Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pilot Hats For All

I have knit a lot of pilot hats (also known as the Sweet Baby Cap) over the past few years using this great pattern as a guide. However, the pattern is written for a gauge of 7 stitches per inch, and I tend to like a heavier weight yarn for hats. It also has limited sizing options. So some time ago, I came up with a little formula so that I could make this hat in any weight of yarn and for any size head. I put my formula on Ravelry, where it has apparently helped a lot of people, so I thought I would put it here as well.

Step One
Determine your gauge by knitting a test swatch.
Example: My gauge using Berroco Jasper on #7 needles is 5.5 st. per in.

Step Two
Measure the head of the recipient in inches. Measure around where the actual hat will sit: from the nape of the neck, up over the ears, around mid-forehead, and back around to the nape of the neck. If you can’t measure the actual recipient, use the following as a guide:
Newborn: 14.5 – 15 in.
6 months-12 months: 17-18 in.
One year: 18.5 in
Two years: 19 – 19.5 in.

Step Three
Multiply your gauge from Step One by your measurement in inches from Step Two.
Example: 5.5 st/in. x 19 inches = 104.5 stitches, rounded up to 105 stitches.

Step Four
Figure out the number of stitches between increases and decreases. To do this: Take your cast on number and subtract 13. (Example: 105-13 = 92)
Divide that number by 6 (92/6 = 15.333333333)

This is where it is a bit tricky. The number of stitches between the first increase and decrease takes you from the back of the neck to the ear. The second number takes you from the ear to the side of the forehead. The third number takes you to the point of the forehead. Then you back track and the fourth number takes you around to the other side of the forehead, the fifth takes you to the ear, and the sixth takes you back to the nape. Six sections total (that is why you divide by 6). You want your numbers from those sections to match up. If you get an even number after dividing by 6, you get lucky. If you get a .3333, you need to make one section a stitch longer on both sides, and if you get a .66666, you need to make two sections a stitch longer on both sides. I usually add the extra length to the nape area or the area going from the ear to the side of the forehead. So for my measurement above, using the pattern below, I would use the numbers 15, 16, 15, 15, 16, 15 (respectively, going around). The number of increase rounds also depends on the gauge of the yarn. The fewer stitches you have per inch, the less rounds you have to do. I use about 8 pattern repeats for a gauge of 5-6 stitches per inch.

I worked up the pattern for 7 different sets of numbers/cast-on stitches. Choose the set that is closest to your number from Step Four. (Example: If you cast on 85, continue to use the third number where there are multiple options).

I start with a 12 inch circular needle and then switch to double-pointed needles as needed.

Cast on 71, 79, 85 (105, 121, 141) st. Join to knit in round.
Knit 5-7 rounds garter stitch, depending on your preference.

Rnd A: k1, m1f, k10, 11, 12 (15, 18, 21)
sl 1, ssk, psso
k10, 11, 12 (16, 18, 22)
m1b, k1, m1f, k9, 11, 12 (15, 18, 21)
sl 1, ssk, psso
k9, 11, 12 (15, 18, 21)
m1b, k1, m1f, k10, 11, 12 (16, 18, 22)
sl 1, ssk, psso
k10, 11, 12 (15, 18, 21), m1b, k1
Rnd B: Knit
Repeat Rnds A & B 6, 7, 7 (8, 9, 10) times total. Pay attention to how your decreases line up because in the next step you won’t be counting stitches anymore and will want to be able to tell where to make your decreases so they keep lining up.

Continue decreases only, every other rnd until 7 st. remain. You may also do decreases on every round once you get close to the top for a more rounded peak. Break yarn and thread through remaining stitches to bind off. To attach I-cord ties, find the earflaps and pick up three stitches along the cast-on edge. Knit I-cord ties about 8 inches long.
Questions or errors? Let me know!


  1. Love it, thank you! I can't wait to try it out. I've made hats with the original pattern you linked to and definitely needed something like this.

  2. GENIUS! You are my hero of the day today!