Ask Patty: Taking a Ribbing

March 15, 2021

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  • Thank you so much, Patty, I thought I was just rubbish at ribbing, but with these tips I realise there is hope and it might not be all down to me! I shall put these ideas into practice on my next project.

  • Any chance that there’s a video of that lazy purl mentioned in the last paragraph? I’m a visual learner.

    • Would love that too!

    • There are many videos on youtube, but honestly, there’s not much more a video could show you than the picture does. No need to overthink or complicate it. There are only two places to put you yarn, above the needle or below. The rest of the stitch is the same, you are pushing that new loop through the old loop. Try picking up your knitting and give it a try. Instead of putting the the yarn over the needle, but it under and then purl. No biggie. Just like the picture shows.

  • I’m wondering why pattern writers don’t include these tips into their patterns as part of the special techniques section.
    Just a thought. . . . . . .

    • I decided to do just that! I have designed a simple intarsia cushion cover for my beginner kntter husband (just shows what happens to an old married couple a year into a pandemic LOL) and have put in links to intarsia techniques (Jen Arnall-Culliford – tips for joining the yarns and weaving in ends) – buttonholes and mattress stitch. I have tried to think about it from a beginner’s point of view and even explained what “continue in pattern” and “knit the knits and purl the purls” means. It’s a LOT OF EXTRA WORK! The trouble is that you never know what stage a knitter is at.

    • Knitters make patterns that knit eastern, western, combination. Saying knit or purl is universal to the knitter. Once you get into instructing knitters in how to wrap their yarn, you get into a whole other kettle of fish. The more we turn patterns into knitting technique books, the longer they get, the more expensive they get, and the more complex they get. A pattern should be standardized instructions on how to make that object. We bring our own mad skilz to the table. For instance, take shoulder shaping with standard bind offs. That pattern is telling you how many stitches go away at the shoulder, how YOU the knitter make them go away, is part of the skill we learn in classes, from books and from other knitters. If you like the decreased bind-off, or the sloped bind off, or short row shaping for shoulders, it’s up to you.

      Personally, I think we should separate what information a pattern provides from the tips and tricks we learn along the way to improve our knitting. Not every tip is going to suit all knitters.

      • Well said.

        • Hi Patty. Thank you for your article. I am a continental knitter and experience the same problem with the loose knit stitch. Do you have any suggestions for continental knitters so that they can improve their ribbing? I am new here and I just want to say how appreciative I am for the sharing of your knowledge.

      • Patty, I completely agree with you, but as someone who’s been knitting just over a year, I find that the bigger problem for me is patter writers who assume I know more than I do. For example, not specifying whether to slip knit- or purl-wise, and I don’t think it’s because it doesn’t matter, but rather because the writer assume I know the “default.” I don’t, and I doubt there actually are many true defaults out there, for all the reasons you’ve said. Tips and tricks that related to a particular pattern can be nice, but a clear definition section is essential! Which of the eleventy-billion ways to make an SSK am I supposed to use?

        • When it comes to a professionally written and tech edited pattern, those will be defined in the stitch definition section. The real issue is, that there are a lot of patterns (that people are charging money for!!) that are skipping proper tech editing.

    • Patty, have you tried dipping your corn chips into the ice cream? KILLER!! Seriously thanks for the thoughtful tips…

  • Thank you! If knitting in the round, what to do with the twisted stitch once you get to it? Purl trough the back loop?

    • It’s not a twisted stitch until you twist it! But if you’re asking what to do with the eastern mounted purl on the next round . . . you put the needle in the hole (that is the back loop). Remember, where you put your needle effects your now (do I put it in the hole and leave it open, do I put it in the trailing leg and twist it), how I wrap my yarn affects my future (how it sits on the needle for the next round / row).

      • Thanks for these tips! I’m still unsure though…Do you continue to eastern-wrap the stitch on every row when working in the round? (Also I take strong exception to the gratuitous attack on Newark!)

  • The JFK/Newark analogy kills me! Brilliant.

  • I laughed at “Nobody wants to fly out if Newark,” because that is so NYC centric. Those of us from upstate would much rather fly out of Newark because it is SO much easier to get to. The traffic and road construction going to JFK mean you have to allot an extra hour (or two) and still hope you get there on time.

    • ooh, if you live upstate, try Stewart or Albany. Sooooo much easier and no crazy Jersey traffic.

      • Who wants to fly into LaGuardia? ME. If you live uptown, the #60 bus takes you right home. cheap cheap cheap.

  • Oh Patty I love your humor! Thanks too for the great tips.

  • I will be saving this article for sure! But that reminds me to suggest that your web person someday maybe can set up “Saved Articles” so we can put each one in a folder or something – or just add a tag – so we can sort by subject. I have an awful lot of saved articles!

    • I hate to be the party pooper, but I already purl using the Eastern method and my ribbing is still super sloppy! I’m at my wits end and starting to avoid patterns that have a purl after a knit (which is a considerable amount!). Could it just be a tension issue? I’ve tried tugging on my purls to tighten them but that doesn’t work either.

      • If you are an Eastern Knitter (wrap the yarn over for the knit, under for the purl), then the issue can affect the first knit. It’s still the longer path, so you can try knitting that first stitch Western (wrapping the yarn under). If you meant you are a combination knitter, then there are many knitting technique issues that can still plague a knitter from where you work your stitch on your left needle to your exit path and your yarn tensioning. Keep your eyes out for the next time I teach my live virtual class, Build a Better Fabric: Perfect Your Knitting.

        • This class was a game changer for me. I highly recommend it!

  • Thanks so much Patty – this is – and you are – brilliant!

  • That “lazy purl,” OMG!!! Makes total sense. BTW, Patty, I think of you literally every time I do the one-move SSK. Every time. (Decreasing a sweater sleeve this minute, so there you go.) It still isn’t as neat as a k2tog, but orders of magnitude neater than the traditional slip, slip, knit.

    You are a goddess. That is all.

  • Totally here for the airport jokes, lol!

  • Those of us on the Jersey side of the river adore Newark Liberty. However, no one wants to go into or out of LaGuardia.

    • Amen. The worst . . . holding hope for the long awaited renovation so I never have to walk past those ceilings with garbage bags taped up over hoses running into garbage cans to catch the rain!!

  • Awesome instructions! And, the extra comments help me relate and remember.

  • This change has also solved a more uncommon problem I was confronting: “rowing out” with garter stitch in the round. When I row out flat, I can change needle sizes/tips to correct it. But that’s a hassle when knitting in the round, but for garter, I need to knit a row, purl a row in the round. I switched to the Eastern purl and Ktbl on the knit rounds to go from sloppy to neat garter.

    This also explains why I always prefer K1P1 rib, and have been avoiding the “sloppy” longer ribs!

  • Thank you Patty ! Once again you have taught this old knitter new tricks . I am trying this technique on my cardigan cuffs and they look amazing !

  • Hi Patty, thanks for the solution to a problem that’s always bugged me. I tried it on 2×2 rib in the round, and while the rib looked great on the front the first lazy purl stitch made an enlarged knit stitch on the reverse. I guess switching back to the conventional purl for the second purl stitch resulted in some excess yarn drifting back into the first one. Am I correct, and is there a solution? Should I use the lazy purl for all the purl stitches?

    • I’m having the same issue. Looking forward to hearing what I’m doing wrong!

    • Came to the comments looking for an answer to this exact question! Knitting a hat with a fold-up 2×2 bring, and though the right side looks great now thanks to these tips, the wrong side (which will be showing) is super wonky!

  • If you do the eastern purl and that doesn’t fix the problem, what does that mean? (I only get this problem with 1×1 rib. It’s such a problem for me that if I really need to do it, I knit 3×1 and put the missing 1 in with a crochet hook.)

  • I had read this and was intrigued, but didn’t have anything with ribs at the time. Just started something today that does have the ribs and suddenly remembered. I like it! Just like that, it’s really in my bag of tricks now. Thanks, Patty, for sharing the what-and-why of it all. Thanks Ann & Kay for having a source to learn in the moment and come back to later.