Rib Stitch Knitting by Janice Jones |Published 02-21-2021
Even if you have never knit a stitch in your life, you’ll still recognize the rib stitch because it is so common on the neckline, hem, and cuffs on sweaters. You’ll see it used in scarves, beanies, and so many more projects. It is one of the many beginner stitches because it is done entirely in knit and purl stitches.
There are literally no limits to the number of rib patterns one could design. Gathered has a list of 22, but I'm sure there are more.
The rib stitch is formed by making alternate knit and purl stitches within the same row. Then, in the next row, all the knit stitches are knitted and the purl stitches are purled. After working a few rows you will see a column of knit or purl stitches forming.
Remember: When you knit a stitch, your yarn is behind the needle. When you purl, your yarn is in front of the work. So, when making a rib stitch, you will need to move the yarn back and front depending on the stitch you are creating.
Let’s start with a 2 x 2 rib stitch. This means you will be knitting 2 stitches, then purling two stitches across the row.
With the working yarn in the back of the needle, knit two stitches. Move the yarn to the front of the needle and then purl two stitches. Repeat until you have finished the row. Turn your work and for the remaining rows, knit the knit stitches and purl the purl stitches.
When you are looking at the directions you will only need to know two abbreviations, K and P. The number after the K (knit) or P (purl) will tell you how many to do. You might see an * * which just tells you to repeat what directions are within the two asterisks. So, for example, a 1 x 1 or single rib stitch will look like this:
Row 1: K1, P1 rep to end of row
Row 2: K1, P1, rep to end of row. Basically all you are doing is knitting into the knit stitches and purling into the purl stitches.
This is a very common rib pattern that makes a very stretch fabric and can be a good choice for neck bands, cuffs and hems of sweaters.
You can combine any number of knit and purl stitches to make a different pattern. Command rib patterns include 2 x 2, 5 x 2, 4 x 2, 5 x 1 and 7 x 2. These are just suggestions as you can make any number of combinations you can imagine.
Another very common rib knit pattern that is used widely in patterns to create a stretchy cuff, band for a beannie, mitten, or sweater. Without pulling it apart, it will look like a K1, P1 pattern but as you see in the photo below, stretching it out, you will see two knit and two purl stitches.
You might come across the term twisted rib stitch and all this really means is that you will be working through the back loop of the stitch rather than the normal front loop. The directions would look something like this:
Row 1: *k1 tbl, p1* repeat to last st, k1 tbl
Row 2: p1 *k1 tbl, p1* repeat to end
Rep these 2 rows
Tbl: means through back loop
As long as you continue to work through the back loop, your rib will look great. It becomes a problem though if you make some of your knit stitches by working in the front loop and some through the back loop. Naturally, if your pattern calls for this then by all means go ahead and follow the pattern.
It is easy to get confused if you are just beginning to knit. Should you make a knit stitch or a purl stitch? Luckily you don’t need to memorize where you are in a rib row because the purl stitches and the knit stitches look different.
Purl stitches have a bump and knit stitches look like a little V. If the next stitch you are about to work has a bump, then make a purl stitch. If it looks like a V, make a knit stitch
One common problem is when the last stitches at the end of the row looks bigger than the others. One way to fix this is to knit the last stitch into the back loop of the stitch. Or if you end with a purl stitch, wrap the yarn around the needle in a clockwise manner rather than the usual anticlockwise.
If you find that you have an entire row of larger stitches, it might just mean that the stitches have been left on the needle for an extended period of time. The best way to deal with this if you have touched your work for a long time is to unravel the last row and rework it.
It could also mean that your tension is not quite right. This does take time to master tension so at first you might be making your purl stitches tighter than your knit stitches. Try holding the working end of the yarn close to your needles.