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January 31, 2008

Super-simple fast and easy chunky hand-knit beret!

Hello, hand-knit beret!

My muy adorable sister-in-law Kelli models this chunky hand-knit beret.

This hand-knit beret used two skeins of Lion Brand Landscapes yarn in the "Rose Garden" color #540-271.

I have been beret-crazy for weeks now, I even knitted so much I had a knit-related injury and got what appears to be a blister. (!!!) But I am loving my hand-knit berets, they're fast and super-simple to make and this pattern seems to work with a wide variety of yarns, which is my favorite kind of pattern. I even took my bag o' berets with me on my trip to Florida so my cute family could model them.

Berets seem sultry and dark and full of espionage. Now, I am realistic. I am a round-faced blonde from Texas, so I am pretty sure a simple hand-knit beret won't make me sultry, glamorous or intense. I am kind of resigned to being "cute" and "perky." (Cute, perky people generally detest both words, just FYI. We are all about the dark, intense and sultry.) But I decided that I could make a beret, too, and wear it and pretend to be intense.

For the record, this might have been one of those projects I should have just searched for a pattern to use (because I'm sure there is one somewhere in my desired level of easiness) and it would have spared me this:


Ah, the love of the prototype.


One of the reasons I love knitting with 100% wool is because even though my prototype beret turned out as a big fat mushroom pope's hat, I can just felt it and make it into a lovely little bowl. Not that I need a felted wool bowl, but felting is fun and I'm sure I'll find a use for it. This is perhaps the main reason I prefer knitting to cooking -- when you spend hours working on a hand-knit hat and it turns into a mushroom, you can make a nice bowl or handbag out of it. If you spend hours cooking a meal and you end up with compost, you end up with a hungry, hateful mean cook.

Making a prototype taught me a few things -- for one thing, I needed to make the ribbing using a smaller needle than the body of the hat. The body needed to be much longer to get it to drape like I wanted. Also, the poufy and freakish quality of the decreases could probably be eliminated by adding a simple plain knit row in between each decrease row. And you know what, I was right!

Here is Kelli in Beret #2, A Perfect Hat:

I used my stash of Paton's Up Country, a discontinued yarn, in silver-grey for both the prototype and the first finished grey beret.

I am sharing this hat recipe because it's so fun, easy and addictive to make. I cannot stop making berets! I have, in fact, gone beret-crazy. It's taking me about two hours for each hat and ya'll, I am a tragically slow knitter. Although I am making great effort to be a less SupaTight Knitter, I am still apparently working out my issues on the yarn so my gauge is probably slightly more cramped than yours. You may want to adjust your needle size to accommodate your own style of knitting (specifically, you may want to use a size 10 or 10.5 needle on the ribbing). Here is my pattern though, exactly as I knit it:

Super Easy & Fast Hand-Knit Chunky Beret Recipe

Yarn: Any bulky yarn -- I have used this same pattern with good results on one skein of Patons Up Country, two skeins Lion Brand Landscapes, one and a half skeins of the JoAnn's store brand yarn "Sensations Licorice," and Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick 'n Quick (it would work better with one skein of Lion Brand Wool-Ease chunky, though. Thick 'n Quick is made a really thick hat that was a little too big. Doh.) Each hat takes about 110 yards of yarn depending on how long you make the body of the beret.

Needles -- Part of the reason this hat knits up so fast is that you make it on big needles! You will need:
16" size 11 circular needle
16" size 13 circular needle
Double-pointed needles in size 13

**** GAUGE *** I am getting three stitches to the inch in the knitted stockinette portion of the hat. I really strongly suggest you use a size 10 needle for the ribbing and a size 11 for the body if you're a more relaxed knitter. Clearly I am not a professional. This would explain the "free" portion of my patterns.

Other Stuff: Stitch markers, and a large-eye yarn needle (or crochet hook) for weaving in the ends when you're done.

Things you may want to read before making this hat:

• The easy roll-brim hat pattern, the basis of all my hat recipes
Working with circular needles
• Learn about increasing stitches by knitting into the front and back of a stitch (with a video demonstration!)
• A little diatribe on decreasing stitches
• My regular ribbed-brim hat recipe

To begin: Cast on 52 stitches using the size 11 needle. Place a marker and join your stitches into a round.

Note: To get a nicer-looking join, I have been casting on 53 stitches and then when I am ready to join stitches, I slip the 53rd stitch over to the left-hand needle and join by knitting the first two stitches on the left needle together. I'm not explaining it well, but sometimes in knitting I think you have to try something yourself before it makes any sense. Try it and see if it improves the look of your join as well.

Make the ribbed brim: Knit 1, Purl 1 all the way around for about five rows. I am knitting about an inch or an inch and a half of ribbing on my hats.

Increase for beret-like poufiness: When you have a wide enough ribbed brim for your liking, begin making the increase row. Still using the size 11 needle, increase in the following way all the way around the hat:

Knit one, make one all the way across the row. This means you knit one stitch, then "make one" by knitting into the front and back of the next stitch. Knitting into the front (and don't drop the yarn off the left needle yet!) then knitting into the back of the stitch (then drop the yarn off the left needle) makes two stitches out of one single stitch. [Learn more about increasing stitches by knitting into the front and back of a stitch here.] I like this increase because it's easy and on this hat the increases line up just right with the purl stitches in your ribbed brim and it all looks good.

You will have 78 stitches at the end of the row.

*** Update*** I guess I didn't explain this very well. Here is an update:

Begin the increase row.

Stitch #1: You knit the stitch. Just knit it like normal.

Stitch #2: You knit into the front of it. Then instead of dropping it off the left needle, you leave it on the left needle and now knit it again through the back loop. Yes, the back loop of the exact same stitch you just knit into. Now you finally drop it off the left needle. In this way you have made two stitches where before there was only one.

Next stitch: You simply knit it.

The stitch after that: You do the increasing thing again, making an extra stitch where before there was only one.

Therefore, you increase on every OTHER stitch. That creates 26 brand-new stitches. 52 + 26 = 78 total stitches.

Make the body of the beret: Now, switch to your size 13 circular needle. It's easy to switch -- just start knitting with your size-13 (16" inch long) circular needle. The rest of the hat is done in plain ol' stockinette, so in the round that means you knit every stitch. Knit until the stockinette body of the hat measures about 4 1/2 inches tall. When the body of the hat is about 4 1/2 to 5 inches tall....

Begin decreases as follows:

• Knit 11, knit two stitches together. Do this all the way across the row.

Note: I always place a marker right after my "K2tog" because after that I never even have to count to know I am decreasing in the right place. With a marker you just always know to knit the two stitches together right before each stitch marker. I also use different markers from the one which designates the end of the row (where you initially joined up the stitches.) That way I know what is marking decreases is different from what is designating the end of the row.

• Knit one row with no decreasing.

• Knit ten, knit 2 together. Repeat all the way across the row.

• Knit one row with no decreasing.

• Knit nine, knit two together. Repeat all the way across the row.

• Knit one row with no decreasing.

• Knit eight, knit 2 together. Repeat all the way across the row.

• Knit one row with no decreasing.

• Knit seven, knit two together...

And so on. Switch to your double-pointed needles when the circular needle gets awkward. Knit until you only have a few stitches on your needles (I am a dork and I usually knit down to the bitter end, but with this hat it's best to end the hat when you're down to about 12 stitches so you don't get a weird pointy bit.) Cut the yarn and leave a long yarn tail.

Finishing touches: Using your large-eye yarn needle, thread the yarn tail through it and then bring the yarn all the way through the stitches to close the beret. I usually do this twice because I am paranoid. Then finish it with a knot (ha! Yes there are knots in knitting!) and weave in the ends.

- - - - -


That's Rebecca in the same beret knit with one and a half skeins of the JoAnn's "Sensations" brand yarn called "Licorice" in the color #2347. I LOVE this yarn!! It's 100% wool and it's a thick-thin nubby twisted yarn in funky color combinations. I liked the way the inside-out reverse stockinette side of this hat looked, so I just made sure to weave in my ends carefully so that you could wear it inside-out and it looks great:

Rebecca even liked this beret enough to keep it! That made me SO HAPPY! I love it when I can give away my hand-knits to happy homes.


I like using fancy schmancy expensive yarn like anyone, but sometimes I am not looking to make a $300 hat, you know? So this little beret I've been making looks just great in inexpensive yarn and I'm sure that it will look great in a big Noro, too. But before I get to a Noro version, I had to finish the all-black beret in plain ol' Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick 'n Quick yarn. I think it's actually too thick and bulky but it sure made a warm beret, which I need in ...uh, sunny Los Angeles. Because the yarn is so fat, the beret is a little too big. I should have cast on less stitches, for sure.

Rebecca models the big black beret.

Guy thinks he can make it work Rasta-style.

Then the whole family got into it... as you can see they enjoyed modeling girlyman hats:

Aw, aren't they rasta-cute?

Brett takes the beret to new heights.

- - -

Hope ya'll like the pattern.
And long live the sultry intense beret!

Posted by laurie at January 31, 2008 8:34 AM