Katie’s Kep, Knitting a Fair Isle Hat

crown of Katie's Kep hat

After I finished knitting two different pair of color-work mittens, I wondered what to knit next. Suddenly, knitting with only one strand of yarn seemed boring! I may be on a Fair Isle, or stranded-knitting jag for a while.

I was browsing Ravelry and a very pretty colorwork hat caught my eye. I decided to save it in my favorites. When I went to the designer’s hat page, I found that “Katie’s Kep” was a free pattern! It’s a stunning hat, so that was surprising. The designer created it as a tribute to her mother. The pattern called for using wool fingering yarn – which I have in abundance – so I had to make it.

Katie's Kep in Rauma wool
Fair Isle hat

Choosing Colors

When I was planning my mittens, I bought a lot of Rauma wool yarn, in various colors. I ended up using Brooklyn Tweed Arbor for both pair of mittens, so I had lots of Rauma wool left. The “Katie’s Kep” pattern uses this type of wool, so all I had to do was choose the colors. Simple, right?

Honestly, it’s tough for me to envision a finished product by selecting colors. As I began the brim for the hat, I was wondering if I had made a mistake in my colors. If you begin this hat and think the same thing, it will probably look better as you knit more.

Rauma finull PT2 pure wool yarn from Norway
Wool yarn from Norway
Stranded Fair Isle colorwork hat knit with Rauma Finull wool yarn.

I wanted a dark background and I had a dark blue called Dark Petrol Heather, which I used. The rows that look whitish are actually a very light green, and I messed up on the first section! I’m not used to doing this type of knitting, and this was more good practice for me.

I think the only color mistakes you can make is to have colors that do not stand out enough to show the design. Wilma Malcolmson (links to her website), the Shetland designer, includes four various color way suggestions with her pattern download, so you can go buy the colors she suggests. It takes the guesswork out of the color selecting.

I also began knitting the colorwork on the brim incorrectly and had to begin over. After the purls the yarn must go to the back before the knits are done. Newbie mistake – lesson learned. BTW, that brim ribbing is called “corrugated ribbing”.

Katie's Kep hand knit hat
Nearly done, just working the crown
Working the crown using double-pointed needles
Switching to DPN’s at the top of hat

Needle Size

Another problem I had was which size knitting needles to use? Many of the knitters mentioned that the hat had come out huge. I know that I am a tight knitter. Usually I have to go up a needle size for all patterns. Because of this, I stuck with the size 3 suggested needle and the hat ended up being a bit large, but not crazy. If I knit it again I will try a size 2. If it’s too small I can give it to my daughter, who has a small head.

Knitting the Crown Pattern

Knitting the crown took me almost as long as it took to knit the rest of the hat. It came out looking fine, and I only made a couple of color mistakes. I’m becoming used to using DPN’s, and hats only have a few rounds where they are needed, but along with the colorwork, it made for a challenge. An experienced colorwork knitter would not have a problem.

Below is a photo before washing. I still had lots of ends to tuck in. I had read that some knitters were using the CDD (center double decrease) as opposed to the pattern’s Sk2p. And I think it may look neater. I’m not experienced enough to know and I didn’t do my Sk2p’s correctly because I slipped the first stitch purl wise and it should have been knit wise. Live and learn. I should have looked it up.

crown of Katie's Kep hat
Crown detail before washing
There will be lots of yarn bits to weave in.

The Sk2p is a left-leaning decrease and the CDD has no lean, it makes a ridge straight up. Once washed, this hat will look perfect – fingers crossed. I have notes written all over this pattern for my next project.

Scottish Fishermen Keps

So what is a Kep? I had to look around for some info, and it seems they were colorful, Fair Isle hats worn by Scottish fishermen while out to sea. The hats had a liner to keep the head warmer, and some were like stocking caps – longer with a tassel or something at the top. The Kate Davies Designs (KDD) site has a bit of info about Keps.

The yarn I used (Rauma) is from Norway, so to truly knit a Kep, I suppose I need to use Shetland yarn from Scotland. Maybe next time. I have none in my stash, but it’s on my list of yarns to try.

More Keps and Fair Isle Hats For Us to Knit

If you love to do colorwork and want to try more hats like this one, I’m making a list here. The Katie’s Kep pattern is free. The printout is in small print and I had to enlarge the charts – and yes, you must be able to read a chart.

Where to Buy Wool Yarn

The Woolly Thistle is based in New Hampshire and sells lots of wonderful wool sourced from the UK, Scandinavia, and Europe. This type of yarn must be hand-washed. It comes in many beautiful colors as well as natural animal colors. The prices can be high at TWT compared to other places that sell the same type of yarn. I’ve found Jamieson & Smith 2-ply, 125 yard skeins at Fairlight Fibers much cheaper!

At Wool and Company they also sell Rauma wool yarn, and other types of course. Remember that the purpose of a hat is to be warm, so real wool will do the trick. Even if the yarn is hand-wash only, how often do you wash a hat?

12 thoughts on “Katie’s Kep, Knitting a Fair Isle Hat

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  6. Deborah Tolland

    I’ve just started this kep myself and was doing fine up until the big decreases began which is crucial for the pointed stars to appear at the crown. I have never knitted colorwork before, never knitted continental before, or used circular needles or double pointed needles or followed a pattern.. I was beginning to think I was a prodigy until I got to the crown. I will persevere and maybe knit a practice piece before I subject my lovely work to my inadequacies


    1. Pam

      Wow, you have chosen a big project for your first use of DPNs, circular, colorwork, etc. The crown of this pattern is a challenge for me, even when I knit it the second time! If you want to continue, I suggest you go slowly. It took me nearly as long to do the top as it did to knit the rest of the hat. I think that getting practice off the project is a good idea. I often do that too. Good luck! Are you on Ravelry? I’d love to see your Kep.


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