We won't try to teach you to knit here. The best way to learn to knit is from someone who knows how. If you don't know someone who can teach you to knit, ask for help at a local yarn-goods store.
Once you know knitting basics, you'll be ready to take on the Shady Hill hat. (The pattern is courtesy of Judith Austen.)
1. Using one skein (about 4 oz., or 190 yards) of worsted-weight wool, cast on 80 stitches onto No. 8, 16-inch round needles. (Bamboo needles are best.) Round needles are the ones linked together by flexible plastic. You will also need a tapestry needle, at least one skein of a contrasting color yarn, and knitting markers (yarn stores sell them).
2. Purl the first row, using a different color. (Children may need help purling.) Knit (do not purl) four more rows. Alternate colors with every row, so you can see if you made every stitch. You'll have four rows of garter stitch.
3. Join at the fifth row so that you have a complete circle. (It's OK that the first four rows aren't joined. Safety-pin them closed for now.)
4. Before you join the fifth row, be sure the strip doesn't have a twist in it. Keep checking that the circle is even all around, and that the knitted rows face down from the needle.
5. Variations: If you decide to make a color pattern that requires 'dragging' a strand of yarn, add 10 more stitches before you start dragging. (In other words, put 90 stitches on your needle before you begin a color pattern.)
6. Keep going until you have seven or eight inches of knitting. Try on your hat. If you want it longer, knit another inch or so. (Don't skimp! If your hat is too short, it won't stay on.)
7. Count your stitches. If you have 80, knit eight stitches and insert a marker. (Markers are small plastic circles.) Knit another eight stitches and place a second marker. (If you have 90 stitches, insert a marker after every nine stitches.) Continue marking every eight (or nine) stitches until the entire circle is divided up. (It's OK if the last section has fewer than eight stitches.)
8. On the next row, knit six stitches, then knit together stitches No. 7 and 8. (See diagram.) Move the marker to the right-hand needle. Knit the next section, joining stitches No. 7 and 8. Continue.
9. Row 2: This time, knit together stitches No. 6 and 7. (You're always knitting together the last two stitches before a marker.) Your circle is getting smaller....
10. Keep knitting together the last two stitches before each marker, until there's only one stitch between each marker.
11. Cut a piece of yarn 12 inches long. Thread the tapestry needle with it. Use the needle to slip the 10 stitches onto the yarn. Pull it tight to close your hat! Sew the circle closed, and direct the extra yarn to the inside of the hat. Cut the excess. Now sew up the gap in your first four rows, too.
How do you like your new hat?