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Rib Stitch Knitting: 6 Ways

These knitting ribbing variations are essential tools in every knitter's toolbox.

Updated January 06, 2021
Rib Stitch Knitting

While it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when people think about knitting, rib patterns are some of the most-used in the craft. Rib stitch knitting is the essential way to create a stretchy portion of your work to give it the perfect fit. The rib knit stitch can be found on sweater cuffs, sock cuffs, collars, hems, you name it—and that's why it truly is the unsung hero of knitting. Stretchy ribbing knitting is truly as versatile as it gets, especially if you prefer to knit garments.

What is a rib stitch in knitting? Essentially, knitting ribbing stitches entails alternating between knit and purl stitches in some fashion. Since these two opposite stitches essentially create stockinette stitch on their respective sides of knitting, you end up with vertical columns of stockinette stitch and reverse stockinette stitch on either side that collapses the knit fabric and makes it stretchy to various degrees depending on the type of rib stitch. Without further ado, check out the various rib knitting stitches to try in your next project.

Abbreviations:

CO: cast on
k: knit
p: purl
tbl: through the back loop
b: below
st(s): stitch(es)
rep: repeat

1x1 Rib Stitch

This is the most classic of the rib stitch patterns, and involves switching on-and-off with your knit and purl stitches. This stretchy ribbing knitting is a classic that will work with just about any project.

Knit Flat Instructions:

Even number of stitches:
CO any multiple of 2 sts.
Row 1: *k1, p1; rep from * around.

Odd number of stitches:
CO any odd number of sts.
Row 1: *k1, p1; rep from * around. End k1.
Row 2: *p1, k1; rep from * around. End p1.

Knit in the Round Instructions:

CO any multiple of 2 sts.
Round 1: *k1, p1; rep from * around.
*This stitch can only be accomplished in the round on an even number of stitches.

How stretchy is it? Moderately stretchy.

1x1 Rib Stitch

Twisted Rib Stitch

The twisted rib stitch is essentially the 1x1 rib stitch with a twist... literally. Rather than knitting the stitches as you normally would, you go around and knit (or purl) through the back loop of certain stitches (or the back end of the loop). While this stitch isn't the same on both sides, it is my personal preference when it comes to 1x1 ribbing as I feel it gives the stockinette portions of the right side a tighter and more refined look. You could technically alter most forms of ribbing in this fashion.

Knit Flat Instructions:

Even number of stitches:
CO any multiple of 2 sts.
Row 1: *k1tbl, p1; rep from * across.
Row 2: *k1, p1tbl; rep from * across.

Odd number of stitches:
CO any odd number of sts.
Row 1: *k1tbl, p1; rep from * across. End k1tbl.
Row 2: *p1, k1tbl; rep from * across. End p1.

Knit in the Round Instructions:

CO any multiple of 2 sts.
Round 1: *k1tbl, p1; rep from * around.

How stretchy is it? Moderately stretchy.

Twisted Rib Stitch

2x2 Rib Stitch

Known also as the double rib stitch, the 2x2 rib knit stitch is an expanded version of the 1x1. As you could probably extrapolate, rather than alternating every stitch between knit and purl, in this pattern, you knit twice and purl twice, giving you wider columns of stockinette and reverse stockinette stitch. In order to complete this "knit 2 purl 2" ribbing, while knit flat, it's essential to cast on an even number of stitches, and the instructions differ slightly if that number is also a multiple of 4. While knit in the round, you must cast on a multiple of 4 stitches.

Knit Flat Instructions:

Even number of stitches that IS NOT a multiple of 4:
CO any multiple of 2 sts.
Row 1: *k2, p2; rep from * across. End k2.
Row 2: *p2, k2; rep from * across. End p2.

Even number of stitches that IS a multiple of 4:
CO any multiple of 4 sts.
Row 1: *k2, p2; rep from * across.

Knit in the Round Instructions:

CO any multiple of 4 sts.
Round 1: *k2, p2; rep from * around.

How stretchy is it? Quite stretchy.

2x2 Rib Stitch

2x1 Rib Stitch

Not all hope is lost if you have an odd number of stitches cast on, but still hope to add some kind of chunkier ribbing to your work. However, the 2x1 rib stitch (or "knit 2 purl 1" ribbing) does require at least a multiple of 3 or 5 stitches to be cast on. Just as simple to accomplish as the 1x1 or 2x2 rib stitch, you simply need to knit the knits and purl the purls, as it were.

Knit Flat Instructions:

When using a multiple of 3 stitches:
CO any multiple of 3 sts.
Row 1: *k2, p1; rep from * across.
Row 2: *k1, p2; rep from * across.

When using a multiple of 5 stitches:
CO any multiple of 5 sts.
Row 1: *k2, p1; rep from * across. End k2.
Row 2: *p2, k1; rep from * across. End p2.

Knit in the Round Instructions:

CO any multiple of 3 sts.
Round 1: *k2, p1; rep from * around.

How stretchy is it? Slightly stretchy.

2x1 Rib Stitch

2x3 Rib Stitch

Another option when your project has an odd number of stitches cast on is another version of the 2x1 rib stitch, with (you guessed it!) one more knit and one more purl added on. Like the 2x1 rib stitch, you end up with an uneven number of stockinette vs. reverse stockinette columns in your work, and, somehow, it still looks intentional.

Knit Flat Instructions:

When using a multiple of 5 stitches:
CO any multiple of 5 sts.
Row 1: *k2, p3; rep from * across.
Row 2: *k3, p2; rep from * across.

When using a multiple of 7 stitches:
CO any multiple of 7 sts.
Row 1: *k2, p3; rep from * across. End k2.
Row 2: *p2, k3; rep from * across. End p2.

Knit in the Round Instructions:

CO any multiple of 5 sts.
Round 1: *k2, p3; rep from * across.

How stretchy is it? Very stretchy.

2x3 Rib Stitch

Fisherman's Rib Stitch

This type of ribbing is one of the more difficult to achieve, but is so worth the effort as the result is a delightfully squishy and plush-looking ribbing. Since you need a certain set-up in order for this unique stitch to work, it's imperative that you cast on an even number of stitches and cast on using the longtail (or similar) method. This stitch involves knitting into the row below. You can find our full tutorial for this stitch here.

How stretchy is it? Quite stretchy.

Fisherman's Rib Stitch

Up Next:

Which Cast On to Use

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