Once you've mastered flat knitting, it's time to take things into the third dimension. For round objects like hats, it's more efficient to knit continuously — imagine a spiral staircase — on circular needles. This is called "knitting in the round." It's easier than it may seem! In this beginner's hat project, you'll learn how to set up your circular knitting project, alternate between two colors of yarn (optional), and shape the crown with stitch decreases.
This project is an excerpt from my free Instructables Knitting Class, so please check it out to learn more techniques, including how to fix mistakes.
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Step 1: Join
To join a project for knitting in the round, cast on 88 stitches to a circular needle and then triple check that they’re all facing the same way and not twisted as you queue up the two ends together.
Knit into the first stitch and pull the working yarn tight before continuing on.
When you get back to the beginning of the row, count your stitches to make sure they’re all there. Place a stitch marker or scrap loop of yarn on the right needle.
Step 2: Stripes!
To knit in stripes with two colors, make two rows in your first color, then place a stitch marker and start working in your second color, without cutting the first.
After another two rows you can swap back to the first color by just picking up the working yarn where you left off.
Since the stripes are only two rows tall, the alternate color working yarn can be picked up without cutting. The yarn will make the short span across the short stripe. For larger stripes, you will need to cut long tails and add the new color as if starting a new skein, then weave in all the yarn ends later on.
Step 3: Knit Like the Wind
Continue in K1, P1 rib until you have about 14 stripes of each color, or until the hat measures approx 10 inches/25 cm tall. In the next lesson, you'll learn how to create the dome shape at the top of the hat.
Step 4: Knit Two Together
To shape the top of a hat, we’ll decrease the number of stitches incrementally using a stitch decrease called “knit two together.” Reducing stitches every other row will create a gradual rounding of the hat culminating at the apex of the dome.
It is just like it sounds— enter two stitches from the left, and knit them as one (abbreviated k2tog).
Since the hat has 88 stitches, first we’ll decrease every 11 stitches, for a total of eight decreases. To keep track, I like to count as if stitches 11 and 1 are knit together, so I count 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11and1 (k2tog), 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11and1 (k2tog), all the way around the hat. Alternate decrease rows with regular (non-decrease) rows. Your K1, P1 pattern will be disrupted by the decreases and that's ok-- just keep knitting into the knit stitches and purling into the purl stitches. The next time around, count to 10 instead of 11 before each decrease.
The columns of decrease stitches will appear two ways, depicted above, depending on whether they decrease started with a knit or a purl stitch. Continue decreasing in pattern until there are so few stitches that it’s becoming difficult to use the circular needle. Complete a row and get ready to switch to double pointed needles (DPNs)!
Step 5: Switch to DPNs
To knit small round things, like the very top of your new hat, double pointed needles (DPNs) are necessary, and not as hard to use as they may seem!
At the start of a new row, pick up a DPN in your right hand and start knitting in the same K1, P1 rib onto it. Knit one third of the stitches (does not have to be exact) onto this first DPN, then scrunch the stitches to the center of the needle and pick up another one. Knit another third of your stitches onto the next DPN, and so on for the third DPN.
To knit the next row, position the first DPN on top of its neighbors, and pick up your fourth DPN. Knit all the stitches from your first DPN onto the new one (remember to count stitches and perform decreases), then your newly emptied needle will become the right needle for the following set of stitches. You are still knitting in the round, but now the round can shrink smaller as the work does. Continue alternating decrease rows until 16 stitches remain.
Step 6: Finishing Touches!
Cut both colors with a 12 inch tail, and thread the working color onto a yarn needle. Pull the nonworking color tail to the inside of the hat.
Slip all stitches onto the yarn needle and pull tight to cinch the top of your hat closed.
Thread the needle through the top stitches one more time before weaving in the end.
At the brim of your hat, you can smooth the seam a bit by weaving in the yarn tail across it. Weave in any other yarn ends on the inside of the hat.
Huge congrats! You've completed your first hat! You can wear it like a floppy beanie or fold up the brim.
This project is an excerpt from my free Instructables Knitting Class, so please check it out to learn more techniques!