Hats: Top-Down, or Bottom-Up?

Okay, so I’m looking at hat patterns right? Dozens of them, in fact. And probably what’ll end up happening is I’ll borrow elements from two or more and creating something else, but that’s not the Great Mystery.

The Great Mystery is rooted in the fact that an overwhelming majority of patterns I’ve seen [I]start at the bottom[/I]. And I’m curious why this is. I’ve probably done more hats than any other single type of item and except for the very first one I did, I have always done them top-down. And I do it that way for what I consider to be really good reasons. Including, but not limited to:
[li]Starting at the top I can just knit until I have enough hat and then bind off.
[/li][li]This gets the shaping out of the way up front, and if I’m going to have a problem that’s probably where it’s gonna be. So better to tackle it first.
[/li][li]If I run out of yarn, I can finish in a contrast color and it looks a lot less like I ran out of yarn and finished in a contrast color. (This is particularly true of berets.)
[/li][li]If I have to adjust for size (or anything else for that matter), it’s a LOT easier to do it if the BO is at the bottom.
[/li][li]For me at least, the BO edge comes out a lot neater than the CO edge.

That said, I know there are sometimes good reasons to start at the bottom, and my new “hybrid” pattern will probably require that since the band is knit flat and seamed, then stitches picked up from the edge and continued in the round. But the patterns I’m talking about could have gone either way, yet the author chose to work bottom up.

I figure at least [I]most[/I] of them probably know a lot that I don’t know (not exactly a high bar there), including why this is so much better as an option. But I’m stumped as to what that reason might be.

Of course I do hat shaping in Magic Loop too, which [I]also[/I] seems to be unpopular, so maybe I’m just a rebel without a clue.

Any thoughts on this? All other things being equal, which end do you prefer to start at?

I’ve yet to do a hat top down so I’m interested in seeing what people have to say. I have one in mind that I’ll start soon that will be a band joined at the ends and then the rest of the hat joined to it. I was thinking that there are at least two ways to do this that don’t require seaming, one is to pick up and knit to the top of the hat, the other to knit the hat part, top down or bottom to top and then, using provision cast on(s) join with a 3 needle bind off.

I do hats from the bottom up because I can try on or measure them after a couple inches to make sure they’re the right size. I don’t use the same needles so my gauge is different. Plus they always seem to stretch a lot more than my sts per inch indicate. When I crocheted hats, I always did them from the top down, somehow guessing (or sort of trying on) when to quit increasing to get the right size.

I suppose that in knitting one top down, your gauge would have to be right on in order to make the lower edge fit right. Or you’d decrease before the edging to get the right size.

GG, your idea reminds me of the Robin Hood hat which is knit top down and then a band is knit sideways and at the same time joined to the body of the hat. It seems like great fun to do and is a very stylish hat.

Let’s let Lewis Carrol answer this one, shall we?

“Begin at the beginning . . . and go on till you come to the end; then stop.” --from [I]Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland[/I]

Now where you’re “beginning” is, is, I suppose, up to you!

I’ve only ever done bottom up, but I imagine like most things in knitting, you can do it whichever way you please!

See, I go top down for the same reason. Usually I’m on a long circular (remember what I said about Magic Loop) for the shaping at the top, so it’s just a matter of yanking the needle points and checking the size as I go. Working from the bottom up, I’m on a 16" needle which (trust me, my head is a LOT bigger than 1") until I get to the shaping, so the only way to do this is transfer it to a longer needle (knit on, knit off Daniel-sahn). I guess at some point I [I]won’t[/I] find this to be a pain in the butt, but that point is not now.

I guess if you were doing the small end on DPNs, you’d have the reverse problem (unless you have a very small, square head) so that might explain why so many patterns are written this way. That is, most of them [I]also[/I] specify DPNs, and while you’re certainly under no obligation to do it that way, the pattern writer probably did/does and wrote the pattern based on that method.

As for gauge, I did have one instance when a knit beret came out too loose. But that was me assuming that two worsted yarns (Plymouth Select and Cascade 220 in this case) were created equal. Spoiler alert, they’re just different enough. And I’d never have thought it considering how close the yardages were, but it was what it was. Or maybe it was something else. Anyway, ironically the only [I]other[/I] time I had one come out too loose like that it was the one I did bottom up.

The one I have in mind is like that too. The band is knit sideways (flat), grafted together with Kitchener stitch, then stitches picked up to knit in the round.

I only have one 16" and I use that to start with, then switch to a larger size after an inc or so and single loop till the top where I ML. So I can try them on when they’re about 2-3" long. I like looser, slouchier hats rather than beanies, so if I started top down, would have a harder time figuring out how many to decrease to get the lower edging snug enough to stay on without falling into my eyes.

That is cute! I might actually buy the pattern.

This is an interesting discussion. All I can say is that I’ve never used DPNs on a hat, ML makes them unnecessary.

I’ve never used DPNs for anything except I-cord and occasionally working something flat. I learned ML and didn’t see the need to go through the pain of having all those potential dropped needle disasters. But if you read most patterns that have any small-diameter instructions (hats included), they almost always assume you’re using DPNs. My theory is that people were using DPNs since the Stone Age, or at least before circular needles were invented. And as a result, that’s the technique that grandma and great grandma and great-great grandma used, so that’s what you learned from ma. And if it works for ya, there’s no reason NOT to use it. I’ve just never seen the advantage of using 4 or 5 needles to do a job I can do with 2.

As for the top down v. bottom up discussion, it’s kinda the same thing. Do what works. I’m just curious why the majority seem to go from the bottom up. Either way, if your gauge is off your size is going to be off, and it seems to me that if that happens it’s a lot easier to fix it if you can work from the big end. In fact, a lot of times just a tweak in the bind off will do the job – especially if it’s a tick to snug (less likely if it’s a tick too loose).

Nonetheless, most patterns seem to follow the bottom-up convention, so I s’pose I’ll have to make peace with it or figure out a reliable way to convert them. If there’s not a lot of complicated pattern stitches, that’s usually not too bad. But if there’s abunch of decreasing cables and so on… well that’s probably beyond my skill level anyway at this point. :wink:

You should cruise through the Ravelry pattern database - you can filter on hats and top down. I think you’ll be surprised at the results, including cabled hats.

Decreasing bottom up in cables wouldn’t be more difficult than increasing top down. You can do the incs/decs in the purl columns between the cables where they show the least.

And if it works for ya, there’s no reason NOT to use it.

I only have dpn in smaller sizes, I’ve even done I cord on circs but wouldn’t recommend it. I do socks toe up and can’t figure why it’s not the standard way to do socks, but as you say if it works for you that’s all that matters. Top down sweaters worked in the round are so much easier than working pieces and then seaming, too. I think I’ve seen patterns for raglan sweaters worked bottom up and instead of inc for sleeves work dec when you get there. I’m a klutz and drop things easily so lots of dpns get to be a pain really fast for me. I have a set of dpns for socks on order and they could arrive any time now, I may venture into dpn in the round on my sock tops, I’m using sz 0 and have 00 dpn on their way which may just be the thing for ribbing the top. If I can manage them.

In the patterns I’m talking about the decreases are in the cables themselves. Like this one (which I like a lot, but probably won’t attempt any time soon): http://www.strickmasche.de/caramel-cable-hat/.

Reversing the directions to go from the top instead of the bottom really isn’t the issue here. no matter which way you go, this pattern is probably a little beyond my current skill level. That’ll change, I’m sure (because until a few months ago making cloth from string with sticks was [I]all[/I] some kind of strange alchemy to me) but for now I think I’ll sit that one out. Besides, you gotta have a goal, right? :mrgreen:

For me a size 00 would be just the thing for [I]putting me in a sweater with extra-long sleeves that button in back.[/I] :oo:

I don’t own anything smaller than a US4 except for the smaller tips in an antique set of interchangeables that got passed on from one person to another because nobody wanted 'em. (I mostly use 'em for stitch holders. :mrgreen:)

That’s a really neat looking hat. I particularly like the tiny cables between the big ones. I saw your other post about how to make these. It does seem confusing, but as you say, maybe it makes more sense when you’re doing it.

Actually normal cables aren’t difficult and changing the size of your cables isn’t very complicated. Keeping track of where you are in the pattern might get a little tricky, but if you can knit, you can cable.

Besides, I saw your lovely chickens on the Whatcha’ Knittin’? forum, and if you can do that, you can do just about anything with “string” and those two sticks.

I say give it a try!

Oh I’ll definitely try it at some point. I like the pattern far too well not to. And besides, I can’t get myself in to more (knitting) trouble than my Yoda can get me out of. (She’s so good to me!)

I understand the basic method for cables, and it (mostly) makes sense I just don’t have any significant practice in it. That’s about to change though. Wendy (Yoda) and I are heading to Nags Head (on NC’s beautiful Outer Banks) for a long New Year’s weekend, during which time I will get intensive cable training.

The chickens were fun and instructive but only a short jump from the Very Basic Skill Set. Definitely no complicated pattern stitches (actually no pattern stitches at all… just stockinette and garter and a little bit of I-cord).

That’s a beautiful hat with lovely careful decreases to narrow the crown. You’ll laugh when you see how easy cables are to do and you’ll be makng this hat sooner than you think.

I just got through making a hat that was bottom up because of the design on it. It is called Woot! Woot Hat because the design is an owl pattern made from C2B and C2 F to make the body, head and head feathers. It is for my youngest grandson who is in Va. His Uncle Todd tried it on after it was finished and I knew then it would fit Tyler. I still have to sew the little buttons on it for the eyes and then it will be really finished.

I’ve seen that hat and have thought about making it. Will you post a photo?

Just a thought…is there anything preventing us from knitting a ‘bottom-up’ hat pattern in reverse order, that is to say, top-down?

Cast on the final number of stitches you would have decreased down to…and start knitting down…substituting decreases with increases?

Easy to figure the math, the number of stitches you’d need as you increase your way to the bottom, I’d think.