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Knitting Tutorial: Neater Ribs

When it comes to ribbing, it can be difficult to keep an even tension, without which the result will be sloppy, gap-filled knitting columns that frustrate us more picky knitters. I've recently discovered a trick, though, that creates a much neater rib pattern!

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The reason why the left-side knit column always looks wobbly is because of the transition to the purl stitch. It helps to envision the stitches as the humps on a camel's back when it is walking; when the second hump moves, the first hump drops down or relaxes. It's the same thing with our stitches. Most of us are much looser with our purl stitches than we are with our knit stitches, so when we work a loose purl stitch, that first knit stitch doesn't stay up -- it relaxes. If the following purl stitch is solid and strong enough to support the weight, then the first knit stitch will stay solid and strong.

All right, enough chatter. Here's the little trick I learned for neater ribbing:

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First, note that we usually make a purl stitch in the Western style, wrapping the yarn counterclockwise. We'll be altering that a bit.

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For the first purl stitch in a purl column: Work to the first purl stitch immediately following a knit stitch. Bring your yarn to the front and insert your right-hand needle like normal, as if to purl -- except, wrap the yarn clockwise around the needle and pull through. Repeat this only for the purl stitches that immediately follow a knit stitch.

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For the last knit stitch in a knit column: Work to the last knit stitch right before the first purl stitch. You'll notice that the stitch is sitting twisted because of the Eastern-style purl method you used. Knit it through the back loop. Repeat this only for the knit stitches that are twisted.

You'll repeat these two steps on every row, so, using K2p2 Rib (knit 2, purl 2 rib) as an example, it'll look like this:
Row 1 (RS): *K1, k1-tbl, p1 Eastern-style, p1 as usual; rep from * to end of row.

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Voila! You get neater-looking ribbing. While the technique does create a slightly tighter row gauge, I've not found any difference in the stitch gauge. And it works with any type of ribbing you desire!

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