle, cast on 40 stitches using the Old Norwegian long-tail cast on method – if you’re not familiar with it, that link takes you to a tutorial with written instructions, diagrams, and a video! This is one of my favorite cast-ons for a balance of durability & elasticity, and is key to getting the exact fit range.
- Transfer all 40 stitches to your US size 11/8mm circular needle, and join for knitting in the round by passing the first stitch to the right needle-tip and the last stitch over it and to the left needle-tip.
- Time to make ribbing! Place a marker for your beginning of round (BOR), and then *K1, P1* around for 5 rounds.
- Increase round for body: *K3, KFB (knit front and back)* to end of round. You should have 50 stitches on your needle at this point.
Depending on how tightly I work, following this exact cast on & ribbing method allows for a lot of stretch! For the hat in these sample photos I was apparently rather tense, and I got a resting circumference of about 16″/41cm and a stretched circumference of 26″/66cm. In previous prototypes, my ratio was closer to 20″::28″ so obviously your mileage may vary, but you can expect your finished hat to have 8-10″ of stretch that returns easily after resting or, if necessary, a quick wash.
KNITTING INSTRUCTIONS – BODY
Now the simple part! Knit until the body of the hat measures at least 6 inches/just over 15 cm from the cast on edge. Lay the hat as flat as possible to measure, and make sure you’re not stretching the fabric while you’re measuring!
KNITTING INSTRUCTIONS – CROWN & FINISHING
Now time to shape the crown! This is done primarily by alternating rounds of evenly spaced decreases with plain or “rest” rounds. For the first few rounds of crown decreases, you’ll keep working with your circular needle.
- *K5, K2tog* until last stitch, K1 (43 stitches remain)
- Knit one round
- *K4, K2tog* until last stitch, K1 (36 stitches remain)
- Knit one round
- *K3, K2tog* until last stitch, K1 (29 stitches remain)
- Knit one round
- *K2, K2tog* until last stitch, K1 (22 stitches remain)
This is the point where I switch to my US size 10.5/6.5mm double-pointed needles. Rather than just juggle stitches, I knit off of the circular needle and onto the DPNs on this next rest round, as follows:
- Knit one round, transferring stitches to be divided evenly across DPNs
- *K1, K2tog* until last stitch, K1 (15 stitches remain)
And then, it’s time to finish off the crown firmly!
- K2tog until last stitch, K1
- Cut long tail and thread through loops left on needles and cinch tight
- Use the tail to weave closed any gaps, and weave in all ends firmly.
YOUR PERFECT HAT
Now we encourage YOU to keep tweaking to find your own kind of “perfect,” as we did to come up with this pattern. Some ideas you could try:
- Use different yarn, and/or different needles! You’ll get slightly different fit & fabric densities this way.
- Use a different cast-on, and/or a different kind of brim ribbing (K2P1, K2P2, etc). You’ll get a different brim fit this way.
- Add more length in the body section! You’ll get a slouchier hat.
- Use a different series of crown decreases (we spaced 7 decreases evenly, but I’ve knit hats with 8, 6, and many other different decrease plans). This will change the shape of the crown.
- Add extra flourishes, like a pom-pom, or a decorative button!
Happy knitting, and stay cozy!