Top Down Hat

I have found a few patterns online for top-down knitting of a stocking hat. I find it very difficult to manage things and get the knitting to be what I would call the beginnings of a proper hat. Has anyone found a good pattern that I could try? I would like to use circular needles as I find them easier to use than the double-pointed ones.

The most "successful" one I tried had me cast on four stitches, one for each of the needles. Then it said to do my "favorite increase" stitch. I didn't know I had a favorite! Ha! I used the knit-front-to-back stitch, which worked, but things got pretty tight. Should I add a knit row after each of the increase rows? One pattern suggested that, another didn't.

I like the idea of knitting from the top down because with stitches changing with different types of yarn, I find it easier to get a hat to fit better without having to guess how big it's going to be from the start. I have knitted swatches, done the math, and I still don't get quite the right fit.

Thanks, guys for any advice you can offer!



Bill's picture

Mark, have you tried using 9 inch circulars? You might be able to start with one or two of those...and increase...then change to a bigger circular...

CLABBERS's picture

Hi Bill,
Yes, I tried the 9" circulars and things just don't look as nice and tidy as the hat looks when I decrease in a bottom-up hat. But, thanks for the suggestion.

Bill's picture

...I got the impression you wanted to do top down...and I think that's harder than bottom up with DP's.

jessemkahn's picture


I'm making this up, so who knows if it's going to work, but what if you started with 6 stitches on three DPNs? That way you'd have a little bit more yarn to move around when you were starting your first increases. And I would definitely put a plain knit row between each increase row.

Tallguy's picture

I think starting with 4 stitches is too difficult. Most patterns will start with 6 (for 6 panels) or with 8 (for 8 panels) in the hat. The same as when you are decreasing bottom up -- you do it at 6 points or at 8 points around the hat. I like to start using Emily Ocker's circular cast-on, which I use for circular shawls too, or the method put forward by MMario.

I prefer the Magic Loop method, so use whatever works for you. I have done it with dpn as well, and it also works. The same for two circs. You can even do it with straight needles, but is a bit more complicated for most people.

Yes, of course, you would do one plain knit round after each increase round -- the same as you do for a bottom up hat -- that is the rule. Think everything in reverse to a bottom up hat!!

If you really wanted to be a stickler for details, I tend to do about 2-3 rounds of increases, then I start one plain round between increase rounds. And then about the last 2 rounds of increases, I do TWO plain knit rounds between increase rounds. Why? 'Cause that's the way I like to do things. I think it gives me a rounder top, rather than that straight diagonal line. But that is me.

"Favourite increase" could be one of the many that you have in your arsenal of techniques. However, find one and use it consistently throughout. This is NOT the time to experiment and see which one you like best! Each one has a little bit of a different look, so it's all up to you which one to use. (But really, it's your hat, so you can do whatever you like with it)

It's ideal to do a hat from the top down since you can size it to the head for which it is intended to cover. This will also teach you how to do socks from toe up, and perhaps the sweater from the top down -- anything that needs to fit a particular person's head or foot or other body part. Excellent project to get through your head that there are many ways to knit a hat -- or a sock for that matter.

CLABBERS's picture

Thanks for the suggestions. Later tonight, I'm going to try using 8 stitches and the Emily Ocker's circular cast-on. I found a video of it on youtube. I don't really like DPNs; just too many sticks with which to contend. I notice that in the video, the woman uses here circular needles that are quite long, so I'll just wrestle with that for a bit. As always, you guys are great.


Masala's picture

Hey Mark, thanks! I agree totally with you, too many needle points and thanks for bringing up a topic that I've had on my mind! Cheers, Sid in Denver.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Good for you to try something new. Barbara Walker's Knitting from the Top Down is a good starting point for this type of knitting. Keep up the exploration. That's part of the joy of knitting. -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

CLABBERS's picture

I'll have to get Barbara Walker's book. It gets good reviews on Thanks for the suggestion.

timothy's picture

What are DPNs?

Bill's picture

Double Pointed Needles.

timothy's picture

Thank you, Bill.