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What Is a Rib Knit?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A rib knit is a garment produced using a style of knitting pattern which yields a distinct vertically ridged pattern known as ribbing. There are a number of advantages over a straight stockinette stitch which make the rib knit a popular choice for everything from socks to sweaters. The knit combines two basic stitches, the knit and the purl, and is very easy to make. Many knitters learn the rib stitch early on in their crafting careers as a result, and many garment manufacturers integrate it for visual variation and sturdiness.

When this knit is created, it is made by alternating strips of stockinette stitch and reverse stockinette. A stockinette stitch is a “classic” knitted stitch, which resembles a small pattern of “V”s running through a garment. If you are wearing a knit garment right now, you can probably look down and see an example of stockinette stitch. Reverse stockinette is exactly what it sounds like. Many knitters call stockinette the “right” or “knit” side, and reverse stockinette the “wrong” or “purl” side.

To produce a flat swatch of stockinette stitch, a knitter knits on one row and purls on the next, knitting on what will become the right side and purling on the wrong side. The end result is a sturdy, durable knit, but it has a tendency to curl at the edges. This can be especially annoying with scarves, which may slowly become almost tubular over time. Therefore, many people prefer a rib knit, which does not curl.

When a rib knit is produced, the knitter takes several knit stitches, follows with several purl stitches, and so on to the end of the row. Then, the knitter reverses the pattern, creating a ribbed pattern. Since ribbing pulls together slightly, it tends to be used at the openings of garments, especially socks, since it helps garments stay on and in shape. A full knit garment like a sweater will also tend to stretch to accommodate wearers of various sizes.

To produce a very simple rib knit scarf, try casting on twenty stitches and knit two, purl two to the end of the row. Repeat the pattern on the next row, and so on until the scarf has reached the desired length. You can add horizontal strips by using different colored balls of yarn periodically, and after you bind off your scarf you can add a fringe or other decorations if desired.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By BambooForest — On Jan 07, 2011

The rib knit is actually not a very good choice for hand-knit scarves, as it does not lie flat as easily as a stockinette or garter stitch does. It is excellent for sweaters and vests, though, for the same reason, as it can stretch to fit and then shrink back between wearings.

By afterall — On Jan 07, 2011

Many mass-produced sweaters and other knitted garments are rib knit, because they are both easy to machine-produce and they can also look nice in a lot of different styles. In my experience, however, many store bought rib knits stretch out easily after only a bit of use, especially things like tank tops and basic tops, which I prefer when they are more snugly fitted.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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