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The Lesson 4 Hat in Skill Set: Beginning Knitting is perfect—quick and straightforward to knit, and suitable for all styles and heads. But I think the most perfect thing about a hat like this is that it’s a fantastic template for customization and personalization.

After all, knitting is about being able to make something exactly the way you want!

Change up the brim

Fancy a different brim? Try some of the stitch patterns highlighted in my previous column on combining knits and purls.

(K1, P1) ribbing, for example, is always a classic combination for hats. I’ve used it in the mini on the right. 

I really love a hat with garter stitch for the brim—look at how cute it is on the mini on the left in the picture.

To work garter stitch in the round, you have to knit one round, and then purl the next. Some knitters love working in the round so there’s not so much of that pesky purling, but if you like an effect, it’s worth the effort.

Tip: When you’re working any knit/purl texture stitch for the brim—anything other than stockinette stitch—I recommend starting the hat on a needle one or two sizes smaller than the one you’ll use for the body of the hat. So for the Lesson 4 Hat, you’d start with 4.5mm/US 7, changing to the larger needles when you’ve finished the brim. I discuss why this is a good idea here.

If your stitch count divides evenly by four—as it does for the Lesson 4 Hat—(K2, P2) ribbing works well too as you see on my stripey hat.

How deep is your brim?

A standard ribbed brim depth is about 2–3 inches/5–8 cm; so if you prefer a fold-over cuff like you see above, work about 6 inches/15 cm of brim stitches.

The Lesson 4 Hat allows for a brim depth of about 1 inch/2.5cm of stockinette for that nice rolled edge before you start the crown decreases. There’s a simple adjustment to make if you’re working ribbing or another pattern stitch for the brim: start the decreases when the hat above the brim stitches measures about 6 inches/15 cm long.

Add a second color

Who says you have to work with only one color? The simplest way to add color is to use one for the brim and another for the body of the hat. 

When you’ve finished your chosen brim pattern cut that yarn, leaving a 4-inch/10 cm tail for weaving in. To avoid leaving a gap between the colors, tie the second color around the first one and snug up that single knot, leaving a similar length tail. Then just start working with the new color. (Later when it’s time to weave in the ends, where the two yarns join above the brim, you’ll snug up the single knot and weave the ends in opposite directions, each into its own color.)

Kate’s Stripey Hat

I used two skeins of MDK Atlas, one in Natural and one in Shale.

Two great tastes that taste great together—I couldn’t resist.

I cast on with a US 7/4.5mm, 16 inch/40 cm circular needle. I worked 6 inches/15 cm of (k2, p2) ribbing in Shale. I then joined the Natural and started working with the 5mm/US 8 needle.

I worked 4 rounds in Natural, before switching back to Shale. Each time I returned to the start of the round, I twisted the two yarns around each other, so that the “resting” yarn travelled up, and the inside stayed tidy. 

When the hat measured 6 inches/15cm above the brim, I started the crown decreases on the first round of a stripe. It all worked out beautifully—the final stripe is one round longer than the others, but you can’t tell!

I always recommend blocking your hat before you weave in your ends. A quick hand wash settles the stitches, makes the fabric look smoother and more even, and gets the dog hair and cookie crumbs off it (or is that just me?) Soak the hat for 15 or so minutes in lukewarm water, using a wool wash or gentle soap or shampoo (laundry detergents can be too harsh), roll it in a towel to squeeze most of the water out, and then lay it flat to dry. All of my blocking tips are here

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About The Author

Kate Atherley is a teacher, designer, author and technical editor. She’s also the publisher of Digits & Threads, a magazine all about Canadian fibre and textile arts.


  • Looks like the perfect end of winter perk-me-up project. Knit hats creep up my head and pop off. Not sure how to fix that. Even using bobby pins won’t keep one on very long. Suggestions? Love the salt and pepper mills as hat stands.

    • Hello! There are several reasons why hats pop off, but your comment makes me wonder if the one you’re wearing isn’t a smidge too small? It should stretch to fit, but not so much that it’s trying to ‘escape’. A hat should be about 2 inches/5 cm smaller around than your head, nothing more. I hope that helps!

      • Thank for your answer to SPR’s question! I have the same issue and now I know what to do about it!

  • I love the photo of the twisted yarn as the neatest way to change colors!

  • I’ve always wondered what knit designers mean when they direct the knitter to “attach” another yarn. And bringing the resting yarn up by twisting is so clever! Thank you. There is always, always so much to learn,

  • I started using only one size smaller needle for the brim or cast on with the larger size needle. I think this prevents the cast-on from being a little tight.

    Love the phot of the twisted yarn as well. Will try that on my next hat.

    • Hi Carol! Using a larger needle for casting on works great – for some cast-on methods, but not all! It works for a cable cast-on, for example. But the way to make a long-tail cast on relaxed is to just make space between the stitches when pulling up. Using a larger needle doesn’t help stretchiness at all for that one!

      • Thanks for the explanation! I generally use the cable cast-on for hats but will remember that or long tail.

  • Thanks for the reminder to go down 1-2 needle sizes when working a brim of mixed knit and purls!

  • I use a salad spinner to soak, rinse and spin small items. Then rolling in a towel gets out even more water. Drying time is barely a blink. (PS; I cringe when I hear of people standing on the rolled towel with a carefully knit item made of lovely fiber inside.)

    • A salad spinner is such a great solution for handling smaller knit items! I But honestly, standing on the towel is fine, it doesn’t damage anything, I promise!

  • Helpful ideas here. I like to weave in the ends before blocking and do the final trim after dry. Rolling in a towel works for me and I have been known to stand on something big and bulky!

  • Love the colours you chose Kate!! You are a fantastic instructor I have taken one of your classes and your techniques and tips I still use to this day!! Thanks for all of your tips and tricks!!

  • The hats have a simplicity but timeless look. I love the look of the yarns with these caps!

  • Thank you for this helpful article

  • I am sharing this with my daughter who is new to knitting. She will love being able to customize even one of her early proj

  • When I do the brim for a hat (knitting in the round with stitch count divisible by 4) , I love knitting through the back loop and normal purling …. It looks so tidy and tailored! I like 2 and 2, but knit 3 sts tbl and one purl is really pretty. I used a solid and did the purls with Spincycle recently.. so very pretty. Have some fun!

  • Lol! In my house it’s cat hair and cookie crumbs…. It always amazes me how dirty something can get just being dragged around and knitted. Though I suppose it’s the “dragging” part that causes the dirty….

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