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Knitting Tutorial: Stitch Deconstruction Series -- Ribbing

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The past couple of issues have been delving into the world of specific stitches, such as garter stitch and stockinette stitch, where we're learning the ins and outs of their qualities and characteristics and little tricks for handling. In this final installment of the Stitch Deconstruction Series, let's talk about our favorite edging: Ribbing!

One of the best parts about ribbing is that it is completely reversible, regardless of what combination of knit and purl combinations you use. It's best used as a trim border along the hem, neck or wrists, not only because of its anti-curling tendency, but because of its elasticity. Ribbing stretches quite significantly lengthwise and is nicely elastic widthwise, allowing it to cling to the body in a nicely accentuating way.

Ribbing can be worked in any multiple, meaning if you wanted a K2p2 Rib (Knit 2, purl 2 ribbing), you would cast on a multiple of four stitches, such as 12. If you wanted a K1p2 Rib, you would cast on a multiple of three. There is one caveat to this though. If you have two pieces that are to be seamed together and you wish for your ribbing to look continuous, always add two edge or selvage stitches. Those selvage stitches will get sucked up into the seaming process, making your ribbing flow from one piece to the next.

Here are my top three tips and tricks to remember when working with ribbing:

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1. Often, you'll read a pattern that says, "Knit the knits and purl the purls," which isn't the easiest thing for a beginner to understand. Quite simply, it means that when you are working along your needle, the smooth side of the stitch facing you is a knit, so you would knit it to maintain the ribbing, and the bumpy side of the stitch facing you is a purl, so you would purl it to maintain the ribbing.

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2. Counting stitches in ribbing is very easy, especially if you remember the stitch multiple. You can count the V-shape, of course, but if you know that it is a K2p2 Rib, you would count each smooth ridge as two and each purl valley as two, so it would be: 2, 4, 6, 8, etc. When counting rows, simply count the V-shapes all the way up the knit-ridge, just as I showed you in the last newsletter.

3. When it comes to blocking your ribbing, less "stress" is helpful in keeping the elastic nature. I prefer working with steam, so here's how I do it:

a. Without pinning the ribbing down, really hit it with the steam (don't touch it with an iron though!).
b. Set the steamer down and grab both sides of the ribbed piece and give it a couple of good stretches widthwise.
c. Then grab the top and bottom and give it a couple of good stretches lengthwise.
d. Repeat the widthwise stretch once more.
This process really smooths any rough-looking stitches, settles the ridges and allows the loftiness of the yarn to unite perfectly with the rib for a beautiful bounciness.

Be sure to visit next issue when I show you a surprising little trick to handle any sloppy-looking ribs!

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