Your Crochet and Knitted Ribbing

At the bottom of a hem, edge of a sleeve, or at the brim of a hat, ribbing improves fit and leaves a clean edge. To edge crochet sweaters, hats, and socks, I often put down my crochet hook and pick up a set of knitting needles. Knitted ribbing has incredible elasticity and combines beautifully with crochet.

Here is knitting designer Karen Frisa to tell us a little more about knitted ribbing.

  Figures 1a, 1b, 1c (top to bottom)

The Mechanics of Ribbing

The lower edges of sweaters, sleeves, and the necklines of garments are places you'll often see ribbing. This type of stitch pattern is used to make the fabric pull in and lie flat (not curl or roll). It can also work as an allover pattern for a fitted or clingy garment or to add some shaping at the waist. Read on and learn how ribbing works.

Ribbing elasticity

The image at right shows three swatches, all worked using the same yarn, needle size, number of stitches, and number of rows. The needle used was two sizes smaller than the size listed on the yarn's ball band. All the swatches were washed, then dried flat without tension. The stockinette stitch swatch (Figure 1a) measures 6 1⁄4" wide; the k1, p1 rib swatch (Figure 1b) measures 4 1⁄4" wide; and the k2, p2 rib swatch (Figure 1c) measures 3 3⁄4" wide. K2, p2 rib is often said to be more elastic than k1, p1 rib. As you can see in Figure 1, the k2, p2 rib pulls in much more than the k1, p1 rib does. Both swatches will stretch to the same width.

Needle size

Crochet Bobble Beret by Robyn Chachula, Knitscene Fall 2009  

To make a rib that is very elastic, use a smaller needle size. Using a needle that is two sizes smaller than the needle used for the body of a garment is typical, but for more elasticity, don't be afraid to use an even smaller needle. If your ribbing tends to stretch out after wearing your garment a few times, using a smaller needle may solve the problem.

Figure 2 shows a k2, p2 rib sample that was worked using the same yarn, number of stitches, and number of rows as the swatches in Figure 1, but this swatch was worked using a size 0 (2 mm) needle. It measures 3" wide.

Figure 2

Working ribbing on a very small needle creates a rib that is much more compressed when relaxed but still has quite a bit of stretch. The swatch worked on a needle two sizes smaller than the size listed on the ball band stretched to 9", while the swatch worked on a size 0 needle stretched to 6".

If you plan to use a much smaller needle for your ribbing, swatch first to make sure that the fabric isn't too stiff or firm for your taste.

-Karen Frisa, Knitscene 2010

Berkshire Dolman Sweater by Melissa Wehrle, Knitscene Fall 2009  

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Best wishes,


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