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Master Class: Designing Hoods in Knitting

Adding a hood to a knitted garment can be practical, fun, and create an interesting look. A hood can be an extension of the body that covers the head with or without a drawstring, or a separate accessory that combines hood with a little extra fabric at the base to create a scarf around the neck. This article discusses different types of hoods as an extension of a garment, with options for shaping and tips to creating a well finished hood.


Direction of Knitting

1. Flat from the front of the face to the back of the head. It's normally knit first, then sewn onto the garment once it is finished, and is a good option if the garment is already finished and you’re creating an “after-thought” hood. The cast on stitches frame the face and must be worked in a stitch pattern like Garter stitch or ribbing that will not curl.


2. From the neck up. This is the most popular direction of knitting a hood. The first and last stitches of each row frame the face, so selvedge stitches and a non-curling edge pattern must be used on the first and last few stitches of each row. Garter stitch is a good example but you can also use cables or any textured stitch that resists curling. If you slip the first stitch of each row, it helps keep the hood edge neat.


3. Top down. Normally worked with garments knit top down. It is fairly common however, to work a hood from the neck up using a provisional cast on, then return to the cast on stitches and work the rest of the garment top down.


Attaching a Hood

Before you start knitting, think about how the hood will be attached. The least invasive method is to pick up stitches around the neckline and work bottom-up, or work the hood top down. In each of these scenarios, the hood becomes an extension of the garment with as little bulk as possible around the neck. A hood can be knitted separately then sewn in place, but this creates an unnecessary seam around the neckline, on top of the edge that already exists from binding off stitches around the neck. With hoods, seams will be seen when the hood is down. I would reserve knitting a hood separately as an option only if you want a removable hood that will be attached with buttons.


Hood Shapes

Rectangle: In the most basic form, a rectangle can be knitted, folded in half, and joined. This creates a point which you may or may not like. It is simple and whimsical so it may be a fun option for a children’s garment or when you want to add a tassel to the point at the back.


Curved: A curved hood contours to the shape of the head. It provides a closer fit and provides a more natural look. This hood creates a rounded shape with shaping done in the middle of the back of the head with decreases or short rows. This style requires joining the two sides of the hood at the end.


Curved with a Center Panel: This hood creates a rounded shape which allows a center panel of patterns to continue the length of the hood. Shaping is done on each side of the back of the head. It is seamless with no join. Once finished, the hood is complete.


Rectangle Curved Curved with Center Panel


How to Shape the Hood

Increases: If you look at the circumference of a neckline versus the circumference of a head, you’ll see that in order for a hood to fit well, the hood should start out narrower at the base of the neck, then increase to add fullness for a better fit. Have you ever put on a hoodie that’s too tight and your head presses into the top messing up your hair and stretching the hood? Yes? Well, that’s why we’re increasing to add extra fullness. Increases allow the hood to rest on the head without stretching. If there is no neck shaping and the front is worked straight up with the full number of stitches before beginning the hood, then work about 1”/2.5cm from the neck in your hood’s pattern before starting your increases to create a nice fit around the neck. Then increase 10-20% of the back neck only over 2-4 rows to provide the extra fullness needed. If there is neck shaping, and the number of finished neck stitches resembles a standard neckline, then you will need to increase anywhere from 30-80% evenly across the length of the hood depending on how large or small the neck circumference is. Since more increases are being added, work about 1/2 ”/1cm before beginning increases, then increase every 4th or 6th row over about 2”/5cm.


Short Rows: Any type of short row you prefer will work for shaping hoods. The wrap and turn (w&t) method and German Short Rows are the most popular. The end result is the same. Markers will determine where to begin your short rows, depending on whether you are working a center line along the back of the head, or in thirds with short rows being worked at either side of the head. The initial set of short rows gets shorter each row. If your short rows are being shortened by one stitch each row, you will work to one stitch before the marker with the w&t method then work the next w&t, or for German Short Rows, you’ll work to the double stitch formed by the GSR, turn, then work the next double stitch. Continue doing this until all stitches outside of the markers have been worked. This curves the hood along the back of the head and adds height to the hood.


The second set of short rows is designed to pull the top panel down, flatter against the crown, then as you work the short rows you are working back and forth across the top of the head creating a fabric from the back of the head towards the face. The second set of short rows gets longer by one stitch each row. This does not add height to the hood, but adds depth to the hood, running from the face to the back of the head. By choosing a seamless short row method, decreases are not used. The short rows curve the hood around the head.


Measurements

Craft Yarn Council provides standards for chest, cross back, and neck measurements. A rule of thumb is that the neck should be about 45% of the body stitches for an adult and about 50% of the body stitches for a child, based on a normal fit with about 2”/5cm of positive ease. Your hood can be a continuation of the front of the garment without any shaping, in which case you’ll end up with a hood that widely surrounds the face with the extra fabric falling to the front of the shoulders when not worn. A hooded cloak is a good example of this. If you want a more tailored hood, leave about a 2”/5cm opening at the front of the neck.

The final hood height should be about 9” /22cm for toddlers, 10”/25cm for larger children and teens, 11”/27cm for small adults and 12”/30cm for larger adults. If you’re working short rows, use your row gauge to figure exactly when to begin your short rows since they will add height to the hood. If you’re working a center panel and you have 30 stitches outside of each marker, and you’re moving over one stitch with each short row, it will take 60 short rows to use up all 30 stitches. This is because you are turning at each wrapped stitch every right-side row, and the row gets shorter and shorter by 1 stitch each time. In order to work all 30 stitches, you’ll need to work 30 right-side rows or 60 total rows. At 8 rows per inch that’s 7.5”/19cm which creates a very deep hood. If you want your hood to end up being 11”/27cm high, you’ll subtract the 7.5”/19cm inches needed to work the short rows and you’ll begin working your short rows 3.5”/9cm from the base of the neck or the beginning of the hood if working a hood bottom up.


Another option is to shorten each row by 2 stitches each time. In this scenario, you will turn at one stitch before the wrapped stitch every right-side row. If you have 30 stitches and you’re wrapping every other stitch, then it will take 15 right-side rows to wrap all of the stitches, or 30 total rows. At 8 rows per inch, the short rows will add 3.75”/9cm in height.



For an 11”/27cm high hood, you’ll begin working your short rows at 7.25”/18cm from the base of the neck. For top-down hoods, you’ll work the short rows first, then work to the desired length of the hood.


Joins

There are three types of joins and as typical in knitting, the easiest is not the best.


Option 1 (Easiest) Joins can be made by casting off and seaming which produces a bulky, visible seam that will be felt when wearing.


Option 2: Use Three needle bind off, which also produces a ridge, but is less noticeable.


Option 3 (Best): Graft the two sides together using Kitchener’s stitch for an invisible join that feels good when worn. This is especially important when knitting hoods for babies. This is by far my favorite type of join for hoods that must be joined at the top. But not all hoods need to be joined at the top, so read on.


How to Knit a Hood

On each of the three hoods listed below, I have written to pick up stitches around the neckline, but you can CO the same number of stitches and work the hood separately if desired.


To Knit a Rectangular Hood

1. Pick up an even number of stitches around the neckline.

2. Slip first stich of each row and work a few non-curling selvedge edge stitches at each end.

3. Work for 1” in pattern then increase (See Increases).

4. Work in chosen pattern to desired length.

5. Fold in half and join (see Joins).


To Knit a Contoured Hood

1. Pick up an even number of stitches around the neckline.

2. Slip first stich of each row and work a few non-curling selvedge edge stitches at each end.

3. Work for 1” in pattern then increase (See Increases).

4. Work in chosen pattern to desired length before beginning short rows (see Measurements) and place a marker in the center with an equal number of stitches on each side.

5. Work short rows from the center marker out.

6. Work second set of short rows which creates a covering on the crown of the head.

7. Fold in half and join.


To Knit a Contoured Hood with Center Panel

1. Pick up an even or odd number of stitches around the neckline.

2. Slip first stich of each row and work a few non-curling selvedge edge stitches at each end.

3. Work for 1” in pattern then increase (See Increases).

4. Work in chosen pattern to desired length before beginning short rows (see Measurements).

5. Divide stitches in thirds with the left and right side number of stitches matching exactly and any extra odd stitch in the back section.

6. Work short rows outside of each of the side markers which adds height to the hood.

7. Work second set of short rows which creates a covering on the crown of the head.

8. Work a band like 1x1 ribbing around the edge.


Other Considerations

How will your hood behave when not worn? Fingering weight wool, soft merino or wool/silk blends with drape will lie flatter than worsted weight or cotton yarns. Stockinette patterns will lie flatter than heavily textured or cabled patterns.


A hood that is not being worn, exposes the wrong side of the join where the hood meets the body. The inside of the top part of the hood, and the wrong side of the front bands of a cardigan will all be clearly seen. For these reasons you need to weave in your ends neatly and make sure your finishing looks good on the wrong side in these visible sections.


When blocking, temporarily stuff the wet hood with a rolled towel or anything that will fill the space while the hood dries. This prevents creases and allows the hood to keep its desired shape.


I hope you enjoy working with the many styles of hoods and finding new applications for them. If you are interested in furthering your studies in knitwear design, I teach the certification program at TKGA for knitwear designers. This e-correspondence course allows you to work at your own pace and email materials when you're ready.

References

Holladay, Arenda. “Hoods, Pocket and Zippers” , TKGA.org


Newton, Deborah. Finishing School, Master Class for Knitters. New York, NY: Sixth & Spring Books, 2011.

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