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Let’s Knit a Hat

August 17, 2013

Barley HatIf you are knitting your way through the collection with us you have already completed (or nearly completed) your first scarf or blanket!  Next we will make a hat (or a cowl).  While knitting the Barley Hat you will learn to knit in the round on circular and double pointed needles, and how to decrease. 

If you prefer to make the Oats Cowl, all the same rules apply, except you get to skip the decreasing and the double points.

So download the pattern for Barley (or Oats) and let’s get started! Following the directions for your size and using your 4mm 16″ circular needle cast on 66 (72, 78, 84, 90, 96) stitches, place marker, and join for working in the round.  Don’t know how to cast on?  Check out the tutorial here.

::: Ribbing :::

First round: (k1, p1) around – remember that you already knit the first stitch (the knit 2 together to join for working in the round), so purl the second, knit the 3rd, purl the 4th, etc.

Now you are working in the round! Following the directions for your size work in 1×1 ribbing for 1 (1, 1, 1.5, 1.5, 2) inches. You will notice that you are knitting the knit stitches and purling the purl stitches creating a ‘stack’ of knits and a ‘ditch’ of purls. Measure your knitting from the bottom of the cast on.


::: Body :::

You will now be changing to larger needles AND working the set up round. To change to larger needles simply ignore the right hand needle you have been working with and start working the next round with the larger needle.


This is what it looks like after a few stitches have been worked with the new needle.

The set-up round establishes the garter section of the hat (which is 1/3 of the total sts) and the stockinette section (which is the other 2/3). Following the directions for your size k22 (24, 26, 28, 30, 32), place marker (it helps if this marker is a different colour from the beginning of round marker) knit to end of round The garter stitch portion of the hat will be between the beginning of round marker and the second marker.


This is what your knitting will look like after the set up round. The garter section starts at the purple marker and is worked until the green marker. The rest of the stitches are knit every round.

Now you will be working the body of the hat.

Round 1: purl to marker, knit to end
Round 2: knit

Repeat these two rounds until your hat measures 4 (5, 6, 7, 8, 8.5)  inches from cast on for a snug beanie style hat.  For a slouchier hat, work in pattern for an additional inch or so before proceeding to decrease.

::: Decreases :::

To shape the crown of the hat you will work a series of decrease rounds. At first you can work these on your circular needle, but soon it will become too tight (your stitches won’t reach all the way around the needle) and you will have to switch to double pointed needles.

Set up round: k9 (10, 11, 12, 13, 14), k2tog, PM around

This means you are knitting 9 (10, 11, 12, 13, 14) stitches then knitting 2 stitches together, then placing a marker. These markers should be a different colour from the beginning of round marker to avoid confusion.

What a k2tog looks like in the purl section:


knitting 2 stitches together – see k2tog in greater detail in this tutorial.





This is what your knitting will look like after the decrease set up round. You will have 6 markers indicating where to place your decreases. One will indicate the beginning of the round maker as well (my BOR marker is purple).

Now that your work is all set up, you can continue with your decreases as follows (remembering that you will have to switch to double pointed needles when you have too few stitches to comfortably go around your circular needle):

Round 1: purl to second marker, knit to end
Round 2: (knit to 2 stitches before marker, k2tog) around

Repeat rounds 1-2 two more times.  There are now 42 (48, 54, 60, 66, 72) sts total, which is 7 (8, 9, 10, 11, 12) sts per section.

::: Switching to Double Pointed Needles :::

Changing to double pointed needles is a lot like switching to the larger needles, like we did after working the ribbing. You simply work your stitches with a new needle instead of your current right hand needle. The difference with DPN’s is that you will be using 4 needles (sometimes people use 5 but that’s a story for another day). Your knitting will be distributed over 3 needles and you will use the 4th to knit with. Read ALL of the instructions for changing to double points before you proceed.

Ignoring your right hand needle you will instead work to the second marker with your DPN

Ignoring your right hand needle you will instead work to the second marker with your DPN

This is what it looks like when you have knit a few stitches with your DPN

This is what it looks like when you have knit a few stitches with your first DPN

::: A note on distributing your stitches and markers :::

You can put any number of stitches on any of your double pointed needles but I have a favourite way to do it for this hat. You will work the garter section on the first needle, pick up your second needle and work 1/2 the stockinette section, pick up your third needle and work the last 1/2 of the stockinette section – this will bring you back to the beginning. This way you will have a marker in the middle of each needle and you can treat the end of each needle as if it had a marker on it (you can’t actually place a marker on the end of each needle because it would just fall off). The beginning of your round is at the beginning of the garter section.


Next round: [purl to 2 stitches before the marker, p2tog] twice, [knit to 2 stitches before the marker, k2tog] to end.

Purl 2 Stitches Together

Purl 2 Stitches Together (p2tog tutorial here)

Next round: (knit to 2 stitches before marker, k2tog)

Repeat these last 2 rounds until you have 6 sts left. Finish your hat as follows:

::: Finishing :::

1. Cut your yarn, leaving a 6 inch tail.


2. Weave the tail through the remaining 6 live stitches.



3. Move the tail to the inside of the hat and secure it.


4. Weave in your ends and block your hat.

This tutorial is part of The Simple Collection – our 100% free learn-to-knit series.  Check out the 8 fabulous free patterns sized from baby to big, and get started making modern seamless knits for the entire family!  Like our work?  Get our email updates and we will let you know about new patterns, tutorials, and events.

36 Comments leave one →
  1. Tere permalink
    January 13, 2016 11:21 am

    Knitting the Barley. So adorable. Just love all your knits. Your patterns are great and so clear. Just need a little clarification on the decrease. K2TOG’s are done on the knit row, wrong side of hat. Right side stays in the established pattern. Thank you, Tere

    • January 13, 2016 12:35 pm

      Hi Tere – The hat is knit in the round, so there are no wrong side rows…

  2. Máiread permalink
    December 16, 2015 2:56 am

    how to get the free pattern?

  3. Diane permalink
    November 17, 2015 7:57 pm

    Can I use the magic loop instead of switching to dpns?

  4. Roberta Coleman permalink
    November 6, 2015 7:46 pm

    Thank you. The instructions and tutorials are excellent. I feel confident using any of your patterns.

  5. Roberta Coleman permalink
    October 30, 2015 3:53 pm

    Should I change to DPN’s at the beginning of the decrease, when all the needles have an even amount of stitches?

    • November 5, 2015 9:35 am

      I usually switch as late as possible, when the sts are quite spread apart on the circular.

  6. Michele permalink
    August 19, 2015 1:00 pm

    Hi Alexa,
    First thank you so much for sharing this gift with us all, such a blessing. Now on to the question, must I use double pointed needles to make this hat? I don’t know why however, this has been the reason I shy away from knitting hats whenever I see DPN I decide I just won’t make the pattern and thus as a new knitter this keeps me from making anything other than a square, dishcloth, scarf etc. Please advise and again thank you,
    < michele ps i'm on ravelry.

  7. Kayla permalink
    March 24, 2015 2:21 pm

    Do you end on a knit or pearl row before starting the decrease?

  8. Zee permalink
    February 22, 2015 6:08 pm

    Is it absolutely necessary to change the needle size after the ribbing?

    • February 25, 2015 9:39 pm

      Yep, you want to have a nice tight ribbing and the rest of the hat is on larger needles. If you keep going on the small needles it will come out too small.

  9. January 21, 2015 11:07 am

    Hi, I’m new to your site and fairly new to knitting. I am confused about your pattern. 1. It looks like you knit one section and purl the other. 2. Don’t I begin the stockinette section at the beginning of the starter row (where tail is)Where my starter marker is?TY Loyda

    • January 22, 2015 9:25 am

      Hello Loyda – you work the garter stitch section (purling every second round) over the first 22 (24, 26, 28, 30, 32) stitches of the round. So at the very start of the round, after your beginning-of-round marker, to the second marker. You do this following the pattern, repeating these 2 rounds:

      Round 1: purl to marker, knit to end of round
      Round 2: knit

      Enjoy the knit!

  10. January 19, 2015 12:57 pm

    I don’t understand p2tog twice? Is that mean last 4 stitches?

    • January 19, 2015 5:55 pm

      You are repeating the whole instructions twice, not just the p2tog. Purl to 2 sts before marker, p2tog, purl to 2 sts before marker, p2tog

  11. July 21, 2014 7:36 pm

    From what portion of the hat do you measure for length before beginning the decreases? Garter stitch makes a more horizontally compressed fabric, and mine currently measures an inch shorter from the cast on than the stockinette portion of the hat.

  12. July 4, 2014 12:36 am

    I am starting a circular baby shawl on circular needles, working from the middle out. How do you cast on only 9 stitches and knit these few stitches on circular needles?

  13. February 4, 2014 3:50 am

    Thanks so much for this series of patterns. Barley was my first hat and my second knitting project ever. It taught me knitting in the round and DPNs. One question though…in Finishing, Step 3, you say to move the tail to the inside of the hat and secure it. Can you explain “secure it,” please? I just moved it to the inside and wove in the end. Thanks!

    • February 11, 2014 8:35 pm

      Weaving in the end is exactly what we mean. Sometimes I make a little knot first.

  14. Dana permalink
    January 24, 2014 1:43 pm

    Hi, I have never used dpns before and was wondering if it matters what length they are? I have seen 7 in and 5 in, and not sure which to use? Or if I should be looking for a different length? Thanks!

    • February 11, 2014 8:38 pm

      I like the shorties personally (5 inches) but the longer ones are a little easier to learn on. It’s really just preference!

  15. Amy McGowan permalink
    November 26, 2013 11:15 am

    I need assistance! Why are there two different gauges listed for Barley? I see one uses garter and one stockenette. Am I supposed to find gauge with larger needle and then use needles two sizes smaller to start? I knit tight and almost always find gauge when I go up 2 sizes. I can get perfect gauge with US10 needles in garter for this pattern. Am I supposed to find gauge with smaller needles in I am sure I am making this too complicated. Thank you for any guidance.

    • December 2, 2013 6:54 pm

      Hi Amy

      One gauge is given in stockinette and one is given in garter. Because the 2 different stitches are different (garter is a ‘squishier’ fabric while stockinette is more smooth) the same needles and yarn will result in a different gauge. SO, if you are knitting a gauge swatch you will want to know what your gauge is on larger needles in either stockinette or garter (while the ribbing is done on smaller needles fo for a nice tight brim). Check out our tutorial on gauge here if you still need a little more information.

  16. Marylin permalink
    September 15, 2013 3:15 pm

    Ok sweet. Thanks! I don’t think I had my stitches lined up with my markers, so it went all crazy. Lol
    I guess I missed the part where you do the round 1 one more time.

    • Marylin permalink
      September 15, 2013 3:17 pm

      Also, the dpns freak me out. I’m paranoid the stitches are going to fall out. And it’s kinda confusing, to me. I’m self taught (well, teaching).

  17. Marylin permalink
    September 14, 2013 10:39 pm

    The set up round of decreasing: does this happen AFTER a round 2 from the previous section? Thus making the set up round two rows of knitting in the purl section?
    Also, there are 22 purl stitches is this section, as indicated in the baby hat, when decreasing in the set up row, that leaves two extra purl stitches where the decreasing “seam” would be. Is that supposed to be like that? Thanks so much.

    • September 14, 2013 10:46 pm

      Hi Marylin

      The instructions are to knit round 1 once more, so the garter panel continues as set. For the decrease section the 22 stitch garter panel remains. The instructions are to knit 9 then K2tog. The k2tog takes up 2 sts so 9+2 is 11 and 11×2 is 22.


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