Are you thinking of knitting your first hat? Or maybe you have already knit your first hat and are just looking for some pointers on how to improve on your second one. Whatever your expertise with hat knitting may be, it is never a bad idea to brush up on some basic essential tips for knitting your hat.
1. The Cast On
When casting on a hat, it is important to have some stretch to the beginning to create a proper fit on your noggin. It is always good to keep an arsenal of several different cast on methods in your knitting techniques, and to experiment with what works for you. Some popular cast on methods for hats include: cable cast on, long tail tubular cast on, and my personal favorite, the long tail cast on. These cast on methods have a wonderful stretch which creates a perfect base for the beginning of your hat.
2. Circulars, Double Points, or Straight Needles
People often think when starting out knitting hats, they NEED to stick with what style of needles the pattern calls for. One pattern may call for working in the round and another may be worked straight. However I say you should stick with what needle/knitting style you prefer and feel comfortable with after trying different methods. The more you enjoy knitting on your needles, the more enjoyable the knitting becomes. I personally love our Addi Turbo 16 inch circular knitting needles for knitting adult size hats. They are smooth for knitting in the round and have always been my go to needles for hats.
3. Bamboo, Metal, or Acrylic Needles
Although I feel you should work with whatever needles you are comfortable with, there are some needles that tend to be better for beginner knitters. When I was first starting to knit hats, I really enjoyed working with HiyaHiya bamboo circular needles. The bamboo warms up nicely in your hand and has a good glide with just a bit of stick so the stitches don’t go flying off your needles. I also really enjoy the Knitter’s Pride Marblz. They are an acrylic needle that come in a multitude of fun bright colors with just a bit of flexibility to them and a good amount of resistance on the needles.
4. Gauge Swatch
Anytime you are garment knitting, it is important to create a swatch especially when you are a new knitter. Size of swatches differ from person to person even when working with the same yarn and same needles depending on the tension used and even depending on the way a person knits. It might be a little extra work but well worth it when you have your final product in your hands and the fit is just right. Always make sure to wash and block your swatch for the best results.
5. Stitch Markers!!!
When knitting any hat with a pattern ALWAYS use stitch markers indicating the beginning and end of every stitch repeat. This way, if you make a mistake you just have to knit back to the end of the last pattern repeat. The last thing you want, is to realize you have made a mistake and not know where it is and rip out the entire row, if not couple rows, and start all over. So stitch markers are your best patterning friend to keep you on track! I enjoy using the ChiaoGoo stitch markers because they come in several sizes in super bright, fun colors to fit almost all knitting needle sizes.
6. Yarn Fiber for Hats
Not all yarn fibers are created equal. Especially for beginners, I feel it is important to work with a yarn with a high wool content. A superwash yarn such as the Ella Rae Classic Superwash yarn has some good stretch to it but also holds is shape very well. Or a 100% wool yarn such like the yarns of Rhichard Devrieze Peppino which has a wonderful stitch definition and come in a variety of gorgeous colors. Wool has a very good memory and stretch without stretching too much and losing shape like a 100% alpaca yarn or without being too rigid like most plant based fibers. If you can’t seem to find the yarn called for in the pattern, a good website I use for yarn substitutions is yarnsub.com. This website has always given me accurate substitutions and reasons as to why.
7. Practice with Baby Hats
Sometimes when you are just figuring out how hats are constructed and you don’t want to put in the time and energy for a full size adult hat, baby hats are a great option to test out new cast ons, decreases, patterns, and yarns. They are a quick instant gratification project that only takes a few hours to knit up. Baby hats can be a perfect gateway to knitting your own adult size hat and know after enough practice it will come out just the way you want it. We currently have a charity event going on with Spokane’s Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital knitting hats for the children called Healing Hands. If you are in the area, you could practice with baby hats and turn them in to Paradise Fibers for a chance to win a $50 gift card!
Hopefully these tips and techniques can get you going on the right path to being a proficient and happy hat knitter. When armed with the right tools and knowledge you can take down any hat project with a little practice. Good luck out there and remember we are all learning!