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Let’s Knit a Northward Hat

November 5, 2020
smiling child in a cabled hat

This step-by-step tutorial explains how to knit the Northward hat. Ready to get started? Get your copy of the FREE Northward pattern and follow along!

two children in cabled knit hats

Let’s get started! For this hat, you’ll need:

For this pattern, you will need 70 (80, 100, 120) yards of bulky weight yarn. You can also use a worsted weight yarn held doubled, but you’ll need double the yardage. For more on yarn choices, check out our post here.

The suggested needles for this pattern are a US #9 / 5.5mm for the ribbing and a US #10.5 / 6.5mm for the rest of the hat. These sizes are just suggestions, though. You’ll want to choose the needles that get you the suggested gauge. Learn more about gauge in knitting here. If you’re interested in skipping the double pointed needles for the baby size or the decreases, check out our magic loop tutorial here.

You’ll need a stitch marker, a cable needle, a darning needle for the ends, and a pom pom maker (but only if you intend to put a super cute pom on the top). For more info on pom poms, check out our Pom Pom Basics tutorial and our Pom Pom Advanced Techniques tutorial.

a ball of grey yarn and knitting needles
I’ve got my yarn and needles ready! This is Brooklyn Tweed Quarry in Granite.


This hat is knit in the round from brim to crown. This means you cast on at the ribbing, work your way up, and end with the decreases at the top.

an illustration of a cabled hat

If you’re uncertain about the conventions used in knitting patterns, our in-depth tutorial How to Read a Knitting Pattern may be helpful. It explains all about abbreviations and brackets!

Cast-on and ribbing

With smaller needles, cast on 50 (60, 70, 80) sts, PM, and join for working in the round.

I usually cast on with a smaller needle to keep the ribbing a little tighter than the body of the hat.

To join for working in the round, you can start just by knitting the first stitch cast on, but I have a little technique I use to make the join nice and clean. You can check it out here.

Ribbing: [k1tbl, p1] around
Work ribbing round a total of 4 (4, 6, 6) times. Switch to larger needles.

To give the ribbing a little extra definition, I worked a twisted rib. That means instead of a regular knit stitch, it has a k1tbl (knit 1 stitch through the back loop).

a close up of knitting a stitch through the back loop
To knit through the back loop, insert your needle through the back leg of the stitch and then knit it through.
the ribbing on a knit hat in progress
For my hat, I am working the adult S/M, so I cast on 70 sts and worked the twisted rib round six times.

The cables

Here’s where it gets fun! The best thing about cables is that they look difficult and fancy, but they are oh so simple.

Rounds 1, 2, 3, 4: [k6, p4] around
Round 5: [c6f, p4] around
Round 6: [k6, p4] around
Work rounds 1-6 a total of 3 (4, 4, 5) times, and then work rounds 1-5 once more.

The cable turn occurs on round five, and the other five rounds in this six-round repeat are simple knits and purls.

c6f: cable 6 front. This means you are going to work your cable over six stitches. Three stitches will be placed on the cable needle, and the cable needle is held at the front of the work. The first three stitches are knit from the left hand needle, and then three stitches are knit from the cable needle.

a knit hat in progress on the needles
Here I have done my four rounds of knits and purls, and I’m ready for my round 5 cables!
a bit of knitting in progress with 6 stitches numbered
Cabling is just knitting stitches out of order. Instead of knitting the stitches in order (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), you are going to knit stitches 4, 5, 6, and then stitches 1, 2, 3.
a hand holding a cable needle
This is my cable needle. Don’t worry if yours looks different! There are many different styles, and they all work just fine. Emily often just uses a bent paperclip.
a cable needle going into 3 stitches on a knit hat
First I slide my cable needle through the first three stitches (1, 2, 3).
a knit hat in progress with a cable needle with 3 stitches on it
I allow these held stitches on the cable needle to fall to the front (outside) of the work. Then I knit the next three stitches (4, 5, 6) from the left-hand needle.
a cable needle with 3 stitches on it against a hat in progress
Now I’m ready to knit the three stitches from the cable needle.
a finished cable on the needles
Cable complete!
a cabled hat on the needles
Now, after working the six-round repeat several times, I’m ready for the crown decreases!

The decrease section

Round 1: [k6, p2tog, p2] around [45 (54, 63, 72) sts]
Round 2: [k4, k2tog, p3] around [40 (48, 56, 64) sts]
Round 3: [k5, p2tog, p1] around [35 (42, 49, 56) sts]
Round 4: [k3, k2tog, p2] around [30 (36, 42, 48) sts]
Round 5: [c4f, p2tog] around [25 (30, 35, 40) sts]
Round 6: [k2, k2tog, p1] around [20 (24, 28, 32) sts]
Round 7: [k1, k2tog, p1] around [15 (18, 21, 24) sts]
Round 8: [k2tog, p1] around [10 (12, 14, 16) sts]
Round 9: [k2tog] around [5 (6, 7, 8) sts]

The decreases occur quickly, over nine rounds. When there are too few stitches to work comfortably on your circular needle, you must switch to double pointed needles or a long circular for the magic loop method.

a hat on long circular knitting needles
Here is my hat with my long circular for magic loop.

Note that there is a cable in round five, but it occurs over four stitches rather than six, because I have decreased within the cable section.

c4f: cable 4 front. This means you’re going to work your cable over four stitches. Two stitches will be placed on the cable needle, and the cable needle is held at the front of the work. The first two stitches are knit from the left hand needle, and then two stitches are knit from the cable needle.


For finishing, break yarn, draw through the remaining live stitches, and pull to close top of hat. Weave in the ends and wet-block your hat. Attach a fabulous pom pom if you like. Put on your beanie, and you are ready for the cold weather!

a man in a cabled hat

Share your #NorthwardHat with us!

We love show and tell! Share your progress with us on Instagram or Ravelry using the hashtags #NorthwardHat and #TinCanKnits.

Ready for your next cable project?

Now that you’ve tried cabling, we know you’ll want more! Here are some more TCK cables for inspiration – just click a picture to get the pattern!

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