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How to Make Circular-Knit Hats for Adults

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Hats are a natural for circular knitting (or knitting in the round). This project for circular-knit adult hats offers three brim styles: hemmed, ribbed, and rolled stockinette. Whichever brim you choose, the directions call for shaping the top. Work this hat in plain stockinette stitch in a colorful or fashion yarn, or customize it by working the colorwork pattern included here. But don't feel tied to those two options — use this hat as a canvas to express yourself.

Specifications for circular-knitting an adult hat

Three brim styles <i>(l to r)</i>: Hat A is hemmed; Hat B is ribbed; and the third is rolled stocki
Three brim styles (l to r): Hat A is hemmed; Hat B is ribbed; and the third is rolled stockinette.
  • Size: Adult's S (M, L)

  • Brim circumference: 20 (21, 22) inches

  • Yarn: Desired yarn in the amount specified in the table. (Note: These estimates are for a hat with a ribbed brim. The hemmed and rolled brims require slightly more yardage.)

    Hat A: Foxfire Fiber Upland Wool & Alpaca (80% wool/20% prime alpaca, 135 yd. per skein), 1 skein in color Moss. This hat, knit in size S, was worked at a gauge of 4 stitches per inch on a US 6 needle.

    Hat B: Valley Yarns Berkshire (85% wool/15% alpaca, 141 yd. per skein), 1 skein each in colors (A) Dark Brown, (B) Pale Lilac, and (C) Stone Blue. This hat, knit in size S, was worked at a gauge of 4 stitches per inch on a US 6 needle.

Approximate Yardages for 20"–22" Hat
Gauge in Stockinette Approximate Yardage
3 sts/inch 80–100 yards
4 sts/inch 110–140 yards
5 sts/inch 140–180 yards
6 sts/inch 180–225 yards
7 sts/inch 220–275 yards
  • Needles: One of the following types of needles in the size needed to obtain your desired gauge:

    One set of 4 or 5 double-pointed needles

    One 32- to 40-inch circular needle

    Two 16-inch circular needles

    One 16-inch circular needle and a set of double-pointed needles for working the crown decreases

    If you're working a rolled stockinette brim, you'll need another needle of the same type, one size smaller than that used to obtain your desired gauge.

  • Notions:

    Stitch markers

    Seaming needle

    Colorwork chart for Hat B (multiple of 5 stitches)
    Colorwork chart for Hat B (multiple of 5 stitches)

If you plan to use this stitch pattern on your hat, be sure to cast on a number of stitches that is a multiple of 5.

Plan your circular-knit adult hat

Planning your hat means choosing a knitting method, determining the size, selecting the yarn, and knitting a gauge swatch.

Choose a circular-knitting method

This simple hat project is pretty versatile when it comes to circular-knitting methods. You can work this project using any of the following:

  • Double-pointed needles

  • One circular needle (traditional)

  • One long circular needle (magic loop)

  • Two circular needles

If you knit the hat on one 16-inch circular needle, you'll need to switch to double-pointed needles (or one of the other methods) at some point during the crown decreases because the stitches will no longer reach comfortably around the needle. It is easiest to knit hats using the magic-loop method with one long circular needle.

Choose a size

Determine the circumference you want for the hat. Most hats should be knit with negative ease (. Measure around the widest part of the intended wearer's head and subtract 1⁄2 to 1-1⁄2 inches from that measurement to calculate the hat circumference.

A hemmed brim is not as stretchy as a rolled or ribbed brim, so it's best not to include too much negative ease when using this hem.

Choose yarn and determine the gauge

Yarn for adult hats can run the gamut from practical to frivolous and fun. If you want a warm winter hat, for example, choose a yarn that is warm and durable, and knit it at a tighter gauge than recommended on the ball band. This results in a denser fabric that better retains heat. If, on the other hand, you are creating a fun accessory, you might choose a fashion yarn that adds a little flair. Because this hat is such a simple shape, it's a great way to show off variegated or self-striping yarns.

After choosing your yarn, make a swatch in stockinette to determine your gauge and needle size.

Circular-knit your adult hat

To make this hat, you'll cast on, make the brim, knit the body, and then shape the top.

Cast on

  1. Using the long-tail cast-on, cast on the number of stitches specified in the following table for your gauge and desired hat size.

  2. Arrange your stitches on the needles according to your chosen circular-knitting method. Join for working in the round, being careful not to twist the cast-on around the needles. Place a marker to indicate the end of the round.

Cast-On for Hat
Gauge Number of Stitches to Cast On
3 sts/inch 60 (64, 66)
4 sts/inch 80 (84, 88)
5 sts/inch 100 (104, 110)
6 sts/inch 120 (128, 132)
7 sts/inch 140 (146, 154)

Knit the brim

Brim styles can show your personality: Casual and relaxed? Choose the rolled brim. Like a tailored look? The hemmed brim is for you! If you're feeling playful, go for the ribbed brim.

Hemmed Brim (Hat A)

  1. Work in stockinette stitch until the hat measures 1 inch from the cast-on edge.

    Hemmed brim of Adult Hat A.
    Hemmed brim of Adult Hat A.
  2. Purl 1 round to create a turning ridge.

  3. Work 1 more inch of stockinette stitch.

  4. Work the remainder of the hat as specified in the "Body" section of this article.

Ribbed Brim (Hat B)

  1. *Knit 1, purl 1; repeat from * to beginning of round.

    Other rib patterns that are good for the bottom of a hat are 2 × 2, 2 × 1, and 3 × 1. Remember that your chosen rib pattern must fit evenly into your number of cast-on stitches.

    Ribbed brim and colorwork of Adult Hat B.
    Ribbed brim and colorwork of Adult Hat B.
  2. Continue working in rib for 2 inches or the desired length from the cast-on edge.

  3. Work the remainder of the hat as specified in the "Body" section of this article.

Rolled Stockinette Brim

  1. Using a needle one size smaller than the one you will use for the body of your hat, knit for 2 inches.

  2. Change back to the larger needle and work the remainder of the hat as specified in the "Body" section of this article.

    This stockinette brim naturally rolls up onto itself.
    This stockinette brim naturally rolls up onto itself.

Knit the body

  1. Begin to work the body of the hat in stockinette stitch or the desired stitch pattern.

    To use the colorwork pattern shown in Hat B, work 1 round of stockinette in the main color before beginning the chart.

  2. Continue in pattern until the hat measures 5-1⁄2 (6, 6-1⁄2) inches from the edge of the brim, or 3-1⁄4 (3-1⁄2, 3-3⁄4) inches less than total desired length.

    If using a hemmed brim, measure from the purled turning round. If using a rolled brim, measure from the bottom of the rolled brim. If using a ribbed brim, measure from the cast-on edge.

Shape the top of the hat (top shaping)

  1. Setup round

    Decrease the number of stitches on your needles to the nearest multiple of 8 by working the number of decreases specified in the following table, evenly spaced around the circumference of the hat.

    If the table indicates zero stitches to decrease, just work a plain stockinette round.

  2. Knit 1 round, placing a marker after each set of stitches (as indicated in the following table).

  3. *Knit to 2 stitches before the marker, k2tog; repeat from * to the end of the round.

  4. Knit 1 round.

  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until 8 stitches remain.

    Note: If you are working the hat on one 16-inch circular needle, change to double-pointed needles (or one of the other circular knitting methods) when your stitches no longer fit comfortably around your needle.

  6. Cut the yarn, leaving a 10-inch tail. Thread this tail onto a seaming needle and pull the needle through the remaining 8 stitches. Pull snugly to close.

  7. Weave in yarn ends.

  8. If you worked a hemmed brim, fold the bottom edge up inside the hat along the purled turning round. Loosely whipstitch the hem in place on the wrong side.

Number of Stitches to Decrease on Setup Round
Gauge To Decrease Remaining
3 sts/inch 4 (0,2) 56 (64, 64)
4 sts/inch 0 (4, 0) 80 (80, 88)
5 sts/inch 4 (0, 6) 96 (104, 104)
6 sts/inch 0 (0, 4) 120 (128, 128)
7 sts/inch 4 (2, 2) 136 (144, 152)
Location of Decrease Markers
Gauge Number of Stitches between Markers
3 sts/inch 7 (8 ,8)
4 sts/inch 10 (10, 11)
5 sts/inch 12 (13, 13)
6 sts/inch 15 (16, 16)
7 sts/inch 17 (18, 19)

There are a lot of ways to customize this hat. For a stocking cap, work 2 to 4 plain knit rounds between decrease rounds while decreasing the top. Top the hat with a pompom, tassel, or little I-cord braid. You can also experiment with cables, knit-and-purl combinations, stripes, or stranded colorwork.


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