Free Patterns

Making Swatching Fun!

…Or at least making swatching productive!

It’s no surprise to our readers that we are fans of swatching. At this point, it really goes without saying. One of my tried and true methods of swatching, and one that doesn’t feel like a chore, is to knit a hat instead of a swatch. I do a lot of garments in the round, and when I do I usually try out the pattern first on one (or more) hats for my son. It’s also a great way to try out alternate colorways! When I was designing Jackson in Road to China Light I knit about four different hats, so many that in fact we added a hat pattern, Laramie, to the Heartland Collection!

When we were working on the Arranmore Collection, we decided to knit a second trunk show for shops, since the collection was so popular. We had the opportunity to choose alternate colorways for the second set of samples, and this meant that for one of my designs, St. Brendan, I needed to knit some swatches.

I knew I wanted to use a set of neutrals to create a more unisex design, so I grabbed a skein of the five neutral Arranmore colors and set to work.

Your kids, your friends, your friends’ kids – they can never have too many hats. I don’t worry too much about how many stitches I cast on, I just know I want to cast on enough stitches to get around a 16″ circular needle with a number that is the correct multiple for the pattern. 

For St. Brendan, the ribbing is a 2×2 (knit 2, purl 2) so I needed to cast on a multiple of four stitches. 64 seemed like plenty. Remember, the hat will fit someone’s head. You just may have to find the right head. I used the needles specified in the pattern and got to work. Knowing I would be making, surely, more than one hat I knew I could always try again with more, or fewer, stitches. 

I finally settled on the colors for the hat after much agonizing, and a fair amount of hat making. Sadly, I didn’t end up using my favorite Arranmore color, Ciaran, but that’s okay. I knit the alternate Burtonport using that color to make up for it. 

While I was swatching, my son grabbed this hat and said, “Is this for me?” You betcha, kiddo.


YARN: The Fibre Co. Arranmore (80% merino wool, 10% silk, 10% cashmere; 175 yds (167m)/100 gm skein): Malin Head (MC) 1 skein, Glenveagh Castle (CC1) 1 skein, St. Claire (CC2), 1 skein, Cronan (CC3) 1 skein.
1 – 16” (40 cm) US 8 (5 mm) circular.
1 – 16” (40 cm) US 9 (5.5 mm) circular.
1 – set US 9 (5.5 mm) DPNs.
NOTIONS: Stitch marker, tapestry needle

worthy of note

There is no size or gauge listed for this pattern, because it is essentially a swatch. Every hat will be unique, but it’ll surely fit someone. Use the needles size listed, or the one you think appropriate for the yarn weight for the way you knit (loose vs. tight). Decreases are worked to shape the crown. Switch to double pointed needles (dpns) when the work no longer fits comfortably around your 16″ circular.


CO 64 sts using CC1. Join for working in the rnd, being careful not to twist sts. PM indicating beg of rnd. Work in K2, P2 Ribbing for 2″ (5 cm). 

Change to larger needles and knit 1 rnd, increasing two sts evenly – 66 sts. Work chart Rnds 1 – 15.

Work in MC for 1.5″ more. Work decreases as follows:


Rnd 1: *K9, k2tog; rep from * around –  60 sts.
Rnd 2: *K8, k2tog; rep from * around – 54 sts.
Rnd 3: *K7, k2tog; rep from * around – 48 sts.
Rnd 4: *K6, k2tog; rep from * around – 42 sts.
Rnd 5: *K5, k2tog; rep from * around – 36 sts.
Rnd 6: *K4, k2tog; rep from * around – 30 sts.
Rnd 7: *K3, k2tog; rep from * around – 24 sts.
Rnd 8: *K2, k2tog; rep from * around – 18 sts.
Rnd 9: *K1, k2tog; rep from * around – 12 sts.
Rnd 10: *K2tog: rep from * around – 6 sts.

Break yarn, leaving a 8″ (20.25 cm) tail. Thread through live sts, pull taut. Weave in ends. Soak in cool water and wool wash and lay flat to dry. 

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