In Knitting, what is Ribbing?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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Ribbing is a type of knitting stitch which yields a simple ridged pattern. The pattern incorporates alternating rows of stockinette and reverse stockinette stitch, and is one of the most commonly used knitting patterns. Ribbing can be used to make an entire project, such as a scarf, or simply to trim a garment like a sweater. It is very easy to learn to do ribbing, making it an excellent project for beginning knitters.

To make a stockinette stitch, a knitter alternates knit and purl stitches with every other row. The result is an evenly grained, tight knit which is also stretchy and flexible. Most knit garments are made with a stockinette stitch: if you are wearing any type of knit such as a Jersey T-shirt or socks, you can see what a basic stockinette stitch looks like. By turning the knit over, you can see reverse stockinette as well, because reverse stockinette is simply the back of a stockinette stitch. You may also see an example of ribbing, especially if you are wearing socks; look closely at the opening of your socks to see whether or not they are ribbed.


When a knitter wishes to create ribbing, the pattern is usually even, meaning that each rib is the same width. Unlike stockinette stitch, where the same type of stitch is knitted across the row, the knitter alternates knit and purl stitches. In a sample swatch with a 10 stitch width, the knitter might knit two, purl two to the end of the row, ending with two knit stitches. When the garment was turned to work the other side, the knitter would purl two, knit two to the end of the row, creating a pattern which alternated stockinette stitch with its reverse.

There are several advantages to using a rib stitch in the creation of a knitting project. Unlike straight stockinette stitch, ribbing is less likely to curl, making it very suitable for basic scarves and throws. Ribbing also tends to contract horizontally, which is why it is used for trim, since it pulls the fibers closer together. Ribbing also adds visual complexity and appeal to a garment, and it can be mixed with other knitting stitches as well.

Along with other basic patterns, ribbing is one of the building blocks of knitting. As knitters develop more skills and a greater library of patterns, they can create more complex, ornate, or visually arresting garments. Experienced knitters are often happy to help knitters in difficulty, visually demonstrating the proper way to perform a complex stitch, for example. An experienced knitter may also suggest fun projects to learn with, or offer tips which will help beginning knitters become skilled at their craft.


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