Basic Beret: Creating a Top-Down Beret, i

A lot of people have downloaded the pattern for the Basic Beret, both here and on Ravelry. Not a lot of people seem to have made it, though. There has also been some criticism about the pattern itself, especially about the decreasing toward the top. There may be some validity to it, and it could also be the skill level of the individual using it. Given that, if you do decide to try this one, be warned that all I am providing is an insight into my own design process, and what I do. That said, let’s begin!

What do you want your beret to look like?

For my purposes here, I want a small pattern that can show how the beret expands outward.  I want a knitting pattern or stitch that is easy to memorize and small enough to illustrate my points in design.  I figured a pattern of 2 to 4 stitches would be good, and no more than 5 rows in length.

My idea is that, since I will be working from the center outward, I don’t want all the pattern stitches radiating out all at once, but incrementally.  I plan on 6 initial patterns of the stitch, increasing between the pattern stitches in purl, and then adding the knit stitches, which are the foundation of the mock cable rib.  As the pattern itself is 5 rows, the idea is to add a new pattern line every 5-10 rows to keep each pattern repeat parallel.

Preliminary Sketches of Top-Down Beret

My favorite on-line place to go is Knitting Fool, which is a repository of oodles of patterns.  I chose an eyelet rib or cable pattern that most of us have seen – 2 stitches, a yarn over in the middle, knit a few rows, and decrease by pulling a stitch over a couple to create the cable effect.  Here is my circular version, using Knit Visualizer, of the pattern.  I created the MCCO stitch using the stitch editor in Visualizer.

I may decide to move the purl stitches to the right end of the pattern.


As I am familiar with my own way of knitting, and about how many stitches per inch I usually get with a given yarn, I tend to skip this step.   However, if you do not know, or you like to swatch, make yourself a swatch knit in the round, and measure from there.  Gauge of flat knitting and circular knitting can vary.  Some good links for getting your gauge may be found here and here, and in the videos below.

Center Beginning

The first decision is to have a flat center, or a little tab, such as found on the classic wool beret, growing out of the center.  If you want a tab, this is how to do it.

Tab Beginning

This is done using I-Cord.  Using double point needles (dpns), cast on three stitches, leaving a tail of 4-5 inches in length.  I-Cord is done by knitting the three stitches, sliding them to the other end of the needle, and repeating.  This video is very nice in illustrating how to make an I-Cord.

While you are knitting, include that long tail left over from beginning.  This means you are doubling up your yarn and knitting the tail into the stitches.  This keeps the problem of the tab’s tail having to be woven in later on.   It also makes a fatter tab, so you may wish to use only two stitches for your I-Cord tab.  Whatever you do, knit all the stitches for each row of I-Cord, do not slip the first or last stitch if this is something you do with regular knitting.

I decided to do a 3-stitch I-Cord for the tab.  Here is my picture of the long-tail cast on, with a tail of about 6 inches.

Long Tail for I-Cord

Well, I knitted up a 3-stitch I-Cord.  Too fat!  Ripped it out, and produced a 2-stitch I-Cord.  Here is the tab, knitting the tail in as I created the I-Cord.  And, as you see, there are now 4 stitches, which can be used as the foundation for the beginning of the beret.  There is also nothing to weave in along the I-Cord itself.

2-Stitch I-Cord, with Long Tail Knitted Into Work

Now that you have all sorts of information, here we go . . .and to quote Elizabeth Zimmermann,

Pithy Directions (so far)

Yarn:  Full of Sheep, in cream

Gauge (from yarn wrapper):  4 st. per inch, 5 rows per inch

Needle Size (from wrapper): US 10.5

I am using size 8 needles because I knit loosely.

Directions: You can knit this beret with the traditional center tab, or flat.  Up to you.  I am using a tab for mine.

Begin Tab.  Using a long-tail method of cast-on, cast on 2 stitches with about an 8-10 inch tail.  Make the I-Cord (see above video or written directions) knitting with the long tail and the skein yarn doubled together.  Knit 5 rows of I-Cord.  At the end, there will be a total of 4 stitches available from the doubled yarn of the I-Cord.

No Tab: Cast on 4 stitches.  Knit one row.  Divide evenly over 3-4 needles.  Mark beginning of round.


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