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12 Free Knitting Patterns for Hats to Get Scrap-Happy

Keep out the cold with these free knitting patterns for hats using leftover yarn

Before I introduce you to this collection of free knitting patterns for hats using leftover yarn, let me tell you what made me compile this list.

In northeastern Oklahoma, winter-like cold had arrived much earlier than usual. While I was still living in Ohio, I purchased a heavy black winter coat that was perfect for bitter winters.

It’s a fabulously warm coat. But, it has one flaw: a very floppy hood. It keeps my head nicely warm when it is up, but if it is windy, that hood falls right off my head.

I tell you this because this morning, I decided that I was tired of holding my hood up in windy weather, and I was tired of borrowing my husband or older daughter’s hats.

I’m a knitter! I should have my own hand-made hat!

You would think that with all the hats I have made over the years, I would have one of my own. (Well, I used to, but I left it at my grandfather-in-law’s house in Michigan one year.)

I went into my yarn stash, fully intending to pull out a nice skein of yarn with which to make my hat. Preferrably, I wanted a wool or wool-blend hat. But upon rooting through my stash, I realized that I didn’t have a single worsted-weight skein of wool/wool-blend yarn.

I had other weights — bulky, DK — but no worsted. I also had lots and lots and lots of beautiful scraps of leftover wool yarn.

And so, after assembling some of my prettiest leftover half- and even quarter-skeins of worsted weight wool yarn, I sat down with Ravelry and compiled the list below.

Scrap Yarn Hat for Baby or Child - Julie Berg
Scrap Yarn Hat for Baby or Child
Photo: Julie Berg

Free Knitting Patterns for Hats Using Leftover Yarn

Scrap Yarn Hat for Baby/Child: This is a beautiful little hat that is a great way to practice colorwork on a smaller scale.

Golden Pear: This is another baby hat, though you can make it larger by adding cast-on stitches in multiples of 8. “Golden pear” refers to the colors of yarn the designer chose. Of course you can choose any colors you wish for a delightful design.

Turn a Square - Jared Flood & Brooklyn Tweed
Turn a Square
Photo: Jared Flood and Brooklyn Tweed

Turn a Square: This hat pattern continues to be one of the most popular adult hat patterns on Ravelry. The pattern places simple yet interesting stripes throughout. Again, you’ll need to go through a check-out process to access the pattern, but it is indeed free.

Rib-a-Roni: A fully ribbed hat that can be made solid or with stripes. Scroll down through the blog post until you hit upon the pattern.

Fish Hat Dead or Alive - Thelma Egberts
Fish Hat (Dead or Alive?)
Photo: Thelma Egberts

Fish Hat (Dead or Alive?): This hat is just too funny for words. It’s perfect for a zany child or an equally zany (and adventurous) adult.

Scrappy Flap Hat: This is a stranded hat pattern in both child and adult sizes. Not for the faint of heart, but very rewarding!

Oisin Hat - Cathy McFadden
Oisin Hat
Photo: Cathy McFadden

Oisin Hat: If you’d like to try a stranded hat on a smaller scale, you need this baby beanie.

Floppy Fairisle Hat - Virginia Tollock
Floppy Fairisle Hat
Photo: Virginia Tollock

Floppy Fair Isle Hat: The warning is right in the title! This is indeed a Fair Isle hat, wonderful for using up leftover yarn. If you’re ready to tackle Fair Isle, or if you’re a pro, this may be the hat for you.

December Stripes
Photo: sms on Ravelry

December Stripes Pattern: Here’s a stranded beanie that is available for both children and adults. Another great way to practice stranded knitting! Note that the blog post at the bottom of the Ravelry page is no longer active, but the “free Ravelry download” link still works.

Malabrigo Motley: If you have lots of different colors of leftover yarn, this is the hat for you. Have fun with it!

free knitting patterns for hats
Scraphappy Hat

Scrap-Happy Celebration Hat: Finally, we’ve reached the pattern I chose. I wanted simple stripes that wouldn’t require a lot of concentration to knit. But I still wanted enough interest to hold my attention. I also wanted a slouchy hat, rather than a snug-fitting beanie. The purl round added whenever you change colors was just enough to make a hat that I could knit without getting too impatient! (I’ve finished the hat since originally publishing this article — here it is!)

I hope you’ve found a hat to knit with your leftover yarn, just as I have, from these free knitting patterns for hats.

free knitting patterns for hats with leftover yarn
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  1. do you have suggestions for avoiding the DPNs by starting with a magic loop? What other changes would go with this?

    1. Hi Paula, great question!

      When you’re changing from DPNs to Magic Loop, the only real difference is that you’re going from 3 or 4 needles holding stitches to only 2. You’ll want to keep this in mind for any pattern instruction that makes reference to the needles. For instance, if an instruction says “knit all stitches on needle 1, purl all stitches on needle 2, knit all stitches on needle 3, purl all stitches on needle for,” what you would actually do is combine the first two instructions and the last two instructions and work those stitches on just the two needles.

      I hope that helps! If there’s a particular pattern that calls for DPNs that you would like to use Magic Loop for, let me know and I’ll be happy to answer any specific questions you have.

  2. as always, Nicole, a wonderful set of idea for “left over” yarn–I do dislike discarding these.
    My deployed military hats are knit with two separate comparable colors–and, this helps.
    Also, I as for little gifts, I knit 56 bookmark size crosses for our local senior centers luncheon–of various “left-over” yarn, and, I am pleased to say, these were very well received.

    Children’s hats are a GREAT way to mix colors–and, there is always a child (boy or girl) who will love it. Whether for personal gifts or charity. Thanks, again for a newsy, newsletter!!

  3. Great collection, Nicole! Stash-busting striped or stranded knits are pretty much my favorite type of projects. Once in a while I get a hankering for a nice, fresh skein that I can knit without wondering how much I have and if it’ll be enough, but I love the challenge to my creativity presented by partial skeins or oddballs. It feels great to use up yarn you might not otherwise have found a home for, plus this approach has led me to some really unique, and often surprisingly successful, color combos and designs. Many times, these hats—thrown together mainly because I don’t want to waste yarn—completely outshine the ones that are carefully planned with specially chosen designer yarn!

    Here is another one that would be a great stash-buster. I don’t think I’ve ever followed this exact pattern, but I refer to it and similar ones often, just to get inspiration for the variety of stitches and colors. Making hats that have a lot of variation like this one—a little moss stitch, couple of rows of garter stitch, a section of helix stripes, some fair isle designs, etc.—fulfill that desire to knit something besides just row after row of stockinette, but also don’t require a chart or a lot of concentration and are therefore good candidates for TV-watching, “mindless” knitting.

    I also *love* the multitude of curlique toppers on this one! (Although I like to crochet mine, as I find it easier and a lot quicker.)

  4. I’ve been thinking of making some blankets for Afghan refugees but … HATS!!! OF COURSE! A quick and personal gift. A little early in the season, sure, but winter will come all too soon. Thank you, Nicole!!!

    1. About 90% of my knitting is hats, and about 90% of the hats I knit are for charity. They’re quick, are great for using up oddballs (see my post), are portable, and don’t weigh you down or heat you up like scarves, sweaters, and especially afghans can! Mennan, do you know of a particular charity that serves the refugees? I’m always looking for places where I can donate knits and know that they’ll be appreciated. Last year I didn’t donate any (blame it on the pandemic) but in 2019 I sent a bunch to Team Brownsville, which was working with refugees at the Mexico/US border. Anyhoo, happy knitting!