hat to head – part 1

one part that got cut out of my book was explaining how to measure your head and then make a hat that fits it in the way you would like it to, so i thought i might cover how i do that here.  plus we’ve been all pictures and little content lately, so it’s time to get back to me sharing something useful for you :)

1) measure

measure the head you want to knit for around the largest part above the ears.

my head is 22 in. (55.9 cm).

here are what i understand to be somewhat average head sizes
0-6 mo. – 16 in. (40.6 cm)
6-18 mo.  – 18.5 in. (47 cm)
18 mo.-4 yr. – 20 in. (50.8 cm)
4 yr.-adult s – 21 in. (53.3 cm)
adult m – 22 in. (55.9 cm)
adult l – 23 in. (58.4 cm)

2) gauge swatch

if you knit hats over and over on the same needles, you may already know your gauge for this yarn. i really never swatch for hats. but here’s how i swatch in the round when i need to.

1) using a circular needle, cast on enough stitches for a bit more than 4 in. (cm) across (your side stitches will be useless for measuring) and knit across the first row
2) keeping the right side facing you, slide  stitches around the circular to the other end
3) prepare to knit and bring the yarn around, like when doing i-cord, but do not pull it tight – in fact, leave an exaggerated amount of yarn in the back of your swatch measuring at least 5 in. (cm) or an inch larger than however wide you think your swatch will be
4) repeat rows 2 and 3 until your swatch is as big as you like – you should not be purling at all, but instead simulating circular knitting by knitting across each row

3) the maths

loose hat – fits around the head at exact circumference
middle fitting hat – fits at 1 in. (2.5 cm) less than circumference
fitted hat – fits at 2 in. (5 cm) less than circumference

for my 22 in. (55.9 cm) head, i nearly always find the loose size too big feeling.  unless i’m going for a bucketish hat like this, this, or this, my preference is for 20 or 21 in. (50.8-53.3 cm) on my head.  if my fabric’s pretty stretchy, i’d be okay anywhere in there.  but if your fabric is more stiff, you may need to be more precise to get the fit you want.

after you have figured out how many stitches/in. your swatch is, you have all of the information you need to figure out your cast on.

circumference of hat x gauge/in. (2.5 cm) = cast on number
my gauge is 9.5 sts/2 in. – so 4.75 sts/in.

loose hat: 22 x 4.75 = 104.5
middle fit hat: 21 x 4.75 = 99.75
fitted hat: 20 x 4.75 = 95

my preference is to lean towards fitted and have the numbers be divisible by 6. so my options are: 96 and 102. i don’t like either of those, so i’m going to use 98 and decrease 2 on my last round before i start my decrease repeats.

hats are different than nearly everything else you knit, because you generally want negative ease as opposed to positive. it is not unusual to have a sweater that has 4 in. of positive ease. with hats, 2 in. of negative ease is not unusual.  the fact that a hat anywhere from 20 in. to 22 in. (50.8-55.9 cm) would fit my head makes hat knitting pretty forgiving.  plus if it doesn’t fit my head, i’m sure i can find a head that it will fit.

time to cast on!

17 thoughts on “hat to head – part 1”

1. Great information! And I love doing the flat swatch that mimics circular knitting. It’s such a brilliant idea. :)

2. thanks for sharing how you do that. i was just considering making a hat out of some of my handspun. these instructions will come in handy.
one question: how do you know when to start decreasing? and how do you know how much to decrease each round?

• that’s coming up in section two :)

3. I like your description of ease.

Can’t wait to see part 2.

4. I’m looking forward to part 2, as well!

I’ve finally trained myself to knit hats that fit my head with positive ease. My mother has a ginormous noggin, and hats that feel absolutely huge on me fit her perfectly. I can’t even tell you how many too-tight hats I made her before I convinced myself that in some cases too big equals just right.

I really need to get her to measure her head. :)

• yeah, it does take some training. my mom not only has a larger head than me, she also likes hats that fit around her head!

i’d be interested to know her head size too :)

5. This is a fab tutorial!! :D

• thanks!

6. i am so happy i found you! i purchased your book prior to the holidays and made a ton of gifts, using all your recycling advice. the newsletter keeps my head spinning with ideas, thank you!!!

• aw… yay! i’m so glad you like the book :D you’re very welcome.

7. Pingback: hat to head – part 2 « cosymakes

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9. Hi,

I found your site via your ravelry post on this hat. Thank you so so much for going to the trouble to explain the fixing, gauging and measuring for a hat. So so easy to understand and very much appreciated. Gosh I love the internet. It hooks up the woeful with the wonderful!

• you’re welcome! glad it was helpful to you.

10. Hi there,

The dye on this yarn is amazing – I love the celestial look. Do you sell it?

Thanks! Nicole