So, you’ve knit a scarf, or maybe a blanket, and now it’s time to expand your skills! The Barley hat is a great way to learn about knitting in the round, markers, and decreases!
This tutorial includes excerpts from the free Barley pattern, which is knit in a worsted weight. If you’re following the Barley Light pattern (knit in sock/fingering weight yarn) all the techniques described below will apply, but the numbers will be different.
If you prefer a cowl try our free Oats pattern; all the same techniques apply but you get to skip the decreases.
8 Steps to knit a Barley hat
- Casting on for knitting in the round
- Change to larger needles
- Set-up Round
- Body of the hat
- Pattern: Download a copy of the free Barley pattern (or the Barley Light pattern here). Check out our tutorial here if reading a multi-size knitting pattern is new to you.
- Yarn: for the Barley hat you will need 70 (80, 90, 110, 150, 170) yards worsted / aran weight yarn. For more information on yarns 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. For more information on knitting needles check out our needle post here.
Note: If you don’t want to use DPNs you can also try the Magic Loop Method with a long circular.
Using smaller needles, cast on 66 (72, 78, 84, 90, 96) sts, PM and join for working in the round, being careful not to twist the cast-on.
So, following instructions for your size and using your smaller circular needles (US 6 / 4mm 16″ circulars), cast on 66 (72, 78, 84, 90, 96) stitches, place your marker, 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: Casting for knitting in the round.
Establish ribbing: [k1, p1] around
Work in 1×1 ribbing as established for 1 (1.5)” for Child (Adult) sizes.
Now you are working in the round! After a few rounds 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.
Change to Larger Needles
After the ribbing the instructions state to change to larger needles. This means you will be working the next round using the US 8 / 5mm 16″ circular needles. You will be changing to larger needles as you work 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 in your right hand and the smaller needle in your left hand. Once the round is complete you can drop the smaller needle and you will be working with the next round solely on the larger needle.
The set-up round establishes the garter section of the hat (which is 1/3 of the total stitches) 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 (BOR) marker and the second marker.
Body of the Hat
Round 1: purl to marker, SM, knit to end of round
Round 2: knit
Work rounds 1-2 until piece measures 4 (5, 6, 7, 8, 8.5)” from cast-on, measured at the stockinette side of the work, for a beanie. For a slouchier hat (as shown in the Child and Adult L samples) work an additional inch in pattern as established.
Work round 1 once more.
To knit the body of the hat you will keep working 1/3 of the stitches in garter stitch (this section is purled on round 1 and knit on round 2) and 2/3 of the stitches in stockinette (this is knit every round).
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 (DPNs) or a long circular for magic loop.
Set-up Round: [k9 (10, 11, 12, 13, 14) k2tog, PM] around
[6 sts dec, 60 (66, 72, 78, 84, 90) sts]
This means you are knitting 9 (10, 11, 12, 13, 14) stitches then knitting 2 stitches together, then placing a marker. Once you have completed the set-up round you will have 6 markers, your BOR marker and 5 other markers. You work is separated into 6 sections.
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:
What a k2tog looks like in the knit section:
Now that your work is all set up, you can continue with your decreases according to the pattern (remembering that you will have to switch to double pointed needles when you have too few stitches to comfortably go around your circular needle, described in detail below).
Round 1: purl to second marker, knit to end, slipping markers as you come to them (this continues the garter stitch section as set)
Round 2: [knit to 2 sts before marker, k2tog, SM] around [6 sts dec]
Work rounds 1-2 a total of 3 times. There are now 42 (48, 54, 60, 66, 72) sts total, which is 7 (8, 9, 10, 11, 12) sts per section.
Next Round: [purl to 2 sts before marker, p2tog, SM] twice, then [knit to 2 sts before marker, k2tog, SM] to end [6 sts dec]
Next Round: [knit to 2 sts before marker, k2tog, SM] around [6 sts dec]
Work last 2 rounds until 6 sts remain.
If you haven’t worked a p2tog (purl 2 stitches together) check out our p2tog tutorial here.
Switching to Double Pointed Needles (DPNs)
When working with circular needle you can work something larger than the 16″ circumference, but you can’t work something smaller or things get pretty stretchy. In order to work a smaller number of stitches in the round you will need to use DPN’s or a longer circular needle and the magic loop method.
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.
A note on distributing your stitches and markers with DPNs: 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. 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 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.
- Cut your yarn, leaving a 6 inch tail.
- Weave the tail through the remaining 6 live stitches.
- Move the tail to the inside of the hat and secure it.