Knitting 101 – Hats: Decreasing the Crown

Finishing the hat

Finishing the hat

I assume during my computerless week off that you have been hard at work on those hats. Well, if not, that’s ok. The nice thing about hats is how quick they are to knit up. You could probably do a whole one in a day or two, which is why they’re my favorite suggestion for first projects.

Right, so let’s get to it! You have been knitting for a while now and have several inches of material. You’ve reached your desired length. If you’re not sure, try the hat on carefully. I’m not super talented at this part. I tend to lose stitches, so I just kind of eyeball it. I know I like hats to be about 7 inches long, a little longer for more slouch. If you decide to try the hat on, go to a mirror and see where the needles hit on your head. If it’s near the crown of your head (where your head starts getting narrower), you’re good to go. If not, knit a little bit more first.

Now that we’re ready to decrease, it’s time for more math. I know. If you were/are a liberal arts major like I was, math may not be your thing (or it might). This math is easy, though, or I wouldn’t be doing it. When you look at many hat patterns on Ravelry (or elsewhere), you’ll notice a pattern with the decreases. The first round usually starts with something like “knit 10, k2tog,” or some similar number. The pattern is saying that the total number of stitches on the needles is divisible by 12, and we want to make it divisible by 11 for the next round, and so on until we get to the part where we k2tog all the way around.

How many stitches do you have on your needle(s)? I have 80. My hat is divisible by 10, so my first round of decreases will be “knit 8, k2tog.” Generally, patterns have knit 8-knit 12, but do whatever works for your math. If I had 84 stitches, which is divisible by 12, my first round would be “knit 10, k2tog.”

Before we get going on the decreases, we’re going to knit one more round. Grab some place markers. This will make this part so much easier. Ok, so as I said, I know my total cast-on is divisible by 10. So, on this round, I will place a marker after every 10 stitches.

Do your first round of decreases. For the next round in your decreases, knit all the stitches. Every other row will be just plain knit so that you get something like this:

R1: k8, k2tog* repeat until end of round (Total sts: 72)

R2: k

R3: k7, k2tog* repeat until end of round (Total sts: 64)

R4: k

R5: k6, k2tog* repeat until end of round (Total sts: 56)

R6: k

To make this a little easier, take a look at your stitch markers. During each decrease round, what you are doing is knitting up to the last 2 stitches before the stitch marker. Then, k2tog and slip your marker. Easy!

I like to do my decreases like this until I get to about 50-ish stitches, depending on whatever number my cast-on is divisible by. Then, I take out the all knit rounds between my decreases and go until I hit k2tog on its own. So, for my hat, I hit about 50-ish after round 5. I knit round 6, and then start my rapid decreases.

R7: k5, k2t0g* repeat until end of round (Total sts: 48)

R8: k4, k2tog* repeat until end of round (Total sts: 40)

R9: k3, k2tog* repeat until end of round (Total sts: 32)

R10: k2, k2tog* repeat until end of round (Total sts: 24)

R11: k1, k2tog* repeat until end of round (Total sts: 16)

R12: k2tog* repeat until end of round (Total sts: 8)

At any point when the stitch markers stop being helpful and start being cumbersome, you can lose them. I generally stop using them at about round 8 or 9 just because they start getting in the way. If you want to keep them up until the last stitches, go for it. They’re a handy guide.

Now I have a small number of stitches left on my needle, a total of 8 to be exact. Cut your working yarn so that you have a fairly long “tail” about 6 inches long. Grab either a blunt needle or a crochet hook and pull your yarn through the stitches. Go in the order that you would have knit the stitches, otherwise you’ll probably start unravelling.

All that’s left is our finishing touches. Weave in your ends and block your hat. Blocking hats can be a little tricky. If you’re making a tam/beret, that’s easy. pull your hat over a plate. The plate will give your hat the distinct shape you’re looking for. What if you just have a basic hat? You have the option of putting the wet hat on your head and letting it dry, but I don’t tend to go for that. My suggestion is wash the hat and lay it flat to dry. When I set it down, I kind of mold it into the shape I want.

Viola! You are done! How does it feel to have finished your first hat?


28 thoughts on “Knitting 101 – Hats: Decreasing the Crown

  1. I’ve always loved the option of knitting until you reach past the crown and just stopping, either by binding off and sewing, or by binding two together. It makes a cute hat, and no fooling with math. (It’s super cute on a kid hat, especially with tassels.)

  2. I like to think of the crown shaping for a basic hat as being decreases in 6 or 8 sections. You’ll see little lines of decreases in your final hat demarking each pie-piece section (if you line up the decreases). Eight sections makes it decrease quickly, and 6 makes it a pointier hat. So for your 80 stitches, I’d say “In 8 sections, that’s 10 stitches for each section” and get to the same K8, K2tog that you did. Or I might say, “I’d rather have 6 sections. I’m going to have to fudge things to get a multiple of 6…” And then decrease two stitches (spaced apart) two rounds before I start the actual crown decreases. That would give me 78 stitches, which means that each section should have 13 stitches in it, so K11 K2tog for the first decrease round. I’ve found 6-section hats fit my head better than 8-section hats. I guess I’m pointy-headed!

    I do love hats! And I love your yarn! Beautiful!

  3. Ooh! I needed this just before Christmas last year when I was knitting a beanie for my stepfather. My first attempt – following the pattern, I should add – ended up with a nipple-like point on the top of the head. It had my sewing group in fits of giggles. I unravelled and muddled through to reshape the crown, but your helpful tips would have saved this inexperienced knitter some brain strain.

  4. This is a great tutorial! I’ve been more or less fudging my own crowns with a similar practice, but your step by step guide worked better. Thanks!

    • Decrease 2 stitches randomly in the round before you start your official decreases for the crown. That’ll make your number divisible by 9, which is easier math-wise.

  5. Will this work for any stitch? What about an oyster stitch? I can’t seem to find a pattern that will explain a decrease for such a complex stitch..and I really don’t want to botch the final stage of this hat–the pattern looks amazing so far…

    • Unfortunately that’s not a stitch I have much experience with. This decrease is best for a stockinette stitch, but I’m sure it can be tweaked to fit almost any stitch pattern.

  6. Just wanted to let you know that you’re the only answer in google that works to how to finish a hat. without any unnecessary stuff…
    Thank you so much. I was working on a different kind of hat but I didn’t have the pattern anymore to how to finish it and that helps! thank you!

  7. this is a great explanation on decreasing the crown … simple and easy to follow the math … thank you

  8. So new knitter here. I am currently working on a hat and have come to the decrease stage…with your pattern, when it says k8, k2tog repeat…does that mean to k8, k2tog, k8, k2tog til the end of the row?

  9. Oh my gosh this saved me last night! The hat had already taken me over a year (do to not having a lot of time to work on it). And your formula here helped me finish it and not have it turn into a disaster that I needed to start over with. Thank you soon much! Bookmarking this for sure!

  10. Thank for this – I had a pattern purchased off etsy (never doing that again – 2 dud patterns now) that goes through the decreasing but then just stops after getting down to 9 stitches!!! No instructions as what to do then. Thanks for the instruction to thread the yarn through the remaining stitches.

  11. I am knitting a child’s hat with thick and quick yarn. It is knit on a circular needle with 44 stitches. If I start decreasing by K9 K2tog, will it work out?

  12. I have a question. How do I manage the needles when I get down to the last 40 or so? The stitches are stretched out over the circle–pulling the hat apart. Maybe I just don’t know how to use circular needles. A thorough explanation, or a drawing or demo would be great. I ended up putting 1/3 of the stitches on a stitch holder- three times around the hat and then using a very short circular needle to pick them up on until I got down to the final round. Very difficult–and the holders and short needle were so much smaller than the circular I used for the rest of the hat that the gauge was all off on the top of the hat. Help!

  13. This was so helpful. I’m making a hat for my boyfriend using a charted design and I wasn’t sure what to due with decreasing for the crown. Thank you.

  14. Pingback: Knitting 101 – Hats: Decreasing the Crown | diyfrugalmama2

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