What is the Best Yarn for Hats?
Learn which types of yarn best suit your hat needs.
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The easy answer to this question is this: the best yarn for hats is the yarn that your pattern calls for. It's as simple as that. However, what if you're "winging it" or making up your own pattern? That's when the answer gets a little more tricky. The type of hat that you're looking to knit will play a big factor in what kind of yarn is best suited for it. Even the season in which your knitting can influence the kind of yarn you'll want to use!
Let's say you've "shopped your stash" and you're still clueless, or you've finally managed to use up all the yarn you've been hoarding over the years (sure) and you're ready to pick up something new for your first project to ring in autumn. If we can break down the kind of hat you're looking to knit, we can most easily identify the best kinds of yarn for you to use. We've even reviewed some yarns right here in our office for you to consider!
Table of Contents
I want to knit a basic winter hat
No frills, no nonsense. If you just want to knit a nice winter hat, your best bet is wool yarn. Wool is durable, absorbent, both breathable and warm, and is a nice, readily-available natural fiber you can pick up at any big box yarn store for a reasonable price. While acrylic is certainly a cheaper option, wool has it beat for wearables because acrylic is a bit stuffy. Still, if you're not willing to shell out the money for some nice wool yarn, acrylic is washable, which is handy in the gross, snowy winter time. You can even purchase wool and acrylic blends to save a little bit of money but still get some of the benefits of wool. If you feel like splurging a bit, I can't recommend alpaca enough. It has all the benefits of wool yarn but is so amazingly soft.
For yarn weight, you're going to want to err on the side of "warm," so we recommend either worsted or bulky weight yarn on appropriate needles for each weight. Super bulky yarn is also an option if you don't mind a stiffer texture, but we recommend staying away from jumbo yarn because it may just be too stiff and chunky for such a small project.
Any kind of color will suit you, but since you're looking to knit a very basic hat, why not spice it up with some fun colors? For that reason, we recommend variegated, gradient, hand-dyed, or speckle yarn for some added flair. You could also use tonal yarn for a more subtle, grown-up, but still eye-catching look. Alternatively, just use a solid color if you want that minimalist look! There are no hard and fast rules for the color of a basic winter hat.
We love these yarns for knitting basic hats:
If you want to learn more about when to use the different sorts of yarn fibers, check out our article on How to Pick Yarn for Knitting
I want to knit a stranded colorwork or fair isle hat
Great! I'm a huge fair isle fan, myself. As for fiber content, the same rules as above apply. Go for wool or alpaca if you're looking for something a little warmer for winter, or go for acrylic if you're looking for washability and to save some money. If you want to knit something a little lighter for spring, but still washable, cotton or linen are both great choices. The fiber content is mostly dependent on the season for which you're knitting. Avoid anything too hairy or novelty yarns so you don't drown out the fair isle design.
The lovely intricacies of a fair isle design can easily be lost in heavier weight yarns, so we recommend going no heavier than worsted weight yarn in this case. Bulky fair isle hats are doable, but would probably look best with a more simplistic fair isle design. A worsted weight fair isle hat would be great for something for the colder months, whereas a fingering weight fair isle hat may suit you better for spring. Decide where your warmth needs lie before choosing.
Finally, the most important consideration for fair isle knits: the color. Avoid multicolored yarns since you're already going to be working with two colors and you don't want to lose your fair isle design under the busy color-changing of a variegated yarn. Pick two or more solid colors for this venture, depending on your design, for safety. If one of your colors appears much more than the other, I highly recommend that yarn be a tonal yarn. The subtle ebb and flow of the color in a tonal yarn provides a lovely backdrop for the contrasting color and helps keep your design from falling flat.
Here are some great yarns for fair isle hats to consider:
I want to knit a lightweight slouchy hat or beret
If you're looking to knit a hat with even a little bit of slouch, you're going to want to use a yarn that has a nice drape. Drape, as nicely defined by Interweave, is the ease with which stitches are able to move past each other. Basically, it's how nicely the yarn 'falls' over the body, rather than stiffly holding its shape. You're going to want to pick a yarn with good drape for wearables like sweaters or tops, and for more loose, boho sorts of knits like slouchy hats. Yarn with a fiber content that includes silk, alpaca, or bamboo.
If you can't find (or aren't willing to pay) for those sorts of yarn, at least choose a nice, lightweight yarn for the job—preferrably fingering, sport, or DK weight (but worsted is certainly doable). Just make sure to achieve that drape that you knit with a slightly larger needle. For instance, DK weight yarn calls for size 5-7 needles, so I would choose size 7 needles for maximum drape. This will ensure that your stitches don't end up stiffly sitting up straight and give you that nice slouch.
As for color, anything is fair game. If you're doing an intricate stitch design, perhaps stick to something solid or tonal. If this is going to be a basic stockinette stitch beret, add some intrigue with a multicolored yarn of some sort. After all, there's more space to show off color on a slouchier hat!
Check out these yarns with great drape for slouchy hats or berets:
Are you looking for more uses for all that sock weight yarn in your stash? They'd make a great beret, but check out a bunch of different pattern ideas for them here: 24 Free Sock Weight Yarn Knitting Patterns
I want to knit a nice cabled hat
As usual, it's important to consider what season you're knitting for in this instance, but in this case, I would recommend against certain yarns. Keep your fiber choices to anything other than plant fibers (cotton, bamboo, linen) or alpaca. While there are always exceptions that prove the rule, most of these fibers don't hold their shape as nicely as wool does over time, and a yarn's ability to keep its shape is important when you're working up a nice, sturdy cable. Once again, avoid hairy or novelty yarns if you want your cable to really stand out.
I'm going to echo my previous recommendation for winter hats here: worsted or bulky weight will do nicely here, since people often want cabled hats to have that cozy, wintery look and feel to them. Lighter weights will work just fine if you're not concerned about the warmth of your hat (as long as you knit the hat so it's tight enough against your head that your cables don't get lost in slouch!), but anything heavier than bulky yarn will, again, likely produce too stiff of a fiber and lose your design.
For color, I cannot recommend tonal yarn enough for cables. You have all the fun of color changes without anything distracting people from the cabled design. If fun yarn designs aren't terribly important to you, solid colors are a perfectly good choice. I just have to recommend against anything multicolored again in this instance since the stunning cables you knit up will drown amidst all the color.
These tonal yarns will be perfect for cabled hats:
I want to knit a hat for a baby or child
Lucky you! We all love knitting for little ones. I would recommend against wool in this case for a variety of reasons. Firstly, for a baby, you likely don't know yet if he or she has an allergy to wool, and the hat is probably going to require a lot of washing because babies are messy. Secondly, for a child, they can be quite finicky with the feel of yarn against their skin, and wool can sometimes lean in the "scratchy" direction. Anything soft and washable is a good choice, but I recommend acrylic or cotton for the washability and affordability. If you know for a fact that wool allergies aren't an issue, superwash wool is a type of wool designed to be able to be machine washed without felting, so you can give the little one all the warmth of wool and not worry about it getting messy.
Yarn weight should be on the lighter side; just like with fair isle hats, fingering, sport, DK, or worsted are excellent choices. Anything bigger than that will likely be too bulky for little heads. After all, your project itself is smaller now! DK is absolutely the most popular yarn weight for baby knits, and you can walk into any big box craft store and find a full aisle of DK-weight acrylic yarn, if that's the route you choose to go. They're often available in all kinds of pastels, too, making them perfect for babies.
Again, with color, this fully depends on the stitch pattern. See my recommendations above for slouchy hats or berets. Something else you'll want to consider: the child's favorite color or the color of the nursery! The mom and dad will love this attention to detail, and so will the little one.
We love these yarns for smaller hats:
Check out this Pumpkin Pecan Slouchy Beret pattern!
Note: This project is from I Like Knitting digital magazine. Non-members can access 3 free patterns every month. Subscribe to the I Like Knitting Gold Club for unlimited access to their entire pattern archive, featuring hundreds of exclusive patterns.
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