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Cowboy Hat

This versatile cowboy hat pattern can be knit for men or women. It can be made with a knit-in band, or a separate band. It has a proper, crisp shape and is surprisingly quick to knit. I can do a crown in one evening, the brim in the next, and felting and blocking the following day. This hat pattern may just be the most popular knitting design we offer, and it is drawing attention wherever people wear it, all over the globe.

The Materials you'll need for this Knitting Project:

  • Please note: Many white or off white yarns have been bleached, which affects their felting properties; they often felt differently from and more slowly than yarns with which they are combined, so if you want a white hat body, try to find a natural, unbleached yarn. It will be an off white. Small amounts of white, in a band, will tend to felt along with the yarns around it without a problem. What you don’t want is a band that shrinks a great deal more, and faster, than the hat.
  • Otherwise, use two strands of wool, wool/mohair, wool/llama, or wool/alpaca knitting worsted held together on # 13 circular or double point needles (it’s best to have both). This felts and blocks better than a single strand of bulky. Two 100 gram or four ounce balls, with the strands paired and worked together, will do for banded hats in the smaller size; it will take three for single color hats in the largest size, with the need for a taller crown and wider brim. Don’t be afraid of color! If Mr. Stetson had known how to knit, he wouldn’t have been.
  • #13 needles. # 15 circular needle if you are knitting in a color-change band with more than one color in a row, or twining; #13s will handle a simple striped band. A #17 needle for the band if it seems likely, with a white body yarn, that you will have quite a time felting; swatch and felt beforehand to be sure. A smaller double-point—I use a 10 ¾--for binding off.
  • If you want contrast in the edge of the brim and for the band, you’ll need small amounts of yarn for that, and a little more to make some 4 ½ feet of 3-stitch I cord for your stampede string, plus one large bead with an eye large enough for two strands of yarn to pass through. It is possible to purchase really nice bands and stampede strings, from under $20 to sky’s-the-limit in silver, turquoise, feathers, or beading.
  • Yarn needle, scissors, tape measure, crochet hook for picking up dropped stitches or making corrections. Markers. Especially for the Bearberry band, it is best to mark every 20 stitches.
  • The inspiration behind this cowboy hat pattern

    "Where did you get that hat? Where can I get one like it?" is the question these hats draw, whether in the lift lines in Colorado’s high country, or in the urban wilderness of Manhattan.

    This is how it started: A friend had knit what purported to be a cowboy hat from flawed instructions. It turned out to be formless, difficult to felt—five trips through the washing machine!--and impossible to block properly. It was also very shaggy—untrimmed and unbrushed.

    My first try, adapted from those instructions, was suitable largely for a woman, with a low crown and a fairly narrow brim. It was from a hairy yarn, and shaggy and almost matted looking. So I trimmed the excess first with scissors, then with my late husband’s electric shaver, to avoid looking yeti-ish. Still, because I’d knit in a striped band and a contrast brim edge, I got a perfectly presentable hat out of the venture. Not a perfect hat. Not even an actual cowboy hat.

    So I began a series of experiments with hats that could be made to fit, and to suit, either a man or a woman. Josh’s, above, has a knit in band, 7 1/2 inch crown, and a wide brim with contrast edging to provide shade from the brilliant sunshine of Colorado, a place where Search and Rescue regularly finds lost High-Country tourists suffering from both frostbite and sunburn.

    Josh’s was the first of the hats worked up from the band, and then down from the band, doing the picking up and increasing to begin knit down the brim. It has a version of the knit-in band to define the angle between crown and brim, a 7 ½ inch crown (as knit, before felting) before the decreases, and a snug brim edge in which decreasing at the bind-off (in this case, K 2 tog, K 14) perfected the shaping and durability of the brim. All these combined to make for the proper, crisp shape and definition. I later worked out a method of preserving a certain tidy shagginess, perfected in my own Bearberry hat, photographed here on Katie. It was brushed repeatedly while I blocked and dried it, and I love the look of its halo of mohair in the blend I used.