Classic Designs for the Modern Knitter

Simple Hat Gauge and Fit

There are two crucial things we need to know in order to ensure that our hat comes out the right size for the intended wearer.

First, you’ll need to know the circumference of the head you’re knitting for.

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My head is 23” around, that’s about 1” larger than average. It’s also slightly taller so typically I need to knit an extra inch before beginning crown shaping.

Next, you’ll need to know your gauge (that’s the number of stitches and the number of rows per inch). The only way to figure this out is to knit a gauge swatch, and the only way to achieve a 100% accurate swatch (okay, maybe 99% accurate, sometimes they deceive us!) is to knit a swatch in the round.

For the red sample featured in the pattern, I used Quince & Co. Osprey. Two great things about this yarn: it’s fast at 3.5 sts per inch, AND even if you knit the largest size hat, as I did, you’ll still have plenty of yarn left over to knit your gauge swatch. I knit two, in fact!

Here are the two swatches. The one on the left was knit in the round, the one on the right was knit flat. I want you to see that it can make a difference, specifically in your row gauge.



The swatch on the right was knit flat, which means I knitted on the RS and purled on the WS. It measures 3.5 sts and 5.25 rows per inch.

The swatch on the left is knitted in the round, which means I knitted all rows. It measures 3.5 sts and 5 rows per inch.

Since the hat is knitted in the round, the swatch in the round is giving me the truest rows per inch, and I can thus accurately determine how tall my hat will be with the pattern as written, and then determine if I want to make any adjustments.

If knitting a swatch in the round is one thing too many for you to deal with, go ahead and knit it flat. I’d rather you did that than no swatch at all! (Shhh, don’t tell Pam…)

If you want to try knitting a swatch in the round, it’s quite simple.
Using your circular needle, cast on 6 inches worth of stitches. Knit the first row. Then slide your stitches to the other end of your circular needle, carry the yarn loosely across the end and with RS facing go ahead and knit the next row. When your finished, you can cut the strands on the back so that the swatch lies flat.

So now we know our head circumference, in my case it’s 23” around. We also know our gauge, which is 3.5 x 5, or 14 sts and 20 rows over 4” which matches the pattern, so I don’t need to make any adjustments.

For a hat to truly fit, it needs to have negative ease, 1 - 2” at least. That means that you will choose a size with a finished measurement that is 1 - 2” smaller than your head circumference. So for the next hat I’m going to cast on, I’ll be choosing the 21” size. I did in fact just complete a hat in Lark for myself in the stated finished size of 20.75” and I’m very happy with the fit. I did add 1” of knitting before the crown shaping because often when a hat fits me in circumference it is then too short. I’ll post finished photos tomorrow!

SO…are you ready to start measuring and swatching? Share your findings in the KAL group. I’m happy to give feedback and help you make adjustments to the pattern as needed! I plan on knitting several more hats and sharing myself!

Hannah Fettig