Hat shape, structure and fit

Midweek Masterclass: Hat shape, structure and fit (part one)

Woolly Wormhead explains the key elements of hat design, to help you create your own unique styles and patterns and this week's Midweek Masterclass.

15th February 2017

The reason I start at the crown when I begin a new hat design is to ensure that the overall structure will work, and that the design will have continuity throughout. To be able to understand structure, shape and fit, we need to think about the different parts of a hat and the numbers that determine them.

Classic beret style

About ease

Ease is really important when it comes to fit, and we can’t talk about hat shape without mentioning it!

To keep a knitted hat on our heads, it needs to be smaller than our head - make your hat the same size, and it’ll likely fall off. This is what’s known as negative ease – when a garment or accessory is smaller than the body part it will fit.

For a hat, I would usually recommend somewhere between 5cm to 7.5cm (2in to 3in), or around 12.5%. But it depends. A beanie with 10cm (4in) of negative ease or more is going to look very sporty, whereas a slouchy hat with 5cm (2in) of negative ease or less is going to appear very casual. Overall intent of style plays a role, as does comfort. Accommodating hair plays a big part too; those with short hair and/or simple styles may be more comfortable with a closer-fitting hat, whereas a looser hat often preserves hair styles better (i.e. avoid ‘hat-hair’). Purpose, is another important factor – keeping out wind chill, and endurance in rougher climates, demand more negative ease.

Elongated beanie

The crown in relation to shape

We’ve learnt that different decrease ratios will affect the crown, and the crown is one of the key parts of the hat that determines the style. For instance, a slow decrease ratio of less than 3 sts decreased per round (on average) will give us something pointy, like a pixie hat. The fewer stitches decreased on average, the steeper the slope gets and the pointier the hat.

The same is true when we decrease more rapidly. Decrease on average 4 sts per round and you’ll get a flat circle that sits perfectly on top of a close-fitting hat like a beanie. Increase the ratio slightly, and you’ll move through berets and then into gathered crowns, with the latter working on anything above an average of 8 sts decreased on average, and which would work perfectly for a slouchy hat.

Once we know the shape of crown that we’d like, and the ratio of decreases to create that, we treat that as our structural multiple, and if we’re working bottom up we would work backwards. If we don’t know yet how we’d like the hat to finish, then we’ll work with a number that allows different options (a multiple of 12 gives us all the possibilities, with a 24 being the ultimate magic number!)

Key elements of hat design

Working backwards - considering the brim in relation to the crown

The brim will have a solid relationship with the crown, and it’s this area where we first consider fit. The brim of a knitted hat is the most important part as far as gauge and ease is concerned, as it’s the part that keeps the hat on the head!

If we’re working towards a beanie style hat, a half-dome or watch cap style, then the brim will work on the same multiples as the crown. With this style of hat we are simply creating a tube with a circle on top, with no other shaping besides that of the crown.

If we’re working towards a beret style, then the crown multiple is relevant for the start of the body - for the increase round immediately after the brim - and so to determine the brim multiple we need to take our working backwards one step further. In my previous article I mentioned that the common increase formula for a beret from the brim into the body is K2, M1 (where M1 is a lifted bar increase), i.e. an increase of 50% from the brim into the body – berets always seem to follow this rule. To work backwards from the crown, we want to reduce the crown multiple by 33% to get the same ratio. So for instance, if our crown works on a multiple of 6, the brim will work on a multiple of 4. This is where it gets awkward with some numbers, and we might need to go back and reconsider our crown structure, as not all numbers will happily lose 33%! There are of course ways around this, and we can invent a multitude of formulas to make it work, but to fully understand the concept we want to try and keep the numbers Straightforward.

If we’re working towards a slouchy style, something that has a little room in the body but not as much room as a beret, and something less hugging than a beanie, then the same applies – the crown multiple is relevant for the body, immediately following the increase round after the brim.

This time, though, we won’t need to increase as many stitches after the brim, and I would normally increase somewhere between 20% up to 33%, depending on how loose I’d like the fit and shape of the hat to be. Again, we would work backwards but we have room to adjust the figures to our needs here – a crown multiple of 8 could equate to a brim multiple of 6, for instance. That’s a 33% increase from brim to body/crown. A slouchy hat is much more flexible in numbers, and is a lot easier to design and knit because of this. Or a multiple of 9 at the crown could be a multiple of 7 at the brim (and that combination makes for a pretty interesting hat structure…).

Typical slouch hat

For more of Woolly Wormhead's designs and tutorials, click here.

In part two, find out how to bring it all together in the body and take a look at different types of hat structures – click here to read it now.

Meet our expert Woolly Wormhead

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