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Free Easy Knit Beanie Hat Pattern for Circular Needles

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This free easy unisex hat knitting pattern makes a great first circular needle knitting project for beginners.

Most of this hat pattern is just the basic knit stitch – easy peasy. There’s some rib stitch at the start for a good fit & simple k2tog decreases to shape the crown.

Don’t Know how to Knit with Circular Needles?

If you have only ever knit with straight needles, circulars may seem strange or even scary. But knitting with a circular needle is actually very similar to using straights. See how easy circular knitting is with my video tutorials:

What You Need

  • 5mm (us size 8) 16 inch (40 cm) circular knitting needle. If your yarn recommends a different size knitting needle, you can use that instead.
  • 2 small 50g balls or 1 larger ball of worsted or aran weight yarn. I used:
    • 45g approx (half a ball approx) Lion Brand Wool Ease worsted yarn (lighter weight acrylic with wool mix) with a 5mm circular for the mustard fitted beanie hat
    • 68g approx (1.3 balls) of Drops Nepal aran yarn (heavier soft wool & alpaca mix) with a 5mm circular in shade cerise for the pink beanie hat
    • 65g approx (2/3 ball) Lion Brand Feels Like Butta polyester yarn (heavy soft brushed cotton or velvety feel) with 4.5mm (us size 7) needles as recommended on the ball band in shade lilac to make the pale purple slouchy beanie hat.
  • Tapestry needle for closing the top of the hat & weaving in ends.
  • Knitting the final part of the hat is easier with one of the following:
    • Option 1: 1 short double pointed needle or straight cable needle, any size up to 5mm thick.
    • Option 2: 5mm long circular needle (at least 32 inches or 80 cm)
    • Option 3: A set of 5mm double pointed needles.
Pink beanie hat knit with Drops Nepal aran yarn in shade Cerise
Beanie hat knit with a 5mm circular needle in Drops Nepal aran yarn (shade Cerise)

Sizing & Notes

  • This free easy knit hat pattern is one size to fit most adult heads. The sample hats pictured fit both my small woman’s head & a 6ft man’s head.
  • Standard aran gauge of 18 stitches and 24 rounds to 4 inches (10 cm) is suggested. But exact gauge is not important (especially vertical row gauge) as the hat is quite stretchy. The hat is your swatch, there’s no need for test squares!
  • The pattern includes options for a fitted (A), slouchy (B) and cuffed beanie (C) (where you turn the ribbing up).
  • Here are my finished hat sizes post wash & dry as a guide, but it’s fine for these to vary a bit depending on your yarn & gauge:
    • Mustard fitted beanie knit with Lion Brand Wool Ease (most light weight): 8.75 inches tall x 10 inches wide (above rib)
    • Pink standard beanie knit with Drops Nepal (heavier soft woolly feel): 9 inches tall x 10.25 inches wide
    • Pale lilac slouch beanie knit with Lion Brand Feels Like Butta (heavy soft brushed cotton feel): 10 inches tall x 9.5 inches wide

Abbreviations

  • k2tog: knit 2 stitches together (decrease 1 stitch)
  • kx: knit next x stitches
  • px: purl next x stitches

This pattern uses a short 16 inch circular knitting needle, as that’s the easiest way for beginners to knit in the round. But you can of course use any knit in the round method to make this hat: a long circular needle (magic loop), 2 circular needles or a set of double pointed needles (DPNs).

Basic Beanie Circular Needle Knitting Pattern


Pink and mustard hats knit with free easy knit beanie hat pattern

Knit a beanie hat in the round with this easy free pattern

Cast on 88 stitches

I used the long tail cast on (tutorial here), which works well for knitting in the round, but you can use any cast on.

Knit 8 rounds of rib

Join to knit in the round. Knit 1 stitch, purl 1 stitch and repeat this pattern until the end of the round to do k1p1 ribbing. See how in my knitting in the round for beginners video.
Do 8 rounds of rib stitch, or your desired ribbing height.

Folded cuff beanie (Option C) only: Do 12-16 rounds of rib instead for a deeper brim which you will turn up.

Knit stockinette until desired length

Slouch and fitted easy knit beanie side by side with measurements

Switch to knitting every stitch in each round i.e. knit in stockinette.
Try it on your head after knitting about 3 inches (including rib), to check it’s a comfy fit.

Fitted beanie (option A): knit until your piece is 6 inches including rib.
Slouchy beanie (option B): knit until your piece is 7.5 inches including rib, or longer for more slouch.
Cuffed beanie (option C): knit 6 inches of stockinette for a fitted hat or 7.5 inches for a slouchy hat (or longer for extra slouch). 

Initial decreases

(K2tog, K20) x 4 to decrease 4 stitches evenly around [84 stitches]
Knit 2 rounds even
(K2tog, K19) x 4 to decrease another 4 stitches [80 stitches]
Knit 2 rounds even

Main crown decreases

(K2tog, K6) x 10 to decrease 10 stitches evenly around [70 stitches]
Knit 1 round even
(K2tog, K5) x 10 [60 stitches]
Knit 1 round even
(K2tog, K4) x 10 [50 stitches]
Knit 1 round even
(K2tog, K3) x 10 [40 stitches]
Knit 1 round even

Note: Knitting in the round on a short circular with a small number of stitches can be tricky. Watch the video tutorial or read about 4 ways to do this below before doing the rest of the decreases:

(K2tog, K2) x 10 [30 stitches]
Knit 1 round even
(K2tog, K1) x 10 [20 stitches]
Knit 1 round even
K2tog x 10 [10 stitches]

Finish hat

See my hat finishing tutorial (including 5 min video) here →
Leaving a long tail, cut the yarn. Thread it through the 10 remaining stitches twice & gather to close the top of the hat. Weave in the end down the back of your hat. Finally weave in the cast on tail into the rib stitches at the bottom of your hat.


Crown of easy knit beanie hat showing decreases make a swirl shape
Decreasing evenly by 10 stitches each time gives the crown of your easy knit hat a pretty swirl shape & gathering the last 10 stitches with a needle closes the hole in the center

How to Knit the Top of a Hat with a Circular Needle

Knitting the top of a hat with a 16 inch circular needle is the tricky bit. As you decrease more and more stitches, you get to a point where your stitches no longer fill your circular needle, which makes knitting in the round awkward. Here are 4 ways to finish knitting the top of your hat:

Option 1: Use a Spare Needle with your Short Circular

When you have too few stitches to knit with your circular, you can transfer several stitches at a time to a spare needle & knit those with your right circular tip.

Watch the video tutorial below for step by step instructions, including showing you the final 4 rounds of this pattern. Or read the written guide to the spare needle technique with photos here.

How to knit hat decreases with a short circular needle (No Magic Loop or DPNs!)

Option 2: Switch to a Long Circular (Magic Loop)

The magic loop technique is very popular for knitting small circumference items in the round. Instead of using a circular needle that’s smaller than the circumference of what you’re knitting (16 inches for a hat here), you use a long 40+ inch circular needle instead. You divide your stitches in 2 halves, with big loops of cable hanging at each side like ears.

So when you reach the point in your hat decreased when you have too few stitches to fill your 16 inch circular, you could start knitting the next round with a long 40 inch circular instead and then knit the last few rounds using the magic loop method.

If you’re a magic loop fan, you could also knit the whole hat with magic loop of course. I prefer knitting hats on a short 16 inch circular without spending half my time yanking out cables, but each to their own. 😊

If you don’t already know how to magic loop, I recommend using another option:

  • If you’re new to circular needles, but used to DPNs, use them (method 3 below)
  • If you’re a knitting in the round beginner, try the spare needle method first (method 1 – video tutorial above).

Option 3: Switch to Double Pointed Needles

Many circular needle hat knitting pattern instructions just say to switch to double pointed needles (DPNs) when necessary. That means you start knitting with DPNs when you have too few stitches to comfortably knit with your circular needle.

If you already like knitting with DPNs, this is an easy way to finish your hat. But if you don’t know how to use DPNs or don’t want to buy sets of them just to finish off hats with, I suggest trying the spare needle method (option 1) or learning the magic loop technique (option 2) instead.

Option 4: Pull out Circular Cord

It’s a bit awkward, but you can knit right to the end of your hat with only your 16 inch circular needle.

But this final option is really a last resort if you have no other needles for options 1-3.

Once you have too few stitches to knit easily with your circular, you need to yank out a bit of your circular cable so that your stitches fill the remaining cord.

At the start of the round, pull out a bit of cable between 2 stitches mid round, so that your stitches fill the remaining cord and you can start knitting the round.

When you reach the pulled out cable, or sooner if needed, pull out a bit of cord in a different spot between 2 stitches and continue knitting.

TIP: The fewer the stitches, the more times you will need to yank out a bit of cable to complete the round.

If you have a double pointed needle (or straight cable needle), I suggest trying the spare needle method (option 1 with video demo) instead.

Or if you already know magic loop (option 2), use that instead of this mini magic loop inspired hack.

But this method works if you don’t have any other needles or just can’t be bothered to switch (I’ve been there!).

I hope you enjoy knitting this easy beanie hat with a circular needle. It’s a great way to practise knitting in the round while making something practical you can wear everyday or give as a special gift. Got any questions or feedback on this pattern? Just leave a comment below.

This free pattern is for personal, non-commercial use only. It may not be copied, sold, translated or distributed in any way, nor any finished items made using it sold, without permission.

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