Monday, November 23, 2009

How to Knit a Felt Hat (for charity)

Our church bazaar is the first weekend in December and for some crazy reason I agreed to knit and felt a couple hats for the craft room. I chose an inexpensive wool in brown and a modification of one of my favorite hat patterns. The results are some of my best hats yet! Which figures, since they're for charity and if I keep one, the guilt emanating from the ghost of my Norwegian Grandmother will be chilling to say the least.

Since these hats came out so well, I thought I would try my hand at directions and include some pictures. This is a basic hat with a narrow brim. It is knit from the top down, so if you get bored and decide it's going to be a pill box hat or a handy basket, bind off where it strikes your fancy and move on to the felt part. However, if you can hang in there through the boring bit (the sides) I think you'll find the result is worth it.

1. You will need 1 skein of Fishermen's Wool from Lions Brand (these are big and I actually knit both hats from the same skein and had plenty left over.) I used brown (color 126), 4 double pointed needles, size 10, one 29" circular needle, size 10 and a ring of some sort to mark the begining of the row when you switch to the circular needle. You will also need a large eyed needle for weaving in the ends and some contrasting yarn for the I cord band. I'm sure there's other stuff like scissors and maybe a crochet hook or a chop stick for picking up those pesky dropped stiches.

2. Cast on 6 stitches on one of the double pointed needles. Now this part is tricky. Divide the stitches over 3 needles (2 stitches per needle), join for knitting in the round without twisting and knit into the front and back of each stitch. You now have 12 stitches. I usually have to do this at least a couple times before I get it right. It always twists and looks like proto dreads. For the next row, K1, Kfb(knit into the front and back of the stitch) repeat 5 times. You are going to create 6 sections that slowly spiral out of the center. Row 3 will be K2, Kfb repeat 5 times, row 4 is K3, Kfb repeat 5 times, etc. Continue increasing each section until you have 20 stitches per section and 120 stitches total. Switch to the circular needle and slip your ring on the needle to mark the begining.

3. You are now knitting the sides, so it's time to watch TV or pop in a movie. Knit 25 rows. On the 26th row decrease as follows" k10, k2 together, repeat 9 more times. You should now have 110 stitches. Knit 15 rows. Do a happy dance you have finished the sides and can now move on to the brim.

4. The brim needs to flair out so you are going to start increasing here. The first row of the brim is as follows: K10, Kfb repeat 9 times (120 st.). For the second row and all even rows, knit (without any decreases.) For row 3, K11, Kfb repeat 9 times. For row 5, K12, Kfb repeat 9 times and for row 7, K13, Kfb repeat 9 times. For row 8 bind off!

5. You now have a big shapeless bag with some little bits of yarn left at the top center (where you bound on) and at the bottom edge (where you bound off.) Grab a nice big needle and weave in the dangling bits. If there are any dropped stitches (maybe that movie was too exciting) or unexplained holes, close those up with a bit of yarn and weave the ends in. Do not knot as it will show up as a lump in the finished hat and you won't be able to fix it.

6. This is my favorite part, the felting. Put your shapeless bag in the washing machine. Set it for the smallest load but maximum agitation and hot water. Add dish soap- just a little or it will get too sudsy- think Woody Allen in Sleeper and the giant pudding- right only a drop of dish soap. Leave the hat in the washing machine through the wash cycle but pull it our before the rinse to check it. It will shrink up but still look like a shapeless bag that is flared out too much. When it looks like it has shrunk to the right size take it out and rinse in cold water. There are a couple ways to check for the right shrinkage. Before you felt in the washing machine, you could stitch a piece of cotton string around the bottom of the side, before the increases, and fit it to your head or you can check it on your head right from the washing machine-so it's a bit wet and sudsy, this is an art. Now, if it comes out looking like a miniature hat don't despair. Think Winnie the Pooh, it'll be a "useful pot." If it's too big, put it back into the washing machine and move the dial back so that it agitates some more and then check again. Once you've rinsed it under the tap, squeeze the excess water out but don't ring it- that will distorte the fibers.

7. Now you shape the hat. It doesn't look like much to begin with but put it on a bowl or your head and start to press in the sides and flare out the brim. I started out using my head but I like a bowl better, it gives a crisper look. I put the bowl on a towl and then shape the hat over the bowl. Sometimes the bowl isn't tall enough so then I put various things under it to lift it up- old yogurt tubs, big plastic jars of Canadian Steak Seasoning, etc. When you have it shaped, leave it to dry. It might take a day or two depending on the humidity.

8. When the hat is dry, you can trim it with I cord in a contrasting yarn. I cord is fun and easy to make. Cast on 4 stitches on one of the double pointed needles. Knit the stitches with another double pointed needle, then slide the stitches from the left of the needle to the right and knit again. This will make a tube or cord. I usually make about 24" of cord for a hat. Weave the ends in with your needle, tie the cord on your hat with a square knot and off you go!


  1. I might have to try this... with using my head to shape the hat. Since it has to stay undisturbed for at least 2 days, I can use it as an excuse to get out of stuff I don't want to do. "I'm sorry, Imogen. As fascinating as the new exhibit on the history of lint might be, my hat can't be disturbed. Maybe the next time it's in town."

  2. I want to try this. Thanks for the instructions!

  3. Hi Aimee, your handcrafted yarn creations are lovely. I liked the visual aspects of this post on your blog.

  4. Thanks for sharing the directions on how to make a felt hat. Since I have not knit since I was young, I probably won't make this my next project. However, I do have a friend who has been working on felting projects and I plan to share this with her. Last weekend, I went to a craft fair here in Ashland and had the pleasure of listening to two crafters in adjoining booths talk about the felting method they use. I didn't understand most of it, but it was fun to listen!

  5. I love those hats! I keep hoping to try it out for know how that goes.
    I will just have to content myself with enjoying yours.
    Thanks for all the pictures.

  6. Aimee, I think you are so talented with fiber. I want to try felting something woven, but I have to get the ugly placemats off my loom first (they have been on there for a loooooong time!). I really like the texture of felted things.

  7. If you want a deeper rim, how would you do that? I've got sun to contend with during winter and would like a rim that is 3 inches slightly rolled up. help? =)

  8. I LOVE this! Just discovered how awesome felting is today, and I am on the prowl for more things to knit and felt. This will definitely be one (or probably more than one!) of them.
    Thank you for sharing. :)

  9. Dang, I've made 2 of these and neither will shape right, the top is too mushroomy with uneven valleys in it. I did a gauge and followed the directions to a T. I'm disappointed it doesnt look like yours :(

    Smaller needles? Felting method? Any suggesitons would be great.

  10. T's sounds wonderful. I would like to try with a different yarn. Measuremets would be a helpful additive to your pattern description. Like for the sides and brim length specifically. This way we can check our work.