Ribbed Stitches

Knit ribs are textured vertical stripes. Ribbing is made by alternating columns of knit stitches with columns of purl stitches. Instead of alternating knit rows with purl rows, as you do when you make horizontal stripes, when you make a ribbed pattern, you change from knit stitches to purl stitches within a row.

Ribbing is the edging par excellence on most sweaters because of its elasticity; it stretches to let you in and out of cuffs and neckbands and then springs back into place to hug you. It's also used for the body of many pieces, like sweaters, scarves, and hats.

The most common ribbing combinations are those that are even (that is, the rib uses the same number of knitted versus purl columns). Examples include 1 x 1 ribbing, in which single knit stitches alternate with single purl stitches, creating very narrow columns; and 2 x 2 ribbing, which alternates 2 knit stitches with 2 purl stitches. Although even columns are among the most common ribbed patterns, the columns don't have to be even. Many attractive and functional ribs have wider knit columns than purl columns.

The elasticity of the final ribbed fabric is affected by i Column width: The narrower the column of stitches, the more elastic the ribbing.

i Needle size: Bigger needles result in less elasticity. Also, because ribbed edgings are intended to "hug" the body, you generally work them on needles one or two sizes smaller than the ones used for the body of the project.

The following sections explain how to create the most common ribbing patterns. Head to Appendix A for more elaborate ribbings.

1 x 1 ribbing

The 1 x 1 rib pattern alternates single knit stitches with single purl stitches to create narrow ribs. Figure 5-6 shows this ribbing stretched out a bit so that you can see the purl rows (the horizontal lines in the background). When it isn't stretched out, the knit columns contract, hiding the purl columns.

To create 1 x 1 ribbing:

Cast on an even number of sts.

Work every row: * K1, p1; rep from * to end of row.

Rep this row for the length of your piece.

After the first row, you can tell by looking at your knitting whether you should be making a knit stitch or a purl stitch. If the next stitch on your LH needle is a purl (bump) stitch, purl it. If it's a knit stitch, knit it.

2 x 2 ribbing

As you can see in Figure 5-7, 2 x 2 ribbing alternates 2 knit stitches with 2 purl stitches. It pulls in slightly less than 1 x 1 ribbing.

To create 2 x 2 ribbing:

Cast on a multiple of 4 sts.

Work every row: * K2, p2; rep from * to end of row. Rep this row for the length of your piece.

Note: If you want your piece to begin and end on 2 knit stitches, add 2 to the multiple that you cast on at the beginning.

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