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Sometimes I feel a bit like the little Dutch Boy sticking his finger in the dyke . . . solve one knitting problem, and another one springs a leak. After addressing how our ribbing is sometimes NOT for our pleasure in my article What the Flip, I received a whole raft of “What is wrong with my ribbing?” emails.

It’s all about the path that yarn travels!

It’s a Twister, Auntie Em!

Dear Patty,

It’s me again with another—WHY DOES IT DO THAT—question. My 2 x 2 rib looks totally fine, I know I am not twisting my stitches (really, I took your class), but I swear my 1 x 1 rib looks like the stitches are twisted. Not totally, but it looks like it kind of leans back and forth (if that makes sense).

I can’t always switch everything to 2 x 2 rib, so how can I fix this???

Annoyed by Rib

Dear Annoyed by Rib,

I totally know what you mean. For me, when it comes to 1 x 1 rib, I never worry about changing my knitting, I just have a little trick that makes all those pesky little knit stitches straighten up and fly right. 

That less than lovely look of unblocked 1×1 rib has to do with the difference between the yarn traveling from the back to the front (knit to purl) versus the front to the back (purl to knit). Based on how you knit, the working yarn will kind of “tug” one leg of the stitch a bit more than the other, giving you that rick rack look.

Here’s the secret: Before you block, or even after you hit it with a bit of steam or water, give your ribbing a little horizontal stretch, then a diagonal stretch in each direction: 

Horizontal stretch and diagonal stretch

and finally, a firm tug straight down, and voilà, you’ll get a perfect 1 x 1 rib.

Le tug, le voilà

Now a wider rib, well that’s another story, but as they would say on those Ronco commercials . . . but wait, there’s more!


Dear Patty,

Why is the last knit st before a purl always loose and sloppy looking? And I find that the heavier the yarn I’m using, the worse the situation becomes. The appearance is not remedied with blocking. 

My only solution has been to knit that final st tbl on RS and p tbl on the WS. Any thoughts? 



Hi, Patty,

I would love if you would take a quick look at the swatch in the pic attached here. I can’t for the life of me figure out why my stockinette pulls out on the last stitch before transitioning to reverse stockinette or how to fix it. 

Thank you for your time. You have taught me so much. 


Oh woe is Claire

Dear DGW and Claire,

Let’s get this out of the way from the start. Once again, say it loud, say it proud: It’s not you, it’s them. It’s the stitches’ fault, or to be more specific, it’s the PURL stitches’ fault.

I wouldn’t work the last knit stitch through the back loop, as that will twist the stitch, so you trade one weird look (the last knit stitch being large) for another weird look (the last knit stitch being twisted). Instead, we need to attack the real culprit, the fly in the ointment, the reason we can’t have nice things: the purl stitch.

When we knit, the act of knitting the next stitch, naturally tightens up the one that comes before it, since each stitch is connected to the stitches around it. Connection also means the slack from a stitch  flows backwards into the stitch that came before it.

The reason our k2tog looks so neat and tidy is because stitch number 2 is on top of stitch number 1, so when we knit the next stitch, stitch number 3, it tightens up the stitch that comes before it, which is the one on top. However, in an ssk, because stitch number 1 is on top of stitch number 2, all that knitting the next stitch does is tighten up the stitch of our decrease that is covered up, leaving a big loose sloppy stitch showing on top of our ssk.

Here’s a fix for that, in the one move ssk:

Ummm, super interesting you all are thinking, what the heck does that have to do with the rib??

The reason the last knit stitch of your ribbing can look larger is that the purl uses up a tiny bit more yarn when making that long trip from the back of your work to the front and then up and over your needle. This makes the slack of that purl feed backwards into the last knit stitch and it ends up looking a bit like my backside after I’ve spent 11 months in quarantine sitting on the couch eating a steady diet of corn chips and ice cream. 

This is particularly visible in a wider rib like the k6, p2 you mentioned.

Take a look at the difference between the running thread that goes from the knit into the purl, versus the running thread that goes from the purl to the knit. One is long and shows a visible gap, while the other is neat and tidy.

When we knit, our yarn is in the back and we wrap our yarn under to over the needle. This means the yarn doesn’t have to go anywhere to start its journey.

Sure, it has to travel around the needle, but it doesn’t have to take a long trip before it even starts. It’s like flying across country out of Kennedy Airport if you already live in Queens. You have to make the journey across the country, but it’s just a short trip to the airport. But to go from the knit to the purl, well that’s a bit more like having to take an hour-long shuttle to Newark before you even get on the plane (that’s for you Kay xxoo). And seriously, NOBODY wants to fly out of Newark.

Now, not only does that yarn have to travel from the back to the front, but it also has to take the longer path up and over the top of the needle. 

This is the path that the Western purl stitch takes to create a stitch whose leading leg sits at the front of the needle for both the knit and the purl. But do we have to? Why not steal from Combination and Eastern knitting and take the shorter path!

When I am working a wide rib, or anytime I have a cable against a background of reverse stockinette, I always do the “lazy purl” (the Eastern purl) on the first purl stitch following the knits. Instead of the yarn traveling over the needle to under, it travels under the needle to over. 

This creates a small neat running thread, and no slack feeds backwards into the last knit. However, since the direction we wrap our yarn seats our stitch on the needle, this means you have to work that stitch through the back loop (the leading leg) on the next row. That is a fancy way of saying, put the needle in the hole!

No big deal—it’s just like when you fly out of Kennedy but into LaGuardia. You just have to pay attention and remember where you are . . . and how you didn’t park your car at Kennedy! It’s totally worth it when you see that neat and lovely rib.

Okay, well nothing REALLY makes flying into LaGuardia worth it, but you know what I mean. 

Patty in your Pocket

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About The Author

Patty Lyons is a nationally recognized knitting teacher and technique expert. In her pursuit of training the mindful knitter, Patty is known for teaching the “why” in addition to the “how.” She specializes in sweater design and sharing her love of the much-maligned subjects of gauge and blocking.

You can find Patty at her website and on Ravelry.

Do you have a problem you’d like Patty to tackle? Write to her at



  • 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.

    • 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.

    • Would love that too!

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

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

    • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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).

      • So, if I under correctly, when knitting in the round one has to knit the eastern mounted stitch from the previous round picking up the back leg of the stitch, am I correct?
        Thank you in advance

      • 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!)

        • I have this Q too, for knitting in the round. Just continue the eastern-wrap purl?

  • 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?

    • 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!

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

  • 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.

  • I have the opposite problem to Claire. My knit stitch after a purl is always loose. For example, if I do 2×2 ribbing, I get neat purl, neat purl, loose knit, neat knit.

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