Monday, December 8, 2014

Morse Code Message Cap (aka the F..-ck Cancer Cap)

If you want to tell off cancer but don't want the world to read the message, here's the pattern for you, in three variations. All use a main color and a bit of contrast color.

The original cap has two stripes. Purl stitches present the secret message in Morse code.

Light stripes make the purl bumps visible.

This year I made two more versions, both with a folded up hem to hide the ends. The first slips a contrast-color yarn to the front to form the dots and dashes. You can see it at the top of the following picture.

A fold-up hem enables two-color knitting or slip stitches without messy ends.

The second version is all knit, with a contrast-color yarn forming the letters in knit stitches.

I originally made this hat for a friend. I'd already made her a F*ck Cancer hat, but that's not a hat I'd expect her to wear to the grocery store.

So I decided to make a hat that was invisibly rebellious.

This pattern happens to feature the number 8 (88 stitches, 8 rows of ribbing, 8 stitches at the top...). 8 is one of my favorite numbers and is considered lucky in some cultures.


Use whatever ultra soft, washable, worsted or lighter weight yarn you like, adjusting the pattern as needed for your gauge. I used Berroco Comfort (worsted).

You'll need about 50 g of the main color (MC) and 10 yards (or less) of the contrast color (CC). The CC should be light colored, so that the purl bumps are visible.

You'll need double-pointed needles and/or a 16-inch circular needle or two, in the normal weight for the yarn and, if possible, a size or two smaller (for the ribbing). I used two 16-inch circular needles in size 7 and 6.


Cast on 88 stitches in MC. (I used the larger circular needle.)

Note: If you're already comfortable making hats, the only interesting rows are 17-22. I plan to add instructions for the new versions, but basically you do a provisional cast on, then knit every row for X rows (6-9, I think), purl 1 row, then do the 2 Morse code rows evenly over the next X rows. The rest of the hat is the usual (as described below).


Round 1: Join and, using the smaller needle, *k2p2*. Place a marker at the end of the round.
Rounds 2-8: Continue to knit 2x2 ribbing (*k2p2*).


Rounds 9-16: Switch to the larger needle, and knit 8 rounds (or so).
Round 17: Switch to the CC, and knit 1 round (round 1 on the chart below).
Round 18: Knit "cancer" in Morse code (round 2).
Round 19: Switch to MC, and knit 1 round (round 3).
Round 20: Switch back to the CC, and knit 1 round (round 4).
Round 21: Knit "fuck" in Morse code (round 5 on the chart).

Rounds 22+: Switch back to the MC, and knit until you've reached 5 or so inches from the cast on.


Set up round: *knit 9, k2tog, place marker*.

Now do the following 2 rounds until you have 3 stitches between markers:
1. Knit
2. *Knit until 2 before the marker, k2tog*

You should have 24 stitches now. You're almost done!

*k1, k2tog, remove marker* (16 stitches remain)
*k2tog* (8 stitches remain)


Break the yarn, thread a needle with it, and draw the yarn tail through the remaining 8 stitches. Pull it tight.

Sew in the ends.

You're done!

The chart

You'll need 55 stitches for the message, if you use my message. Assuming your rounds are 88 stitches long, you need to knit 16 stitches, start the chart (reading bottom to top, right to left), and then knit 17 stitches.

For example, on round 18 (labeled "2" on the following chart):
k 16, p1, k1, p3, k1, p1 (R is complete), k3 (space between letters)

Here's the chart, courtesy of

Well, that's too small, isn't it. Click the chart to get a bigger version.

And here's the translation from English to Morse code to purls and knits, just in case it helps:

     f           u         c             k
     ..-.        ..-       -.-.          -.-
     X X XXX X   X X XXX   XXX X XXX X   XXX X XXX    

c             a       n       c             e   r
-.-.          .-      -.      -.-.          .   .-.

You can, of course, change the text to whatever you like. (Morse code translators abound on the web.) Just make sure you have enough stitches in a round to bear your message.

I used a knit-purl scheme I found in a blog post about a Morse Code Cowl:

  • Each dot is one stitch.
  • Each dash is 3 stitches.
  • Each dot or dash within a letter is separated by one stitch.
  • Each letter is separated by 3 stitches.

You could try some other scheme if you like—maybe beads? slipping wyif? embroidery?

A note about the design

The original f..-ck cancer hat
The original f..-ck cancer hat had 3-round stripes, separated by 2 rounds. However, the purl bumps looked a little low, so this pattern uses 2-round stripes.

The only problem is that the start/end of the round has no separation between stripes. Let me know if you come up with a good solution.