Monday, December 2, 2013

Kat Goldin and the Super Awesome Life-Saving Crochet Hat Chart

You needed to make a hat for your cousin Joe Shmoe for the holidays. You found the perfect pattern. You bought the perfect yarn. You selected the proper hook. You put a few hours of work into it...

...only to find that it was too small.

Okay, maybe you made a mistake or something, so you frogged the hat and re-made it. It was still too small. Um, what? You knew you followed the pattern exactly that time. You checked the yarn and the hook. The smiling hat-wearing man in the example picture was starting to make you angry. Maybe you tried the hat one last time before burning the pattern and yarn in a revenge fire and getting your cousin a pet rock instead, vowing never to make a hat again.

What gives? Well, there are several reasons that a hat can turn out too small, too large, too long, or not long enough. First, it's possible that there's an error in the pattern. A quick check of the pattern's rating, example pictures, and reviews can help you figure out if that's the case. Everything seems in order? Check your yarn. Some yarns, especially nicer ones, are not necessarily labeled with crocheters in mind. It might say it is between 4mm and 5mm, but it's closer to one or the other and using the wrong hook will make a significant difference in the item size. You might crochet more tightly or more loosely than the designer and the difference in your tension is affecting the item size. It may even be something as simple as the designer preferring a different brand of hooks. Even though you'd think a metric label would indicate standardization, two 6mm hooks from two different brands can make different sized stitches. I know, right? What kind of nightmare are we living in?

Here's the bottom line... your gauge is off. Most of the problems above are problems with gauge. No, don't run away! Please don't shut down when you hear the word "gauge". It may be easy to ignore gauge in the short term, but in the long term you will be a better crocheter if you take the time to understand it. Remember learning geometry in school? All gauge means is length times width. If a pattern says "5 rows by 5 stitches = 2 inches by 2 inches of single crochet" it means that, using the yarn and hook called for by the project, if you single crochet a square that is 5 stitches across and 5 rows tall it should measure 2 inches on each side. This is what's called a gauge swatch. If your swatch is smaller you are crocheting too tightly for the pattern and need to loosen up. If your swatch is larger you are crocheting too loosely and need to increase tension. You can also try sizing your hook up or down and checking the gauge again.

OR... can be a renegade with me and go off the grid off the pattern. Hate trying to change your tension or hook to meet the gauge? The chart I'm about to link you to was created by Kat Goldin for Slugs on the Refrigerator. Go read part one of her amazing tutorial and then come back for a chat. Back? Great! So, her explanation has a lot of interesting and useful information in it. Part two has even more. For our purposes today the only thing you really need to pay attention to is the chart of standard hat measurements. Look at the column marked "Flat Circle Diameter". That is your holy grail of hat awesomeness. Say you pull the charred remains of Joe Shmoe's hat pattern out of the fireplace and have another go at it. Work the pattern and notice as you go 1) the stitch pattern and 2) where you stop increasing. Consider the following hypothetical pattern:

Start with magic circle.
Round 1: Work 6 dc into ring. Sl st in first st to join. (6)
Round 2: Ch 3. Work 2 dc in each st around. Sl st in first to to join. (12)
Round 3: Ch 3. Work 1 dc in first st and 2 dc in next. Rep around. Sl st in first st to join. (18)
Round 4: Ch 3. Work 1 dc each in first 2 sts and 2 dc in next. Rep around Sl st in first st to join. (24)
Round 5: Ch 3. Work 1 dc each in first 3 sts and 2 dc in next. Rep around. Sl st in first st to join.  (30)
Round 6: Ch 3. Work 1 dc in each st around. Sl st in first st to join. (30)

The stitch pattern here is simple double crochet. To find where you stop increasing, I want you to look at the counts at the end of the rows. Notice how they go up by 6 each time? That's because you are increasing at a regular rate. You started with 6 stitches in the first round and now you are adding 6 stitches to each subsequent round. This results in a flat circle. But wait, the stitch counts for rounds 5 and 6 are the same! That means that round 5 is the last round of increases. After that you're just adding to the height of the hat.

It's time to break out your tape measure. According to Kat's chart, the diameter of your circle at the end of round 5 should be very close to 6.75 inches since you are making a hat for a man. If the circle diameter is greater than that your hat will be too big. If the circle diameter is smaller than that your hat will be too small. Here's how to fix this without changing gauge: frog a round if the circle is too big or add a round using a regular increase if the circle is too small. Do this until your circle comes as close as possible to the required diameter. It's that easy! Then finish the rest of the pattern. Note that your stitch counts at the ends of rounds will now be different, but as long as you are following the style of the pattern you'll be just fine doing this with simple hats. You can even check your hat height against her chart too! She deserves a medal.

Let me know if there's anything in this post you need help with. I realize it's a bit long. With some know-how and a little luck you can now tackle any hat pattern without fear (or fire).


  1. Thank you so much! I've needed this for a while now...

    1. I'm so glad that you find it helpful! Gauge is slightly more nuanced than my description, but I hope this post will help uncertain folks troubleshoot on simple hats and spare them the frustration I felt in my early days. By the way, can't wait until February ;)


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