Easy top-down hat recipe


Knitted hat
A typical top-down hat made from this recipe.

Most of the time, I love knitting complicated things. That said, sometimes I just want something that I can cast on and knit, without worrying about keeping a printed pattern nearby, or counting stitches after every row. You will have to do a little stitch and row counting to start, but it isn’t hard at all.

I’ve come up with a knitting recipe that allows me to grab a skein of yarn (anything over 100 yards seems to work), a set of double-pointed or circular needles in the recommended size, and cast on… no swatching, no worries. All you really need to decide at the outset is how many increase lines you want on the hat. This recipe should work for any number from 3 to 10… I’ve done hats with four, five, and six sets of increases. If you’re on Ravelry, you can see my “recipe hats” project page here. My goal is to make this simple enough that—perhaps after making one hat following my directions—you’ll be able to cast on and knit a hat without having to reference any directions. Even better, I’m hoping that you’ll be confident enough to play with the idea and improve on it, make it your own, and be able to “invent” a hat on the fly.


  • You know how to cast on for a project or have someone who can help with this. I use “cable cast on,” and it works fine. Please use whatever method you prefer.
  • You know how to do knit and purl stitches and at least one increase stitch. I use KFB (knit front and back) and Cat Bordhi’s “LA-Link and LA-Rink” (youtube link) increases. I believe that you could use any increase you like and have a most excellent finished object. If you want to learn KFB or another standard increase, I suggest starting at Knitting Help (knittinghelp.com) on their Increases page.
  • You have yarn and needles. I suggest that you use bulky or super-bulky yarn and whatever needles make sense for that weight of yarn. There’s nothing to stop you from using fingering-weight yarn, but one of the joys of these hats (for me at least) is how fast they progress.
  • It might be helpful if you’ve knit in the round before, although my technique of starting might enable this to be your first ITR project.
  • You know how to bind off. I like Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off, but any stretchy, loose bind-off will do.


  • Stitch markers
  • Row counter or a pencil and paper
  • Gauge-measure, ruler, or tape measure for figuring gauge


  • DPN: Double-Pointed Needle
  • KFB: Knit one front and back
  • Gauge: Number of stitches per inch
  • ITN: In the Round
  • LA-Link: Leaning left increase
  • LA-Rink: Leaning right increase
  • Segment: The section between markers
  • SPI: Stitches Per Inch

Sample: Pentactinal Hat

These instructions assume that you are using a thick yarn… something in the Aran to super-chunky range. I believe that this method will work for thinner yarns, but I haven’t tried it out.

First time doing “in the round” knitting? Start Here

Ten stitches cast on, one row finished.
  1. Cast on 10 stitches.
  2. Knit 1 row. I know it’s not “normal” to knit a row before joining in the round, but I find it makes the join much easier. The ‘extra’ row vanishes into the tip of the hat and isn’t visible.
  3. Join in the round, taking care not to twist your work. This part is easiest to do if you are using DPNs. If you’re on DPNs you’ll have something like 3 stitches on needle one, 4 on needle two, and 3 stitches on needle three. If you are using magic loop, you’ll have 4 on one end and 6 on the other.
  4. Round 1: KFB on every stitch. You should end up with 20 stitches.
  5. Round 2: Knit a round, placing a marker between each set of 4 stitches. Note: some pairs of stitches will be “marked” by the join between needles, not by a stitch marker.
  6. Round 3: Knit all stitches.
  7. Continue with the “Generic Instructions for Increases” step below.

More-Experienced Knitters Start Here

Ready to join in the round
Ready to join in the round

This start is a little more fiddly, but should give you a flatter, smoother top to your hat. If you prefer to have the little “point” at the top of the hat, use the first set of instructions above.

  1. Cast on 5 stitches.
  2. Knit 1 row. I know it’s not “normal” to knit a row before joining in the round, but I find it makes the join much easier. The ‘extra’ row vanishes into the tip of the hat and isn’t visible.
  3. Join in the round, taking care not to twist your work.
  4. Round 1: KFB on every stitch. You should end up with 10 stitches.
  5. Round 2: Knit one round, placing a marker between each pair of stitches. Note: some pairs of stitches will be “marked” by the join between needles, not by a stitch marker.
  6. Round 3: Knit all stitches.
  7. Round 4: KFB on every stitch. You should end up with 20 stitches.
  8. Rounds 5 & 6: Knit all stitches.
  9. Continue with the “Generic Instructions for Increases” step below.

Generic Instructions for Increases Step

First round is complete
First round is complete

For the next section, and continuing until you have the correct number of stitches, you’ll only have to count to three rounds at a time, increasing in round 1 and knitting plain in rounds 2 & 3.

  1. Round 1: *Knit 1 stitch. Increase on next stitch using LA-Rink (or your favorite increase). Knit until 1 stitch before marker. Increase on the last stitch on your right needle using LA-Link (or your favorite increase). Knit the last stitch, pass marker.* Repeat all steps between asterisks to end of round.
  2. Rounds 2 & 3: Knit plain.
  3. Continue to cycle through this set of three rounds until you have a little more than two inches of knitting between any two markers.
  4. Using a ruler or gauge measuring tool, count the number of stitches in two inches and divide by two to find your gauge.

Un-scary Math Section

If you know the size in inches of the head you’re making the hat for, multiply your gauge by that number to get the target number of stitches. Divide this number by 5. If the division is even, you’re all set; that’s the number of stitches you want between your markers. If the division is not even, change the target number up or down until you can divide by 5 evenly. Say that your gauge is 5.5 stitches per inch, and your recipient’s head is 22.5 inches around. 5.5 times 22.5 is 123.75. I can see that the nearest smaller number divisible by 5 is 120, and I know that ribbing has plenty of stretch, so I’m going to decide to drop down to 120 stitches. If you’d like a more-relaxed fit, then you could increase to 125 stitches and still end up with a great hat. For the purposes of this first hat, though, let’s settle on a target of 120 stitches, or 24 per segment. Note: If you don’t know the recipient’s exact size, you can estimate it based on this nifty KnitPicks hat size chart.

Body of the Hat and the Bind-off

  1. Continue increasing as in the Generic instructions until you’ve reached your target number of stitches per segment. If your last set of increases would put you over your target number, you can skip every other increase on the last iteration of round 1 or  return to your target number by decreasing evenly in the last iteration of round 3.
  2. Switch to K3P2 ribbing and knit until you have about 5 yards of yarn remaining.
  3. Bind off and weave in ends.
  4. Wash and block your hat.
  5. Enjoy!

Note: If you want to decorate your hat with a tassel, save an extra couple of yards for this purpose.


If you try this pattern, I’d greatly appreciate it if you’d tell me any ways that I can improve this recipe. I’ll try to add more details about how to adapt the recipe for other numbers of segments. I am not sure that the little images help at all. If you think that they do, let me know and I’ll take better pictures to replace these samples.

Many thanks to Gail A. on Google Plus for suggesting the name of this hat.

Author: Jorah Lavin

I grew up in New England, moved to the Carolinas in '98 to start working at what was then a large regional bank and is now a really big nationwide bank. I work doing intranet content management and intranet site management. After work, I practice Aikido, knit, ride my motorcycle, read, watch movies & eat. I've been studying Aikido since 2014, and I ride an old Honda Shadow. Someday I want to go skydiving, and I am pretty sure that I want to hike the Appalachian Trail someday.

2 thoughts on “Easy top-down hat recipe”

  1. I’ve just started spinning and am coming up with lots of what I like to call “novelty” yarns…thick and thin, lumpy and bumpy, and wild in colour. I now know how to figure out the best needle size by wrapping my handspun around a ruler, so will try this pattern now! My latest ball of “novelty” has caught my husband’s eye so I think I’ll cast on tonight so he can have a quirky (artsy?) hat by the time the snow flies. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. Wow, thanks so much for checking in. I hope you’ll show me a photo when it’s done. I just had a complete disaster with one of these hats, so it’s great to get some reassurance!

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