How to Knit Ribbing


You might notice that just about every sweater you own has ribbing: on the cuffs, around the waistband. Then there are gloves, the rim of hats, the top of socks. Ribbing is one of the most useful versatile knitting techniques as it can have a place in almost any knitting project.

Ribbing is so critical because of the elasticity of the fabric. It is stretchy, but fitted and always reverts back to form. Ribbing also makes a good border on a flat project that’s knit in stockinette, which would otherwise curl on the bottom or top edges. Beyond that, ribbing is perfect for creating a pattern on its own, like a scarf.

So how do you knit ribbing? Ribbing is a series of alternating columns of stockinette stitch, one column facing outward next to a column facing inward. The most common ribs are 1 x 1 and 2 x 2.

First, let’s look at how to knit ribbing on straight needles. For 1 x 1 ribbing, the first row is knit 1, purl 1. Then the next row, you knit the purls and purl the knits. So if you have an even number of stitches, the pattern is k1, p1 each row. For an odd number of stitches, the first row is k1, p1 while the second row is p1, k1. This creates that stockinette V on each individual column of stitches.

2 x 2 ribbing is exactly what you’d guess: knit 2, purl 2 and vice versa. Keep in mind that once you get beyond 1 x 1 ribbing, the pattern isn’t quite as simple, which is why I tell people to remember they need to knit the purls and purl the knits. If you just remember that, it doesn’t matter how many stitches you start with.

knit ribbing
A sample of 2 x 2 ribbing.

As always, if you’re knitting ribbing in the round, it’s a little different. For ribbing in the round, you knit the knit stitches and purl the purls to create the alternating columns.

There are any number of combinations you can use to make ribbing. The most common are even ribs, where each column is the same width, like 1 x 1 or 2 x 2. But you can also play with that, making a 2 x 3, for example. Or making the reverse stockinette columns half the width of the stockinette columns. The options are numerous!

Do you have a favorite variety of ribbing you enjoy using?

In case you missed it learn how to knit the daisy stitch. And be sure to return to the Craftsy blog on Thursday for fast knitting patterns.

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