Creative Ways With Rib Knitting

Rib stitches are designed to give a vertical ridge or rib effect to your knitting.  Basic rib consists of alternating vertical stripes of stocking stitch and reverse stocking stitch. The stripes of stitches in ribbing are called wales.  The yarn in ribbing is passed between the stitches, from the back of your work for the knit stitches, to the front for purl stitches. The number of stitches in every row remains the same.

Characteristics of Rib Knitting

Two important characteristics of ribbed knitting that make it unique are:
  • the knitting does not curl up vertically or laterally, it remains flat
  • ribbing has the tendency to contract laterally giving it an elasticity.
These characteristics make ribbed knitting feel thicker than stocking stitch and ensures that it has a frim fit.  Ribbed knitting is therefore particularly useful for edges of garments, cuffs and scarves, rugs mats, close-fitting and extra thick winter garments.

Most basic rib stitch combinations are made up of repeats of a chosen number of knit stitches followed by an equal number of purl stitches throughout each row.  The wider the stripes of rib are, the greater the tendency is to make “pleats”.  The knitted rib stripes come forward while the purled stripes are drawn back.  The smaller the combination of stitches in ribbing, specifically, knit one, purl one, the greater is the elasticity of the garment.  The wider rib stripes lose that elasticity but can still be exploited to make pleated skirts, and items where you are looking for extra insulation like hot-water-bottle covers, tea cozies (though these are going out of fashion), especially when combined with a slip stitch to draw the rib together even more tightly.

Ribbing stitches combine very easily with other patterns such as twisting the stitches (cable), creating lace panels in some wales, slipping stitches and so on. This gives a variety of different effects while the ribbing characteristics of elasticity and remaining flat are still valid.

The following pages will give a number of examples of rib stitches, details of how to knit each rib stitch combination and ideas of how to use ribbed knitting to your advantage.

Note the rib stitches demonstrated here are by no means exhaustive, they are just to give an idea of how much can be done with rib knitting stitches and to encourage you to use your imagination and skills to create your own ribbing combinations when you make your next knitted garment.

Plain Ribbing Stitches

Single Rib:
Single rib is a sequence of one knit stitch and one purl stitch. It is widely used for borders of garments.
Single rib creates the best lateral elasticity of all ribs.  It draws the work in horizontally and therefore makes cuffs and bottom edges
of garments fit snugly.

Cast on an even number of stitches
Rows: k1, p1 to end
Repeat this row.


Twisted single rib is made by knitting into the back of every knit stitch.  The sample on the right shows twisted rib above and normal
single rib in the lower half of the picture

Double Rib:

Double Rib is also popular and useful for cuffs and edging, but can also be used for the body of garments if a snug fit is desired. The characteristic elasticity of a rib is slightly less prominent than single rib.

Cast on a multiple of 4 stitches
Rows: K2, p2 to end.
Repeat this row.

The knit stitches can be knitted into the back of the stitches  to give a twisted effect, or the knit stitches on the right side rows can be twisted as in the method below:


(K2R done as follows:  Knit into the front of the second stitch on the left needle, then into the first stitch, drop both stitches together.)
Cast on a multiple of 4 stitches
Rows 1, 2 and 4:  k2, p2 to end
Row 3:  K2R, p2 repeat to end

Note:  the twists can be done at any interval you choose, they are done every 4th row in the sample on the right.

Ribs Using Other Stitches to form panels:

Garter stitch or moss stitch can be used in rib panels to change the appearance of the rib.
These are only suitable to use in wider ribs.

The rib panels are clearly evident, but most of the elasticity of a rib is lost
The work remains flat.
Suitable for the body of garments.

The two sides are different - one has a purl panel between the garter stitch, the other has a knit panel between the garter stitch.
Either side can be used as the "right" side.

Garter stitch rib:

Cast on a multiple of 6 stitches
Row 1: K
Row 2: k3, p3 to end
These two rows form the pattern.

Single Moss stitch Rib
This example consists of panels of stocking stitch and moss stitch.

Instructions for single moss stitch:
Cast on a multiple of 11 + 5 stitches for panels of 6 and 5stitches (you can make the panels any size)
Row 1: *K5, (p1,k1) 3 times* to last 5 stitches, k5
Row 2: *p5, (p1,k1) 3 times* to last 5 sts, p5
These two rows form the pattern.

 Instructions for Double Moss Stitch Rib:
Cast on a multiple of 11 + 5 stitches for panels of 6 and 5stitches
Row 1: *K5, (p1,k1) 3 times* to last 5 stitches, k5
Row 2: *p5, (K1, p1) 3 times* to last 5 sts, p5
Row 3: *K5, (k1, p1) 3 times* to last 5 stitches, k5
Row 4: *p5, (p1,k1) 3 times* to last 5 sts, p5
These four rows form the pattern
Farrow Rib Stitch

Farrow Rib is a neat, fairly flat rib with only slight stretch due to the "moss stitch" stitch between the ribs. Both sides of the work look the same.  It is slightly more "open" than a true rib.

Farrow rib is not ideal for cuffs or edgings of garments as it has lost some of its elasticity. Each row is knitted the same, so Farrow Rib is very easy to master.

Ideal for the body of a warm garment, particularly mens-wear.
Lies flat and gives a very neat appearance.
Makes a warm scarf.

Cast on a multipe of 3 stisches
Rows:  *K2, p1* repeat to end
Repeat till the desired lenght is reached.


Sand Stitch Rib:

Sand stitch rib makes use of a single vertical row of sand stitch between two knit stitches in the rib pattern.   Ideally Sand Stitch rib is used in wider rib stitch patterns.

The sand stitch between the knit stitches gives a very neat finish with a different appearance.  Much of the elasticity of a proper rib stitch is lost.  There is a right side and a wrong side in Sand stitch rib, so although it les flat and is neat, it is not ideal for scarves or for edgings.

Creates a warm garment with a masculine look
It has a firm falt finish and always looks neat.

Cast on a multiple of 5 + 2 stitches
Row 1: *P2, k1,p1,k1* to last two stitches, p2
Row 2: *K2, p3* to last two stitches, k2
Reapeat these two rows for the pattern.

Fisherman's rib

Fisherman's rib was originally created for fishermen going out into the windy winter weather at sea.  The garments were knitted with unwashed wool so that the natural lanolin could make it fairly waterproof.

True Fisherman's rib takes up a lot of yarn - almost double the yarn of a stocking stitch garment the same size.  It makes an incredibly thick soft "spongey" garment. Both sides of the work look the same.

Another characteristic of Fisherman's Rib is that it stretches prodigiously both in length and width.   It forms deep ridges which are loose and soft this makes it very suitable for "smocking".  Smocking is done with a darning needle and yarn after the garment is completed.  Alternating knit ribs are caught together at desired intervals to form a pattern.  The result is very striking.  An example of this is shown in the picture below.

You have to virtually knit two rows for each row of Fisherman's Rib to be completed.  To create Fisherman's rib, every knit stitch in the rib is knitted into the knit stitch of the row below it instead of the stitch on the left needle. The stitch on the needle is then dropped forming a new loose stitch which unravels.

Fisherman's rib is a very easy stitch to master and produces possibly the warmest and thickest knitted garment you can make.

  • Fisherman's Rib is ideal for loose fitting baggy garments, scarves, hats, leggings etc that are very warm.
  • It does not make a good edging for garments as it is too loose and stretchy
  • You need to have an anchor stitch or two at the side edges of Fisherman's rib garments otherwise the sides become too loose and uneven.

Abbreviation used:  k1B = knit one into the loop of the following stitch below the one on the left needle.
Cast on an odd number of stitches
Row 1: k1, p1 rib throughout ending with a k stitch. This forms the base row.
Row 2: p1, k1 (anchor stitches for the side), *p1, k1B* to last stitch p1
Row 3: k1 p1 (anchor stitches) *k1B, p1* to last stitch k1
Repeat rows 2 and 3 for the pattern.

Half Fisherman's Rib

So-called "Half Fisherman's Rib" looks the same as Fisherman's Rib on the right side, but the wrong side is a bit flatter.  

Half Fisherman's Rib is not as loose as Fisherman's rib as the knit stitch the row below is only knitted on the right side of the work.  The wrong side of the work is plain rib.  The ridges formed by the rib are not as deep as true Fisherman's Rib and there is less stretch.

The resulting garment using Half Fisherman's Rib is still loose and warm, but not so bulky and uses less yarn as the full Fisherman's Rib, though still considerably more than stocking stitch.

Both sides do not look the same, though both sides are attractive
Useful for warm winter wear such as pullovers
It can be used for scarves but the back and front sides of the work are not identical.
It is not ideal for edgings as it is too loose.

Cast on an odd number of stitches.
Row 1: base row and all wrong side rows: single rib K1, p1 throughout ending with a k stitch.
Row 2: (right side of garment)  p1 k1 (anchor stitches) *p1, k1B* to last stitch p1
These two rows form the pattern

Front side of Half Fisherman's Rib above and Fisherman's rib, below, demonstrating the difference in elasticity and thickness.

Above is the reverse side of Half Fisherman's rib above and Fisherman's rib, below.  You can easily see the difference in texture.

Here the same sample is stretched to show the differences.  You can see the Fisherman's rib could have stretched a lot more and the stitches are much thicker.

Mock Fisherman's Rib

Mock Fisherman's rib gives a loose rib with fairly prominent ridges.
It has only slight elasticity, but like all ribs, lies flat. Both sides of the work are the same so there is no right and wrong side to the work.
Mock Fisherman's rib is not nearly as thick as Fisherman's rib.  It is attractive and always looks neat.

Cast on a multiple of 4 stitches
Row 1:   *k3, p1* repeat to end
Row 2:  k2 "p1,k3* to last 2 stisches p1, k1

Repeat these two rows

Ideal for winter wear, sweaters, leg warmers, stoles, baby blankets, scarves or caps. It makes a thick cosy garment which is not as tight-fitting as a straight rib.

Mock Fisherman's rib is not effective for cuff or border edgings as it stretches too easily so will not keep the shape of the garment.