How to Knit a Hat Without a Pattern

Quick recap: In the first installments of our series, How to Knit Without a Pattern, we discussed how to start a hat at the tip of the crown and work down from there, shaping the crown with regular increases until the hat measures slightly less than the circumference of our target head. If you’ve made it this far, you’re home free.  Now you get to play around. Possibly, go wild. Stripes, knit-and-purl patterns, skinny cables, fat cables, color-work, mosaic patterns—nothing is ruled out.

That said, you can, of course, just continue in plain garter stitch for a simply simple hat.

Other options:

1. You can introduce stripes. Start them when you finish shaping the crown for a hat that is half plain and half stripes. Or think ahead and start them at the very beginning. It’s quite easy to work stripes and increases at the same time.

For well-defined stripes in garter stitch, work two rounds in each color, changing colors on knitted rounds. If you want funky stripes with dots of the contrast color, change colors on purl rounds.

Note the funky stripes on the turned-up brim (essentially the wrong side showing).  If you want tidy stripes to show on a turned-up brim, when you reach the fold line, introduce the new color on purled rows. The right side will show when brim is folded. 

Stripes don’t have to be thin, of course. You can make them wide, random, or just add one bold one for impact. 

2. You can knit color patterns. Pull out those books of charted Fair Isle patterns and find a motif or two that you like. Note the stitch repeat. Make sure that the number of stitches on your needle is divisible by the repeat number. Smaller repeats–4, 6, 8 stitches–are easy to accommodate. Larger ones are quite possible as well. The two pictured here are repeats of 12 and 24 stitches. 

You can, of course, switch to stockinette stitch to work color patterns. Or, for a super cushy hat, continue in garter stitch and work each pattern round twice, once on the knitted round, again on the purled one. 

For graphic motifs that stand out, use colors with good light/dark contrast.

To work the white-on-black motif above, you’ll need a number divisible by 12. In stockinette stitch, work the chart below as shown. For garter stitch, work each chart round twice, first as a knitted round, then again on the purl round.  Follow the chart right to left for each round like this:

For Stockinette stitch:
Round 1: Work the colors as shown on the chart. 
Continue to knit each round following the chart right to left. 

For Garter stitch:
Round 1 (knitted round): Work the colors as shown on the chart. 
Round 2: Purl Round 1, or simply follow the colors on your needle as you move along. 

For garter stitch, the chart will show only the knitted rounds (eight). You will actually work 16 rounds.

Equally pleasing are simple Fair Isle patterns. (Who can resist a Scandinavian snowflake?) Again, to work the chart below as garter stitch, work two rounds for every round on the chart and change colors on knitted rounds.