Knitting Rib Stitches:  How To Tutorial

Knitting Rib Stitches     by Janice Jones     |Published 04-25-2022

Rib stitches are everywhere, on sweaters, vests and cardigans, on the cuffs of socks and mittens, and especially on caps and other types of hats.  They can also be used as a stand alone stitch for scarves, shawls, and cowls.

Ribs offer a snug fit whether you use them at the base of your garment, on the sleeves or around the neck.

Rib stitches also tend to be very elastic because the knit stitches tend to stick out more and the purl stitches want to recede. When worked on a smaller sized needle from the rest of the garment, the rib stitches are even more elastic.

Finally, knit rib stitches also tend to lie flat, as opposed to stockinette fabric that tends to curl.

Are they hard to make?

Luckily the answer is no, but there are a few tricks for getting it right. But before we get into perfecting our rib stitches, lets look at the many types of rib stitches and how to make them.

Both the 1 x 1 (single rib) and the 2x2 (double rib) ribs create a lovely textured fabric that is very stretchy. They are also two of the most common rib stiches that one encounters.  You might also see them identified as regular or even ribs because they have the same number of knit stitches to purl stitches.  

There are also 3x3 and 4x4 rib patterns also call regular.

The few the knit-purl stitch combination, the stretchier the fabric.  So, a 1x1 will be more stretchy than a 4x4.

Sample of knitting rib stitches in red.

Knitting Rib Stitches:  Combining Knits and Purls

Rib stitches are made by combining knit and purl stitches in a variety of different ways.  The two most common rib stitches are the 1x1 and the 2x2. 

A 1 x 1 knit rib stitch is made by alternating one knit stitch with one purl stitch across the row and repeating the row until you reach the length you want.  Normally, the 1 x 1 rib is made on an even number of stitches, but it can also be worked on an odd number of stitches.

Knitting Rib Stitches 1 x 1 Directions

K1 P1 or 1 x 1 Rib Knitting
1x1 Rib Stitch Knitting Chart

This is a typical pattern for the 1 x 1 rib stitch.

Row 1: Knit 1, Purl 1 across row

Repeat row 1 

Knitting Rib Stitches 2 x 2

2 x 2 Ribbing Knitting Done with White Wool Yarn
2x2 Rib Stitch Knitting Chart

A 2x2 rib stitch is made by knitting 2 knit stitches followed by 2 purl stitches across the row.  This pattern requires multiples of 4, so to make the 2 x 2 rib, you will want to cast on 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, stitches etc.

This pattern looks very similar to the 1 x 1, except that you are creating 2 knits, followed by 2 purls.

Row 1:  Knit 2, Purl 2 across the row

Row 2:  Repeat row 1


Other Knitting Rib Stitches

There is really no end to the number of combinations you can make with the rib stich. These five common ribs are made just like the ones above, but you would be creating the number of knits and purls that are called for in the name.


4 x 4 Rib Stitch

4x4 Rib Stitch done in White Wool Yarn
4x4 Rib Stitch Knitting Chart

To work this rib, cast on multiples of 8.

Directions:

Row 1:  Knit 4, Purl 4 across the row.

Row 2 and all rows:  Repeat row 1


4 x 2 Rib Stitch

4x2 Rib Stitch Knitting Chart
4 x 2 Rib Stitch Knitting Done with White Yarn

Cast on multiples of 6 stitches.

Directions:

Row 1:  Knit 4, Purl 2 across the row.

Row 2 and all rows:  Repeat row 1


4 x 3 Rib Stitch

4x3 Rib Stitch Knitting Chart

Cast on multiples of 7 stitches.

Directions:

Row 1:  Knit 4, Purl 3 across the row.

Row 2 and all rows:  Repeat row 1


5 x 1 Rib Stitch

5x1 Rib Stitch Knitting Chart

To make this rib, you would want to cast on multiples of 6.

Directions:

Row 1:  Knit 5, Purl 1 across the row.

Row 2 and all rows:  Repeat row 1

5x1 Rib Stitch Knitting in Blue (Right or Public Side)Right Side
5x1 Rib Stitch Knitting (Wrong Side)Wrong Side

7 x 3 Rib Stitch

7x3 Rib Stitch Knitting Chart

This stitch is worked on multiples of 10.

Directions:

Row 1:  Knit 7, Purl 3 across the row.

Row 2 and all rows:  Repeat row 1


Specialty Knit Rib Stitches

The next group of rib stitches are combinations of knits and purls but with a twist.  (not twisted stitch).  All of those that follow can be used as a rib pattern on anything that you need ribbing to be placed. 

The nice thing about these patterns, though, is that any of them can be a stand alone stitch and can be used for an entire piece such as a hat, scarf, or even a sweater or vest.  Let your imagination run wild!


Knitting Rib Stitches:  Garter Rib Stitch

Garter Stitch Rib Knitting Chart
Garter Rib Stitch Knitting in White

This creates a rib stitch with a little extra texture.  To make this rib, cast on multiples of 4 plus 2.

Row 1:  Knit across

Row 2:  P2, *k2,  p2*

Remember that the *   * means that you repeat the instruction between the two asterisks across the row.

Repeat these two rows for the pattern.


Knitting Rib Stitches:  Broken Rib

Broken Rib Stitch Knitting in Blue
Broken Rib Stitch Knitting Chart

This rib stitch is a variation of the 1 x 1 rib stitch.

Cast on multiples of 2, plus 1

Row 1:  Knit across

Row 2: *P1, K1*, P1

Repeat these two rows for the pattern


Beaded Rib

beaded rib stitch knitting in purple
Beaded Rib Stitch Knitting Chart

To make the beaded rib stitch, cast on multiples of 5 plus 2.

Row 1:  *P2, K1, P1, K1* P2.

Row 2: K2, *P3, K2*.

Repeat these two rows for the pattern.


Knitting Rib Stitches Neatly

Most beginners are very happy to figure out how to read the pattern and create the stitches correctly.  But as you become more proficient in your knitting, you start to look at your stitches more and hope they will all look uniform. 

Tension is the word knitters use to assure that all of their stitches are the same size. Tension problems can occur when casting on and binding off, in rows and on the edges of the fabric.  They can also occur when you transition from a knit stitch to a purl stitch as you do when knitting rib stitches.

Getting the tension right on rib stitches is not as easy as one might think. Take a look at this swatch of a 2 x 2 rib, paying particular attention to the columns of knit stitches.  The stitches in both columns should be the same size.  Some of the stitches on the left column are larger than the right column.  Why does this occur?

Tension Problems in Rib Stitches

Over sized knit stitches can appear in ribbing if the tension between purl and knit stitches is uneven.   This often occurs not only in ribbing but seed and cables too.  It is caused by the fact that purl stitches require more yarn than knit stitches.  This happens because of the way we wrap the yarn.

When making a knit stitch, the yarn is in the back and we wrap the yarn around the needle at about 360 degrees.  When we make a purl stitch, not only are we wrapping the yarn about 360 degrees but we are also moving the yarn from the back to the front.  That extra yarn can collect in the next stitch making that stitch larger.

One method to fix this problem is to  bring  the yarn completely towards you, before making the purl stitch. This causes excess yarn to form between the stitches that eventually works itself back to the knit stitch making it larger. 

One other way to correct this is to give the yarn a tug after the knit and before the purl stitch. This can be accomplished by bringing the yarn in front, placing the right needle into the stitch as if to purl, and then pulling on the yarn to reduce that slack in the yarn from the previous knit stitch.

Another possibility is to use combination knitting, where you would wrap the yarn in the opposite direction on the purl side when making a purl stitch, followed by working through the back of the loop on the knit side.  Twisted stitches can result if this is not done properly.

Knitting Rib Stitches:  Pin for Future Reference

Knitting Rib Stitches: Pin ImageKnitting Rib Stitches: Pin Image

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