I have a theory that the best way to teach a new knitter to knit in-the-round is to start them off with a bottom-up seamless hat. The idea being that you start with a manageable 16" circular needle, then switch to double-pointed needles (dpns) to shape the crown. By the time we get to the dpns, there is enough substance to the hat to give the knitter a clear idea of where to go next. Casting on with dpns can be tricky, and it's my opinion that if you can get used to handling them before attempting the cast on, all the better.
Putting this theory to practice, I am teaching a class which is an introduction to knitting in-the-round, through the making of an adult hat. For the class I needed a hat that was as minimalist as possible and paid special attention to the points where most beginners get hung up-- joining in the round and switching to dpns. In this pattern, I treat joining in the round and switching to dpns as 'special techniques' which have a little bit more information, should the knitter have doubts as to how exactly it all works. Also, for the sake of simplicity, I kept to just a plain ribbing and stockinette, so that there are no fancy stitch patterns to keep track of and the knitter can just focus on the needles. To make this even easier, the shaping divides the hat into quarters, and decreases are worked at the beginning and end of each dpn, so that every dpn is the same. Finish it all off with a jaunty little pompom, and there you have it- you can now knit in the round AND you have a warm wooly hat!
This design also has special permissions allowing you to use this pattern for personal, charity, instructional, and non-commercial uses-- which means that you may not sell hats made from this pattern, but you may knit these hats for charity or use this pattern in a hat class of your own.
This pattern is available as a free Ravelry download
21 ½” / 55cm circumference at widest part, 8” / 20cm tall from brim to crown
Adult -- will fit an average adult head from 19-23 ½” / 48-60cm
Approx. 165 yards / 151 meters (75g) worsted weight yarn (including pompom)
1 ball of Ella Rae Classic Superwash (100% Wool; 219yds/100g) shown in Deep Red
20 stitches = 4” / 10cm in Stockinette
US 7 / 4.50mm 16” / 40cm circular needle or size needle needed to obtain gauge
Set of five US 7 / 4.50mm double-pointed needles
One stitch marker, tapestry needle, pompom maker
Worked in the round from the brim to the crown. Stitches are first cast on using the 16” / 40cm circular needle and joined in the round. The brim will then be worked in 1x1 rib for 1” /2.5cm. We then switch to Stockinette stitch and work until the hat measures 5” from the cast on edge. At this point the live stitches are slipped onto four double-pointed needles (dpn) and the fifth dpn is used to begin knitting around the hat. Paired decreases will be worked at the beginning and end of each dpn to shape the crown. The last remaining live stitches will then be thread through with the tail, and pulled to close. If you like, a pompom can be added to the top.