Black & Red Checkerboard Beanie: a Fun, Free Chemo Cap Knitting Pattern

This delightfully textured, simple beanie pattern created by reader Maria Avery makes a wonderful chemo cap

Note: I am reproducing this beanie pattern designed by Maria Avery with her permission. All rights are reserved to her. You may not publish this pattern elsewhere. Thank you.

I think we can all agree on the importance of chemo caps for cancer patients. Those of us who love to knit hats for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy know just how needed these hats are.

With any knitting project, and especially when we’re knitting for charity, one of the biggest struggles is balancing the need for ease of knitting with the need to engage the mind. We want our project to be easy enough so that we aren’t frustrated, but hard enough so that we’re not tempted to fall asleep when we should be knitting.

(Have you ever fallen asleep mid-project before? How about mid-stitch? I have!)

The pattern below, designed by Knitting Nuggets reader Maria Avery, is the perfect knitting antidote!

I love the checkerboard design; it creates such beautiful texture. It’s nothing but knitted stitches and purled stitches, which makes it quite easy. However, the way you’ll be switching between blocks of knitted and blocks of purled stitches means you won’t get bored.

Let’s dive in!

Notes from Maria

“[I designed these] caps originally for cancer patients who have lost their hair; however, adjustments can always be made.  My head circumference, from l/2-inch above the brow, is about 20 1/2 inches.  

“I like [Plymouth Encore] yarn especially for the winter. And yes, men can wear [this pattern]. I have found that adjustments are often necessary depending on the yarn, the needles used, and of course, the head size.

Find Plymouth Encore Yarn here!

Note: the link below is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase after clicking a link, I may receive a commission; it costs you nothing extra. Thank you!

  • You can find Plymouth Encore Yarn (worsted weight) right here at Etsy!

“This cap covers the ears. The measurement from cast on to the crown decrease is about 6 inches.”

Maria asks that you use this pattern only for gifts and charity, not for monetary gain. (Unless you’re knitting hats to sell for charity fundraising.)

For more free hat knitting patterns, look here!

Maria Avery’s Black & Red Checkerboard Beanie Pattern

Black & red Checkerboard Beanie in progress

Materials Required:

Yarn: Plymouth Encore in Black & Red, or another washable worsted weight yarn.

(Of course, you can use any color combination you desire!) You should need no more than 1/2 skein of each color.

Needles: sizes 7 and 8 in DPNs or circular needles

k – Knit
p – Purl
k2tog – knit 2 stitches together
p2tog – purl 2 stitches together

With size 7 needles and black yarn, cast on 90 stitches via the crochet chain provisional method. (You can use a different cast-on if you wish, but Maria has found that it gives the cap a smoother edge.) For a tutorial, check out Very Pink Knits’ video here.

Checkerboard chemo cap beanie
Photo: Maria Avery

Knit the 1st round.

For the next 14 rows (or about 2 inches), *k3, p3; repeat from * to end of round.

Change to size 8 needles and knit 1 round. This round creates a smooth transition from black to red.

Switch to red yarn and begin beanie stitch pattern.

Rounds 1 to 6: *k9, p9; repeat from * to the end of round.
Rounds 7 to 13: *p9, k9; repeat from * to the end of round.

Repeat these 13 rounds until you’ve knitted 6 inches from the cast-on edge, or until the desired length has been reached.


Round 1: *k3, p2, k2tog, k1, p2; repeat from * to end of round.
Round 2: *k3, p2, k2tog, p2; repeat from * to end.
Round 3: *k3, p2, p2tog, p1; repeat from * to end.
Round 4: *k3, p2, p2tog; repeat from * to end.
Round 5: *k3, p1, p2tog; repeat from * to end.
Round 6: *k2tog, k1, p2; repeat from * to end.
Round 7: *k2tog, p2; repeat from * to end.
Round 8: *k2tog, p1; repeat from * to end.
Round 9: *k2tog, repeat from * to end.
Round 10: Repeat round 9.

Break yarn, leaving about an 8-inch tail. Thread yarn with a tapestry needle through the remaining stitches two or three times to give it a smooth closing.
Weave in remaining ends.

Photo: Maria Avery

A million thank-yous to Maria for allowing me to publish this pattern. If you try it, be sure to let me know what you think!

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  1. I saw directions for converting circular or do needles to two straight on line. I can’t find the directions again. Any help you can give me would be appreciated. Thank you. Margaret

  2. I’ve tried knitting several times , so I didn’t do as good as I wanted then I stopped. I will try some of your patterns because I want to succeed in the small items. Thanks Joyce