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Let’s Knit a Hat

August 17, 2013

Barley HatIf you are knitting your way through The Simple 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. If you are knitting the Barley Light all of the techniques will be the same, but the numbers will be different.

So download the pattern for Barley (or Oats) and let’s knit a hat (or cowl)

::: Materials :::

Yarn: For the Barley hat you will need 70 (80, 90, 110, 150, 170) yards worsted / aran weight yarn. We used Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage in ‘badlands’, ‘thoreau’, ‘twig’, and ‘winter wheat’. If you need a little help with yarn information and substitutions, see our post on yarns here.

Needles: You will need 3 types of needles for this hat. Circular needles in 2 sizes as well as double pointed needles in the larger size. Why all the needles you ask? The smaller circular needle (US 6 / 4mm) is for the ribbing, which you want to be a little tighter. The larger circular needle (US 8 / 5mm) is for the body of the hat. The Double Pointed Needles (DPNs) are for the decreases in the hat. If you don’t want to use DPNs you can also try the Magic Loop Method with a long circular. For more information on knitting needles check out our needle post here.

::: Let’s get started! :::

Following the directions for your size and using your smaller circular needles (US 6 / 4mm 16″) cast on 66 (72, 78, 84, 90, 96) stitches, place your marker on the right hand needle, and join for working in the round.  Don’t know how to cast on with circular needles or join for working in the round?  Check out the tutorial here.

::: Ribbing :::

Establish Ribbing: (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. Stop and take a look. You might 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 of the hat:::

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 (tip: 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 or magic loop.

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. Tip: 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 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.

For more details on how to knit with DPNs see our knitting with DPNs tutorial here.


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 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.

85 Comments leave one →
  1. Alyssa permalink
    July 22, 2021 2:55 pm

    I am a total beginner here and so far have found all of these resources helpful! I am wondering for the measurement of the body of the hat (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.) – is that measurement from the bottom of the ribbing (the first cast-on), or is it from the top of the ribbing when I started the body of the hat?

    • July 23, 2021 10:48 am

      Hi Alyssa – You want to measure that from the cast on, at the bottom of the ribbing

  2. November 7, 2020 7:48 pm


    My local shop and they helped me find a pair of needles and a ball of wool for this project.

    This might be a silly question, but I see that the instructions say to cast 84 stitches to start (as per the instructions for a small adult size). The result is 22.5cm / 8.5 inches ( This seems way too small. I’m wondering if it’s because of the thickness of my yarn? This is the label ( and the yarn (

    Should I just keep adding stitches until I reach the circumference of my head (52cm/ 20.5 inches)?

    • November 9, 2020 2:11 am

      Hi – I’d try casting on much more loosely, so that the cast-on will stretch much further. Is your circular needle 16″ long? I can’t tell from the photo, but if your circular needle is too long, you won’t be able to stretch the 84 cast-on stitches all the way around, and will need to cast on to a set of double-pointed needles (or a shorter circular) instead.

  3. Judy Barnes permalink
    April 17, 2020 2:24 pm

    Just gathering supplies. Should the size 8 double-point needles also be 16″ long or can they be shorter? Thanks!

    • April 20, 2020 2:05 pm

      Hi Judy – They should definitely be shorter! 6-8″ is my recommendation for a new knitter (but you can go shorter if you like)

  4. Mylène permalink
    March 25, 2020 4:27 pm

    So great! Thanks!

    About sizing, if my head is 22,5 inches, which size should I make with Merino and Silk Wool?

    Take care!

    • March 25, 2020 8:29 pm

      Hi Mylene – Our patterns come with a ‘to fit head’ measurement. Hats usually have a couple of inches of negative ease so they fit nice and snug. You could knit the medium or the large, depending on how snug you’d like your hat.

  5. Ruth Grishkat permalink
    February 21, 2020 7:13 am

    I am a beginner and I am making this hat. What does set up row mean?

    • February 21, 2020 12:26 pm

      Hi Ruth – that means it’s a row that sets up further rows, so usually it includes placing markers, or establishing a stitch pattern

  6. Peggy permalink
    November 3, 2019 9:15 am

    Is there no market placed in the pearl section of the set up decrease round?

  7. Barbara Clark permalink
    October 14, 2019 11:34 am

    The pattern I have for barley light says sock yarn cast on 96(102,114 etc.). Your pattern says cast on 66 (72, 78 etc) I take it this is just the difference between the child and adult pattern? Also you do have a decrease in the middle of the garter stitch section? Also (and this is the last one–my 114 is not divisible by 17 (in the barley child pattern). Just follow direction and it will all come out in the end??? Thank you., Barbara

    • October 15, 2019 10:37 am

      Hi Barbara – While the techniques in this tutorial apply to both the Barley hat and the Barley light, the numbers are from the Barley hat pattern (the worsted weight version). So you will need to use the Barley light pattern for the numbers. There is indeed a decrease in the middle of the garter section.

  8. John Miller permalink
    July 27, 2019 9:55 am

    I just started to learn to knit two weeks ago. I thought I was doing ok until I reached the time to decrease my rounds BUT, instead of having 66 stitches to deal with, I found my last round before the decrease is 75! (I counted 3 times). Don’t know how I got there but, somehow, I need to get to a number divisible by 6 to move forward. Suggestions? Thanks.

    • August 1, 2019 11:31 pm

      It’s pretty common to gain (or lose) stitches mysteriously when you begin. If you work three k2togs in the next row, that will decrease your stitch count down to 72, which is divisible by 6 :) Best luck!

  9. Kari permalink
    July 24, 2019 10:12 pm

    I want to make this hat out of bamboo and cotton, for a friend going thru chemo, but want to use dk yarn (20 st over 4″) instead of worsted. Is it possible to adjust the pattern to do this? if so, how do I go about doing that? I look forward to your thoughts.

    • July 26, 2019 5:11 am

      Hi Kari – I’d suggest knitting one size bigger than you would if you were using worsted / aran weight yarn. It should come out about the right size! Best luck, Emily

  10. Penny permalink
    March 14, 2019 2:57 pm

    Hello, I’m having a meltdown regarding dpns vs circulars (40”) and magic loop. I’m knitting toddler size barley hat and have decreased to 48 stitches. Must I start magic loop technique now?
    Or can I continue just with the long circular? I’m lost for some reason!

    • March 14, 2019 6:25 pm

      Hmm, I’m a bit lost too. You can use the magic loop technique for the whole hat, using a long circular and pulling the cord out.

  11. Luise permalink
    March 13, 2019 10:38 pm

    Do I have to increase at the beginning of round marker too? Or only at the 5 other markers?

  12. Rose permalink
    October 1, 2018 5:11 pm

    Loved the hat and how it looks.

  13. pegah permalink
    February 17, 2018 5:20 pm

    Hi. Thank you for this nice hat pattern.

    I am a beginner knitter and have a question about the body part of the hat. In the instruction it says that the smaller portion section is garter, but why it is one-row purl and one-row knit? Isn’t it going to make a stockinette pattern? And in the larger portion, it is all knit stitches which results in garter pattern. Would you please explain?
    Thank you.

    • February 19, 2018 1:19 pm

      Hi – If you try it I think you will see. When working back and forth garter stitch is created by knitting each row, but in the round the right side of the work is always facing so it works the opposite way. Garter is created by knitting 1 round and purling 1 round, stockinette is created by knitting every round.

      • pegah permalink
        February 20, 2018 9:53 am

        Very interesting. Thank you :)

  14. Daphne permalink
    December 2, 2017 9:25 am

    My garter stich section is always shorter than the stockinette. Help!!

    • December 3, 2017 5:52 pm

      Hi Daphne – no problem at all, garter stitch is always going to ‘scrunch up’ more than stockinette so that is to be expected. Measure your hat from the stockinette side and when you block your finished hat the garter section will block to the same length as the stockinette.

      • Jenn permalink
        April 18, 2020 8:05 pm

        I came to the comments just to see if anyone asked about this! I thought I was making a newbie mistake. Thanks!

  15. Julie Boyer permalink
    October 10, 2017 8:06 am

    Thinking of using this pattern for a messy bun hat. What do you think? Would just need to modify the top of the hat! Thanks for sharing all this great knowledge on your site!!

  16. February 20, 2017 10:16 pm

    Thanks forKNIT===r sharing this type of

  17. mallow blossom permalink
    January 3, 2017 2:03 pm

    I love this pattern, could you tell what brand are your double pointed needles? The seem so nice and smooth. Thanks!

  18. Andrea permalink
    October 30, 2016 12:52 pm

    What does Purl to stitches before marker, P2tog twice then knit two stitches before marker K2 tog to end mean? Very confusing

    • October 31, 2016 9:02 pm

      I think you might be missing some brackets here. Your work will have 6 markers in it, you will purl to 2 sts before the marker, p2tog, then purl to 2 sts before the next marker, p2tog, then knit to 2 sts before the next marker, k2tog etc.

  19. Esther Shchory permalink
    October 7, 2016 12:57 pm

    I have noticed any other comments so maybe I am the only one who made this mistake.
    I am not a beginning knitter so did not feel the need to follow the link explaining how to cast on.
    I cast on 66 sts and then joined the round with a knit 2 tog and was left with 65 stitches which naturally didn’t work for the ribbing.
    I couldn’t figure out where I had gone wrong until I began desperately clicking on all the links and finally arrived at the cast on tutorial where it became clear I should actually cast on 67 sts.

    The comment “remember that you already knit the first stitch (the knit 2 together to join for working in the round)’ is a little mysterious and appears to refer to some instruction not included on this page or in the pattern but there is no indication what it refers to.
    Maybe the the addition of the phrase ‘see cast on instructions” with a link might be clearer.

    • December 1, 2016 3:31 am

      I didn’t look at this page until I came to the decrease section. And, since I don’t use a k2tog when I join in the round, my cast on stitches were the correct number ;).

  20. September 10, 2016 5:49 pm

    I love the Simple collection (made my first sweater using flax, thank you!!)

    Question on modifying this pattern: if a person needed to make it a bit larger (to fit head size 24”) would it be better to cast on extra stitches, or use a slightly larger needle size than recommended in your gauge, or just cast on using the larger needles and… hope that it’s good enough?

    Thanks, and keep being awesome!

    • September 13, 2016 10:25 am

      The largest size is made to fit a 24″ head, not to worry! (but to answer your question, more stitches is usually the answer)

  21. Viki Caldwell permalink
    August 6, 2016 5:52 pm

    I can’t find a hat pattern with 94 stitches, so I’m not sure how to do the crown.
    The 94 stitches are divisible by 8. Can you tell how to decrease evenly? Thanks!

    • August 6, 2016 9:28 pm

      Hi Viki – 94 is not divisible by 8, I would probably decrease 4 sts in the next round, then you can follow the decrease instructions for the Barley size Adult M

  22. August 1, 2016 3:10 pm

    I usually buy quality yarn, but am using some red heart for my first hat. Is that terrible????

    • August 2, 2016 9:31 am

      Hi Nancy – there is nothing terrible about acrylic yarn, it just isn’t forgiving the way natural fibers are. It doesn’t really block and it generally doesn’t feel as nice as wool to work with or to wear, that’s all.

  23. June 23, 2016 10:16 pm

    Hi , love your patterns and am finally attempting the barley hat in a beautiful alpaca yarn. My question is I accidentally lost the plot with the knit every second row and have now just reverse stockinette stitch instead of garter stitch. How will this affect my hat? I have done so much now and it looks good so I dont want to pull it out. so was there a reason to use garter stitch -i was thinking it may look clearer?

    • June 25, 2016 11:08 pm

      Hi Maya – not to worry, your hat will be just perfect! There are more than a few hats on Ravelry with that ‘design detail’

  24. 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…

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

    how to get the free pattern?

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

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

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

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

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

  31. 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.

  32. 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!

  33. 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

  34. 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.

  35. 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?

  36. 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.

  37. 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!

  38. 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.

  39. 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).

  40. 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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