Top-Down No Math Hat: The Manly Version

Hi!  I know you’re here for the hat pattern, which is the most popular thing here.  But I wanted to let you know that my new book is up on Amazon!  Check it out!

Well!  My original Top-Down No Math Hat made a bit of a splash over on Ravelry, and I’m quite tickled about my 83 loves (and counting!) and many many queues.

It is Christmas knitting season, and as I set out to knit many many variations of the hat for those that I love, I had a sudden, sickening realization.

It’s kinda girly, isn’t it?

See, I have nephews.  Three of them.  I have two sons, too, but they’re little and they’re getting hats with trains on them.  I also have two nieces, and, well, pretty stuff is easy.  But I have three nephews and the youngest one is ten.  They don’t want cute or funky – they want manly knits.

And so desperate times call for… new patterns.

A manly hat

Without further ado, I present my Top-Down No Math Hat: The Manly Version.  (Hint: it’s pretty much the same pattern, without the YOs.)

Yarn: again, whatever you like. Any weight – truly doesn’t matter. About a hat’s worth (I do this by squishing it in my hand and seeing if it kinda feels like squishing a hat. As you can tell, I’m a bit cavalier with my knitting.)

Needles: whatever the label calls for, or a bit smaller. You can use dpns to start, then switch to a smallish (24”) circular, or you can stay on dpns throughout, or you can magic loop it.

Notions: a tapestry needle and a freewheeling attitude.

Pattern Note: what makes this pattern work is a particularly swish increase that I first found over at the awesomely wonderful TechKnittingA very nearly invisible increase.  Go take a look.  When I use inc1 below, this is what I mean.  Note that the inc1 should not “eat up” a st on your left hand needle.  You should have the same number of st on your left hand needle before and after working the inc1, just as you would if you had worked a YO instead.

Very nearly invisible increases

CO 6 st. Distribute evenly on 3 dpns, or use a magic loop. Join, being careful not to twist.
Row 1 (and all odd rows): k
Row 2: inc1, k1, repeat to end (12 st)
Row 4: inc1, k2, repeat to end (18 st)
Row 6: inc1, k3, repeat to end (24 st)

You see what I’m doing here, right? Increasing 6 st in every other row, lining up the yos increases to make pretty swirly lines manly, nearly invisible shaping. Notice that it totally looks like you’re doing K2togs from the other direction.  Freaky!

If you want a less pointy hat, CO 8 st.  The idea is the same as the above, only you’ll be increasing by 8 st every other row.

Row 1 (and all odd rows): k
Row 2: inc1, k1, repeat to end (16 st)
Row 4: inc1, k2, repeat to end (24 st)
Row 6: inc1, k3, repeat to end (32 st)

Are you not getting the right stitch count at the end of your rows?  You might possibly be using the wrong increase.  The one I link to above does not “eat up” a stitch, so if you start with 6 st, you’ll [incr1, k1] 6 times.  If you start with 8 st, you’ll [incr1, k1] 8 times.

Continue in this manner until the circumference of your knitting is a little smaller (an inch less? Thereabouts?) than the circumference of the head you’re knitting for. (Still not planning to block. I’m as cavalier as ever.)

Row 23 (or whatever) and all odd rows thereforth: k

Keep knitting until you only have a few yards left, or until it looks like a hat. Then think about ribbing for a while.  Or, if you prefer a rolled brim, just keep knitting. BO loosely. Sew in the ends.

It doesn’t look like much, does it?  Nothing earth-shattering.  But I will remind you: it is a hat with no math!


48 thoughts on “Top-Down No Math Hat: The Manly Version

  1. Thank you for the inspiration and good laugh this morning. I happen to have two little boys with BIG heads. Math is not one of my strong suits, at least where knitting is concerned. This hat will be perfect for my boys!( and give me an excuse to try magic loop 😉 )

  2. Hi Suzyn,

    This looks like a great pattern. My knitting group is always looking for hat patterns that can be done anywhere, actually fit, and use up leftover yarn. This is perfect! And I’m with you on the need for a “manly” hat pattern. The woman in our group who heads up the homeless shelter hat contingent is always begging us to knit hats that a man will actually feel good about wearing. I will pass this on.

    Elizabeth ( Cullen’s mother)

  3. Thank you Suzyn, I was looking for a simple and quick hat pattern for gifts for my grown sons. One in NY and one in MD. This looks perfect. It should work out well since I too am a bit cavalier about amounts and sizes. Looking forward to starting these .


  4. Exactly what I was looking for. It knit up quick and easy, and received many compliments when my dad wore it. He wanted an indoor hat as he has very poor circulation and is always cold. It was easy to guestimate his size, while making it fit above his ears so that it wouldn’t block his hearing aids. ‘Only problem is, now i have orders for more. Thank you very much for the pattern.


    • I don’t know if you still check this site, but I have tried multiple times to follow your instructions, and I canNOT get the stitch count correct. Are you sure something isn’t missing? Increasing every other stitch in the second row will not result in doubling the stitch count.

      Please clarify.

      • Please take a close look at the pattern note. I’m using lifted increases, not kfb. The lifted increases do not consume an existing stitch the way kfb does.
        Think of it this way: if you need to double your stitch count, you’re going to want to increase between every existing stitch. So do that.

      • Yes, I think I figured it out, but I still had to adjust my increases to get the number of stitches correct. I’m sharing this pattern with my relatives who knit. It’s nice to not have to count everything out so much.

  5. Reading your pattern directions made me laugh. That’s exactly how I knit. A little of this and a little of that. Yarn weight, needle sizes and gauge swatches does not compute in my brain. Just start a hat if it looks good then keep going LOL. I plan on altering your pattern for a newborn size. I keep a purple newborn hat project with me at all times to donate to the Shaken Baby Syndrome Association and am always looking for a new pattern. Thanks so much for sharing!!!!

    • Thanks for the note, Karen! The concept works for any headsize – preemie through super-nerd! 😉 Check out my other top-down hats, too.

  6. How did you get that swirl pattern on the top? I followed your instructions (at least I thought I did) but my toque came out cone-shaped and the increase lines were stick-straight :S

    • Huh, Well, the cone part can be fixed by starting with 8 st and doing 8 increases at a time – that seems to work for some people. As for the swirl, I’m not really sure!

  7. I’ve been working and re working this hat on magic loop. 6 stitches co ( 3 on each needle) , increase, knit, increase knit, increase, knit every other row only gives 3 extra stitches per even row. How in the world do you get 6 extra stitches right off the bat? I’m boggled! What am I missing? It’s a great hat and I’m determined, but mystified!

  8. Let me clarify..I CO 6 stitches, 3 on each needle for magic loop. I knit the first row. The 2nd row I am increasing every other stitch, which is only increasing by 3 each round. Hmmmm…I MUST be missing something! 😉

  9. Haha! Ok..I got it! I was using a different kind of increase and that was messing with the sequence. Once I used the increase you posted, it all came out perfect! Looks a heckuva lot better too!!! Thanks!!

  10. Yes it is!! I was doing a KFB increase which puts the 2 stitches on the left needle, then knitting the next one, which had me increasing every 3rd stitch! I didn’t realize there were so many differences with a given increase stitch! This is such an elegant looking increase stitch! Easy to follow and visually eyeball where the next increase is without counting! I knit while on the phone, standing up, waiting for dinner to come out of the oven, pretty much just squeeze it in anywhere, so who has time for math!! 😉 this is beautiful on magic loop, which I use for everything!! Again, laziness and clumsiness does not go hand in hand with more than 2 needles!! Haha! LOVE top down anything too! Nothing beats the “try as you go” method in my book!! Thanks again for the brilliant pattern!

    • I figured you must be doing kfb, to only get 3 incr. per row. I much prefer this increase to kfb, as it doesn’t give you that little purl bump (though I have been trying to develop a RIBBED top down hat with kfb – still not happy with it!)

  11. Hello! I have a silly question I am afraid! I am having the same spot of bother as Kari had – but clearly she is a very clever lady to work it out! I am not the most experienced knitter but I’m trying to knit my boyfriend this hat on the magic loop because I feel like I need to have 4 hands to use dpns! 😛
    So I’m casting on 8, 4 on each needle, knitting the first row – all is well!
    Then I get to row 2, and I am inc 1, (techknitter method – which is much easier than kfb!) k1, inc1, k1, which only gives me an increase of 2 – I have 6 sts on the needle…
    Am I missing something or am I meant to be doing a whole row of increases because that would give me a total of 8 increases… which would make much more sense I shall just do that and if it all goes pear shaped I shall throw it across the room in a strop! 😛

    • Yes, you want to do a whole round of increases each time. If you start with 6 st, you’ll have 6 increases each time. If you start with 8, you’ll have 8 increases.

      • Super, so round 4 I’ll be increasing for 2 sts, then k1, then increasing again? and so on for the other rounds?
        Thank you so much for the quick response! I am sure it wasn’t wise to start this time of night – I’ll probably look again in the morning and facepalm at my stupidity! 😛

      • No – you increase the K each round, not the Increases. So round 2 is Inc1, K1, Inc1, K1, Inc 1, K1, etc etc. round 4 is Inc 1, K2, Inc1, K2, Inc1, K2… The number of Ks between increases grows, but the total number of increases remains steady. If you increase more than 6 or 8 times every other row, you’re going to get into ruffle territory.

      • Just thought I’d let you know it’s going really rather well! I think it’s the yarn I’m using – I can’t even see those lovely little twisty lines at the top (not sure if the wanting it pretty bit of me is sad, or the ocd bit of me is happy!) But yes – going swimmingly – must measure the other halfs head tomorrow else it could go all kinds of wrong!
        Thank you so much for this pattern! 😀

  12. ‘Cavalier’. that’s so awesome, as I am a cavalier knitter/crocheter as well. We should have a support group…
    Sooo, I was in the middle of knitting a top down beanie exactly as you have explained it when I found your blog post via a Google search. It was right on top. 😀 I love it!

    • The thing to remember is that it’s NOT kfb. You create a new stitch by stitching into the stitch below the next stitch, then you work the next stitch like normal. Hope this is helpful.

  13. Hell, I am having the same issue as those above. I know this is a “no-math” hat, but the math does not add up. i started with CO8 then knit around, fine. but then i do INC1, K1 around, this is 4 increases in the row. Using either the technique you posted above of picking up the stitch below and knitting it, or doing a KFB it still only adds 1 stitch per increase. so then I am only adding 4 stitches total in each increase row, not 8. Somehow the increases need to add 2 stitches. am I to pickup the stitch below and knit it, then KFB in next stitch? which would add 2 stitches in each increase?

    • If you’re using the increase I’ve linked to, it should not “eat up” a stitch on your left-hand needle. So think of inc1, k1 this way: create a new st, then use up a st on your left hand needle. In this way, you’re creating a new stitch inbetween all the stitches you started out with. If you’re more comfortable with kfb, just kfb that entire round.

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  15. IM following this pattern using the magic loop method,
    Casting in 8 sts and following step by step but yr pattern instructions concerning the rows don’t add up to the stitches you state.
    Row 2: you state will have 16 stitches but I fact it should be 12.
    And every even row ect, so I’ve had to amend and hope it will work out right.

    • Hi, Angela,
      I think you might be using a different increase than the one I linked to. The increase I recommend does not eat up a stitch on the left needle. So if you start with 8 st, you’ll [incr1, k1] 8 times, for a total of 16 st by the end of row 2.
      Hope this clarifies things for you!

  16. Hi, Suzyn–thanks for posting this free pattern on Ravelry! I had just finished my third “how the heck do I know when to start decreasing” hat and was disgusted with the whole process, so I searched Youtube for the Emily Ocker cast-on and liked your version very well. Then I started knitting (on waste yarn) and after only 3 tries got a version of an 8-stitch cast-on I could live with. Yay! Success!
    I started in on yarn that works well on size 8s, using the 2-circular-needles method for working in the round. (I don’t have a problem with the increases adding up properly–I had been doing a lot of fingerless mitts, with M1L and M1R increases for the gussets, so I just decided to stick with M1L because to me it looks tidier, with a smaller hole. The only difference is that I do K1, M1L, so the final increase happens *between* the two needles and it’s extremely simple to pick up the “strand below”, make the increase, and then start the second needle with a knit stitch.) So far, so good.
    My problems started a few rounds in, somewhere around 32 or 40 st. per needle (64 or 80 total): The circle (which had always had a bit of flare to it, which I figured would “come out in the wash”–i.e., be stretched out by the wearer’s head) now had a definite wave to it, and instead of looking like two sides of a crisp taco shell, it started looking like the ruffled shell of a giant clam. Nevertheless, I persisted. (Hah! Take that, Mitch McConnell!)
    When I tried it on the top of my head (which I had been doing all along), even after a few rounds of straight stockinette, it was obvious that it was not going to look right.
    My question (and I do have one!) is, What should I do differently when I frog this version and start over? Is the 8-stitch cast-on inherently wrong for me, or is it something so obvious that I’m going to smack my head in disgust?
    Sorry to be so long-winded, but my brain doesn’t self-edit anymore.
    Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on this murk.
    And regardless, thank you again for your free videos and patterns. I don’t begrudge you the ones you charge for–Lord knows, designers work hard enough for their very meager return!–but when I’m trying to learn a new technique (both the Emily Ocker/Pinhole cast-on and the top-down hat are new to me), I don’t know how to choose between all the competing versions, and paying $2-5 each to try out 3 or 4 different ones very quickly adds up to a really nice skein of Malabrigo Caracol in yummy colors…
    So thank you for your generosity, and happy knitting.
    Karen Downing

    • Hi, Karen,
      It sounds like you’re increasing too fast. That’s what the ripples mean. If you’re using CO 8, you should only ever have 8 increases in every increase row. Is it possible you’re continuing to do [K1, M1L] all the way around? That would cause ripples. If you’re only increasing 8 times in any increase row, then the next thing I would try is 7 or 6 wedges, instead of 8. Let me know how it goes!

      • D’oh!
        I cast on 8 stitches, and carefully divided them onto my 2 circular needles. I carefully made the first set of increases by KFB each stitch: now 16 st., 8 on each needle. I knit the first round of plain stockinette. Then (fatal flaw!) I put the work down b/c my brain was fried and my shoulders were up around my ears from tension.
        When I came back, much later, I did the “first” round of increases, using M1L, adding 8 st. to each needle. Directions had said add 8 st, and I thought to myself, this is a piece of cake! Knit around, tra-la-la. 16 st on each needle, evenly divisible by 2, so since (I *thought*) I was now on the 2nd round of increases, I knit 2, increased 1. Third round, 24 st., easily divisible by 3; K3, inc 1. etc. And thereby continued adding 8 stitches TO EACH NEEDLE every other round.
        Oh, the power of compounding! (I wish I could do that with my money!) One simple (but fundamental) error, and I end up with a giant pink manta ray instead of a cute little clamshell.
        The hat I am CURRENTLY knitting is of different wool–mushroomy brown, variegated. It looks like a cute little acorn cap at the moment. I’m sure it will be MAH-velous when it’s done. Well, at least it’ll keep someone’s head warm 😉
        Thank you so much for responding! And again, thank you for putting this on Youtube in the first place 🙂

  17. Hi, thanks for your pattern! I have never knit a hat before and I was able to follow the instructions but I ended up with a giant hat and too many rows of ribbing.

    My first question is how to measure the hat circumference while on the double pointed needles? I kept thinking it was going to be too small so I increased to 128 stitches and my daughters head is 21.5”. I have ripped the hat out completely and I’m starting over.

    Also do you have a suggestion for the number of rows of ribbing or the width of ribbing? And do you recommend 2×2 ribbing or 1×1?

    My final question is what method do you use to cast off? I tried a stretchy version which seemed too stretchy.

    I appreciate any help you can give me, my daughter liked the giant hat but I couldn’t live with it being so big so I’m hoping the 2nd time is a charm. 😊

    • Sorry it took me so long to respond. Life, y’know?
      It’s very difficult to eyeball circumference on dpns, because the dpns form a triangle or a square, whereas most heads are roundish. So, you could do math – measure gauge, measure head, get a stitch count. Or, what I do is stop increasing while it still looks a little too small, and then if necessary decrease a bit before the ribbing, which gives the hat a pleasing bubble-like quality. If you want more precision than that, perhaps find another pattern?
      Ribbing and cast off methods are entirely a matter of personal preference. If you just want to prevent rolling, 4 or 5 rows of ribbing is enough. If you want it to double-over and keep ears extra warm, you may want to go for several inches. The old trick for making a standard bind-off not too restrictive is to go up a couple of needle sizes. I’m a fan of the stretchy bind-off from knitty, but I do concede that it’s not the most elegant looking. Experiment and find what you like!

      • No worries on the late response, I totally understand. Thanks so much for getting back to me I appreciate it. You will be happy to know that I was able to finish the hat for my daughter and she loves it. What you suggested about stopping the increase when it still looks a bit small is the way to go and definitely where I went wrong. I also cut down the amount of ribbing as my original hat had way too much and I did that on smaller needles this time which worked well. I made a tiny version of the hat for my daughter’s stuffy and now I am now going to attempt to make myself a hat, thanks again for a great pattern!

  18. Hi, I made this hat for my daughter and myself and they turned out great after ripping the first one out as I made it too big 🙂 Now I’m going to attempt to make another one however my daughter has requested it have a pom pom on top. Usually it seems that pom poms are added to hats with more bulk on the top but do you think this style would work to add a pom pom?


      • Oh great, my daughter will be happy! I have one more question, I found this beautiful yarn to make the hat but it is a super bulky 6 and the largest needles that I have DPNs for is a No 6 needle (4mm). Do you think the needles are way too small for this type of yarn? Since your pattern doesn’t require a gauge I thought it might be ok, but some forums I found seem to think that using too small of needles on a bulky yarn will create an odd texture to the fabric.

        Thanks again,

      • I should clarify what I mean by not requiring a gauge. The pattern is designed to work at *any gauge you like.* So, do you *like* how the yarn works up on those needles? I would guess not – it’s likely to be very stiff and unpleasant both to work and to wear. So, you can totally make a hat with that yarn and those needles, but you may not like it.

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