Designing a Pattern: Berets

I’ve been making hats and socks for what seems forever – certainly since high school and college. Both are rather formulaic. Socks are easy enough – if you know how to make socks, you no doubt have your formula, and adapt based on weight of yarn, design elements, and for whom it is being made. Hats are the same – toques, watch caps, berets – all have basic principles, and you move on from there. However, there is a big difference in trying to write down a pattern for someone else to use!

Basic Beret Formula

This is my basic formula for a beret-style hat, and from it have sprung many.

  1. Measure head of intended recipient (if possible). If not possible, I use 18-20 inches for an adult woman, average size (meaning me!).
  2. Figure out the general gauge of yarn in stockinette.
  3. Multiply stitches per inch of yarn, and multiply that number. Example: 6 stitches per inch for a 19 inch head results in 114 stitches.
  4. Determine the ribbing or bottom edging of the hat. If ribbing, I usually will decrease my total cast on so that the hat will be snug, and the stretch of the ribbing will allow for comfort at the same time. If the bottom border of the hat is not in ribbing, I still decrease a bit, but not as much perhaps. A decrease of 1 to 2 inches is normal.
  5. What is the pattern going to consist of after the ribbing or lower edge is completed? If the design has definite elements of obvious knit and purl, I try to work the ribbing into the first row of the pattern, to allow for a smooth transition between the two.
  6. Berets require some expansion from ribbing to the pattern, and this also means increasing stitches. I usually like to increase the number of stitches anywhere from a third more, to doubling, depending on how the pattern knits up. This can be done by increasing stitches in the ribbing or band, as well as moving from smaller to larger needles.
  7. Finally, I knit the hat. As I knit, the hat sort of creates itself, even if I have an idea in mind. Sometimes a hat starts out as slouchy and loose, but the pattern may change that. Or vice versa. Sometimes I consider if I want to block out the hat pattern – easier to see once knitting begins – or not. And take it from there.
  8. Ending the hat is perhaps the most complicated part of the pattern. Where there are decreases, such as SSK or K2TOG, it can be advantageous to the design to K1B. How to incorporate YO can also be a design challenge!

Beret in Design

So, there we have it – a brief outline on designing a beret as I do it. Pretty soon I hope to have a pattern available . . . and let’s see how well it takes off! I have written out the pattern in a rough manner, and have a test knitter in the person of my wonderful mother-in-law, Judy, and hopefully in my friend Donna will be available for the final draft.

Next task: creating a nice publication for the pattern!


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