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“Why do you find knitting so endlessly fascinating? Isn’t it all just knit and purl?”

I get variations on this question surprisingly often, and there are many possible answers, but the easiest one is that designers are so incredibly clever. There are no limits to the different ways in which knitting can solve everyday problems like a cold head!

Today’s Pattern Scout is all about unusual hat constructions. Most hats are cast on at the brim and worked up to the crown—generally with some sort of decreases to shape the top.

But what if a hat was worked in a spiral? Or constructed from a folded circle? Or knitted sideways? Join me to discover some ingenious solutions to the ancient problem of a cold head.

Join me to discover how many ways there are to finish a hat. Pattern names are links to the Ravelry pattern page.

Trondra by Emily K Williams

I absolutely love the clever twisted crown that Emily K Williams has devised. You knit the body of the hat as a long tube, and then twist it, before the two ends of the tube are joined at the ribbing. I guess that means that this hat is worked both up and down!

ShortStuff Slouchy Beanie by Jimenez Joseph

Jimenez Jospeh uses a classic sideways approach to this fun striped, slouchy beanie. It is cast on provisionally, and then knitted back and forth using short rows to create wedges that make the beanie shape—more rows are worked at the brim than at the crown. This is a great introduction to short rows as there is no need to “resolve” the short row turn on subsequent rows, thanks to the garter stitch ridges. The pattern uses either fingering or DK weight yarn and is ideal for using up leftovers.

Duality by Woolly Wormhead

No discussion of unusual hat construction could be complete without a design from Hat Architect Woolly Wormhead. Indeed it was hard to pick just one! They have taken hat design to a whole other level, and written extensively on hat constructions. Duality is a great introduction to the sideways radial construction.

You cast on using the winding method (Woolly has lots of great resources to demonstrate the techniques their hats use) and then work back and forth on both sides of the cast-on edge, working increases at one end to create arches, which make the crown shape.

The stripes in Duality give clues to the ingenious construction—the longest rows are worked right over the top of the crown before decreases take you back to the opposite side of the hat and the remaining stitches are grafted together. Genius!

Spirale by Alfa Knits

This creative hat starts at the top with just four stitches, and then increases to form a wider strip which is joined into a spiral shape as you go. Alfa Knits has created a design that is simple, and yet incredibly clever, which is just about my favorite type of knitting.

Barry by Lee Meredith

If I have got you in the zone for innovative hats, then definitely have a look at Lee Meredith’s designs—there were so many great options. The Barry hat is worked using a neat trick where you start with just a few stitches, work increases, and leave a set of stitches to work on later along one side of your triangle.

The design uses a couple of short row techniques, and the pattern includes plenty of helpful photos and ideas for customizing. And what’s more, it can be made with almost any weight of yarn—think of all the beautiful combinations of Atlas that you could use!

Circle & Square by Martina Behm

The ingenuity of Martina Behm is widely known in the knitting world. If you haven’t tried one of her clever patterns yet, then I highly recommend you get on it! Circle & Square is a hat that starts life as a circle worked from the center out. Then you fold it in half and join two short edges so that the fold forms the brim of the hat.

A square is then knitted outside-inwards into the remaining “gap.” How Martina came up with that as a design idea is beyond my imagination, but it’s an absolute ball to knit. And if you enjoy Circle & Square, she has a good few more clever hat constructions for you to try.

About The Author

We think Jen Arnall-Culliford is flat-out brilliant. Jen is one of the knitting world’s superb technical editors and teachers, and the star of the tutorial videos.

Cheerful. Cool headed. Supersmart. To take lessons from Jen ups our knitting game, every time.


  • Brilliant recopilation! Now I wish I lived in a place with colller winters, to knit all these hats!!

    I am gladd you included Woolly Wormhead, she is the master-guru of special hat construction. I was surprized to see so many designers with interesting hats, besides her.



  • Welcome back, Jen. It’s a wonderfully, happy surprise to see your presence in our knitty world again.
    Great article and awesome finds. Such wonderful artists with incredible minds. It stymies mine how they even imagined the completed look let alone actually accomplishing it. Wow!
    Thank you for sharing such fantastic art.

  • So cool – thank you!

  • I totally agree with our summary of Jen and her work – thank you for including her work in your daily chats and thank you Jen for this insight into some hat patterns I had missed!

  • Wow, Jen, thank you! When I saw the title for your posting I thought – just what I need – more hats….(not). But after seeing your wonderful discoveries I realize that’s exactly what I need; and my friends will be getting more hats too! It’s nice to be happy to live in a cold (Maine) place now and then.
    It’s so great to see your name here again, thanks so much.

  • Such a fun post! Off to Ravelry now.

  • Thanks, Jen !

  • Love these hats !!!! So creative

  • Thanks for a great quick trip through “differences” that are good!

  • These are great hats! I live in the increasingly hot Southwest, where hats are seldom necessary (if ever). However, these designs are inviting enough to give them a try. I’m thinking silk/cotton yarn. Other yarn suggestions welcomed for those of us who have to turn on the AC just driving to the grocery store.

    • Linen? Linen blends?

  • Wonderful, Jen! Wow

  • Wow!! I love these designs!!
    Thank you!!

  • Wow!! I❤️these designs!! Thank you

  • Love these !

  • I love these hats! I need to move out of FL (that could happen) or visit lots of chilly places!
    Thank you for the inspiration!

  • These are all so wonderful and fascinating. Thanks for opening up this very clever world, Jen! Now, if I only felt like hats that smush my hair (of which there is not much!!) is a good look. The construction techniques look fun to try, regardless. Gifts!

  • very clever designs. Who knew?

  • exceptional design in hats – very modern and funky – love them. Bought the spiral hat.
    Thank you

  • I also thank you Jen for this fun collection. A few years ago I took a class at VKL with Martina Behm, she’s a design genius. Since then I’ve made her Tensfield pattern hat for a few friends, it comes out great and is so fun to make.

  • Loved it! So interesting and inspirational. A great response to anyone who thinks that knitting isn’t interesting and creative.

  • Oh I do love these hats. I love making hays. I sneak them in between other projects for a quick feeling of finishing something. Then I give them away to someone or to charity because I don’t wear hats. I have a hat box in which I save them for a clothing drive. Thank you for these new ways to make them. A

    • I love Jen’s work, ideas, and patterns. She is one of my favorite designers and now you can tell why. I knit hats for the homeless as I live in deep south and rarely need one myself. Many policemen keep items in their car for times needed (homeless, fires, removing kids from homes, ) etc. so they are glad to get these items. Can’t wait to make some of these wonderful designs. So glad to see you back Jen. I have missed you as well as other folks missing you.

  • Wonderful compilation, and I’m thrilled Jen is back!

  • What a great line up of “just” hats! Thanks! And just in tie to knit a few Christmas gifts!

  • One cannot talk about creativity and hats without mentioning Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Chambered Nautilus. Seems to be an ancestor of Spirale

  • Oooh!!! Thank you, Jen! I especially loved learning about Lee Meredith and I’ve now bought her e-book about using recycled yarn! And the more projects I make, the more leftover yarn I generate, so hats are such a great way to extend favourite yarns into further projects!

  • I knew you’d include Lee Meredith – I’ve made her hats years ago – time to make another.

  • Woolly Wormhead is a genius. I’ve knit an excessive number of WW hats, because the process is so intriguing. The next hat in my queue, though, is Pheasant Plucker by Anna Maltz (pattern on Ravelry), as a memorial for Flaco the Owl.

  • So good to see her and read her ideas. She is an excellent teacher and technician

  • Lots of inspiration here! I’m envisioning the spiral hat in a slow gradient. Not that I need another knitting rabbit hole, lol. But these are amazing, going to check out the designer pages.

  • Jen, just BRILLIANT!
    Ingenious!! Wonderful column, thank you!

  • A great collection of wonderfully creative hats! They remind me of what Elizabeth Zimmermann wrote in Knitting Without Tears: “[with hat design] the sky is the limit. People will put anything on their heads, it seems to me for two reasons: either it keeps them warm, or it makes them feel cute.”

  • Absolutely stunning. Loved the ingenous of all the variations on a theme, my fingers are twitching. Cannot wait to try them out. Carole Nolan

  • How wonderful to read an article from one of my favourite knitting people.
    Delightful, unexpected treat!

  • What fun! I love these patterns and will have a hard time choosing one

  • So nice to see your article! These hats are all so interesting at hat I think I’ll go find some yarn and cast on.

  • Here’s another: Terran Hat by Brandi Cheyenne Harper. One of those hats you have to knit because you can’t figure out how it’s made until you make it. Like EZ’s baby surpries jacket! It’s in her book “Knitting for Radical Self Care.”
    Here’s mine:

  • Really good
    I loved them particularly the one with levels and height !
    Kindly A

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