The Ravellenic Games are over and I have now completed 64 hats. Almost 2/3rds of the way there. While I was frantically knitting for the Games, I thought a lot about hats in general and about my personal preferences. I doubt you are interested in my minor, personal preferences but for those of you who are just starting to knit hats, I thought I would share the general things I have learned.
General Observations: Almost all of my hats are knit with worsted or light worsted weight yarn (most commonly Cascade 220 superwash). I always use a 16" size 6 Addi Turbo circular needles. I don't notice a significant change in gauge if I just go up or down one size needle. I knit a little loosely, I think. I do change the needle size when the type of yarn I use changes significantly. I will go down to size 4 for DK weight or up to an 8 for Aran weight.
I generally cast on between 88 and 120 stitches. DK weight on 4's would be closer to the 120 and Aran weight on 8's would be closer to the 88. Usually with worsted on 6's I cast on 94 or 102.
The pattern can change the number of stitches I need. Patterns that pull stitches closer together mean I will probably choose 102 and with another pattern or with stockinette that doesn't pull stitches together I would choose 94. A complicated pattern that requires even more stitches means that I would add them in on the first row of the body.
Most of my hats are between 8 1/2" and 9" in length. This is generally made up of 1 1/2" ribbing, 5 1/2" of body and 2" crown decrease. I usually don't knit a hat with a fold up brim. That would change these measurements.
These are all my personal preferences. I am sure many of you have other needles you prefer, or you like hats in a different size or length. I am just describing what I do because all of these things change the outcome. If you want them wider or longer, then you would need to make adjustments.
Hats in Sections: Hats are generally made up of 3 sections and they are Ribbing, Body and Crown Decreases.
Ribbing: This section is usually k1, p1 or k2, p2. One variation of this is the twisted rib and it is k1tbl, p1. There are lots of other variations and some hats without any ribbing at all. But these 3 will carry you through a lot of hats. Most of the time my ribbing is between 1" and 2". That varies by how much space I need for a pattern in the body or just that I am sick of ribbing and want to move to the body of the hat.
Body: This can be anything you want, including stockinette. My body is generally 5 1/2" long so that I begin my decreases at 7" in length (again not with a brim).
Decreases: I divide my hat by an even number of stitches. That's why most of my stitch counts are divisible by 8. I'm not sure I will describe this well, so I will give an example after the explanation. I divide the total number of stitches on my needles by 8, markers can be handy. I knit until 2 stitches before each marker and then k2tog. On the next row I just knit. I continue this 2 row pattern until about half of the stitches are left on the needles. At that point, I decrease on every row. I decrease each row until I have a small number of stitches, usually 7-12. Then I cut the yarn and use the tail to pull it through the last stitches twice and tighten up the hole and weave in the end.
So, if I had 88 stitches when I want to start my decreases.
Row 1: k9, k2tog
Row 2: knit
Row 3: k8, k2tog
Row 4: knit
Row 5: k7, k2tog
Row 6: knit
Row 7: k6, k2tog
Row 8: knit
Row 9: k5, k2tog (48 stitches)
Row 10: k4, k2tog
Row 11: k3, k2tog
Row 12: k2, k2tog
Row 13: k1, k2tog
Row 14: k2tog
Run the yarn tail through the remaining 8 stitches and pull tight.
Knowing the basics of hat construction means that I don't need a pattern to knit a hat. Your results may vary as your gauge will be different from mine. But trying a few different hat patterns and noting your gauge and the end result will help you tweak a pattern or create your own and get the results you want.
Knitting so many different patterns and understanding my knitting and the structure of a hat means that as long as I have yarn and my trusty #6 needles, I can knit a hat.