Hats can be great for needlework experiments. You only cast on about half a sweater's worth of stitches, play around with stitches and colours, bring the top to some sort of logical conclusion, and there it is — a hat. They're also great for stash-busting, because you only need to make one of them, and so long as they are in reasonably wearable colours, no-one is too concerned if they don't matchy-match one's coat and gloves perfectly.
Okay, that's true for Canada. Perhaps in more temperate climates people are pickier. Here the prevailing attitude is, "It's warm, it's clean, it fits, it doesn't look too awful and I gotta go out. Done." It's not unusual to see someone otherwise dressed in rather nice business attire sporting a toque in the colours and logo of their kid's hockey team.
The hat at the top of this post is the infamous Shedir pattern Knitty published a few years ago, and which is now part of their free download supporting breast cancer awareness. Shedir was designed as a chemo cap, but it's also a very stretchy design, so it will fit on the head of someone with hair.
I've made Shedir before; an effort that was originally made for me but wound up going to my friend Cathy. My face is too square/round to wear toque-style hats successfully, whereas hers is thinner and looks great in them.
It was fun working through the pattern again. Shedir is an absolute joy to knit, especially if you enjoy Bavarian/"baby" cables. The instructions are flawless and the finishing at the top transforms the mini braided cables of the sides into a nice flat star shape.
I used a stashed ball of Cascade 220 100% superwash wool, but if you are making it as a chemo cap, use the recommended Rowan Calmer. It's smooth, very soft, and super stretchy. It will feel good on a bare scalp not used to being bare, and if they like, the recipient can keep using it as a hat after their hair grows back.
The brown hat with the star colourwork is the Basic Hat pattern from Ravelry, plus a colour chart from the Norwegian Star earflap hat. Both are free patterns, and both happen to have the same stitch multiple, so they go well together (the Basic Hat author recommended the earflap chart). The version I made uses up some more yarn from the nieces' kitties playset. A lot of things are coming back to the kitties playset right now.
The last hat to show, but actually the first I made of these three, is the Windschief-ish hat I made from the same brown yarn as the Basic Hat. This is a beanie with a twisted-rib border, where a quarter of the stitches stay in twisted rib while the rest of the hat switches to stockinette. The ribbed section biases to one side by decreasing before and increasing after the section, until it's time to decrease for the crown. At that point, you decrease before and after the ribbed section, plus at two other equidistant points. Because there are only four decrease points instead of the traditional eight or twelve, you have to decrease every round instead of the usual every other. That means that the "camera iris" effect at the top of the hat shifts twice as fast, and the ever-narrowing ribbed portion swirls around the crown in a pleasing spiral effect.
At least, that's how this hat went. The pattern is for sale, for $6 USD. That's nearly $8 Canadian at the time of this writing, and for a hat I can guess so much about just by looking at photos... I just can't. There's instructions for a cowl included, but the cowl just seems to be the same as the hat, except you never do the crown shaping, and you put a twisted-rib border at the top as well as the bottom. The cowl "fits closely", which tells me it's the same circumference as the hat. I'm actually planning on making another hat and a cowl to match it, just because the pattern seems show off to take variegated yarns well, and I have several hundred grams of variegated to get out of stash.
In the meantime, I found... most of another skein of brown buried in a basket of red and blue yarns I had set aside for the giant stripey blanket. It's actually visible just left of centre in the first photo of that link. I'll have to figure out what to do with it, but I suspect it will be turned into another hat.