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December 17, 2004

A Bit of Bragging

even ribbingNot to brag, but nona has greatly improved her ribbing.  I hate to admit it, but for years I've had a problem with saggy, loose knit stitches.  The culprit stitch has always been the knit stitch just preceding a purl stitch.  Luckily, Priscilla Gibson-Roberts alerted me to my problem.  In her insightful book, Knitting in the Old Way, PGR discusses the "three fundamental approaches" to creating knit fabric -- much talk about stitch mounts and working methods -- a must read.  Anyway, most of us in the US use the "Western" method of knitting.  In this method, the right leg of the knit stitch sits in front of the needle and the knitter wraps her yarn counter clockwise.  According to PGR:

When you wrap a Western knit stitch, the yarn comes in a straight line from the last stitch made; when you wrap a Western purl stitch, the yarn must cross the needle at an angle.  Thus the amount of yarn wrapped for a purl stitch is slightly longer than that for a knit stitch.

Light bulb!  Perhaps my ribbing problem was due to the purl stitch's extra bit of yarn allowing my knit stitch to get baggy?  To make a purl stitch using the same amount of yarn as a knit stitch, wrap the yarn in the opposite direction -- clockwise.  Wrapping clockwise causes the new stitch's left leg to sit in front of the needle.  So be careful, the next time you encounter this stitch, you'll need to knit (or purl) it through the back loop.

So listen carefully and I'll tell you my ribbing secret.  When purling the first stitch after a knit stitch, wrap the yarn clockwise instead of counter clockwise.  And remember, when you encounter a "twisted" stitch -- a stitch with its left leg in front of the needle instead of its right leg -- knit (or purl) that stitch through the back loop.

Why all this talk about ribbing?  Well nona has finished the big chunk of 3x3 ribbing in her Leftover Vest and is onto the first stripe color.

Ribbing done, time to start the stripes.  Let the fun begin!

December 17, 2004 in Project - Leftovers Vest, Tips and Techniques | Permalink


Hi Nona, I just discovered your blog and am reading through your archives. I have this exact same problem and am so happy that you explained why and how to rectify it. Thanks!

Posted by: Purly Whites | Apr 29, 2005 1:42:34 PM

Me too! And just in time to save the front of the ribbed tank I'm working on! (But I'm _not_ reknitting the back.)

Posted by: Andrea | Jun 6, 2005 1:00:39 PM

Thank you Nona, for this insightful tip! I've bookmarked it for the future.

Posted by: Liz | Jun 14, 2005 2:45:44 PM

Hi Nona, I just want to say thank you for posting your success with gettng rid of the saggy ribbing. I have just started an all-over rib project and after years of just living with the saggy ribbing, thought 'certainly someone on the internet has figured this problem out' - and voila, you have saved me much angst!

Posted by: Meg Quinlisk | Oct 15, 2005 8:51:19 PM

This is very useful information, now if only I could understand it better.

I knit English style. Everytime I try to wrap the yarn the other way it's more like a yo. Hmmm. Help?!

Posted by: Rhiannon | Nov 14, 2005 11:28:45 PM

Salutations, Nona! I had the same "Surely someone must have solved this..." thought as Liz. Thanks so much for figuring this out. I shall now rib away happily without worry and self-ridicule. Gracias!

Posted by: Bethany | Jun 8, 2006 7:42:14 PM

hi! i know this is an old post and not one I haven't read several times before, but I have a burning question and thought you might be able to help. When working a 2x2 rib in the round, in this case, I'm always K'ing the Ks and P'ing the Ps... my loose rib problem still exists in the round, only not quite as bad, but I am still incorporating this marvelous trick. However, when I get to them the next round, of course I see the twisted purl so I have been purling it TBL, but should I also do the clockwise wrap that round? that's what i've been doing so far and it seems to be working, but it's quite fiddly on the DPNs and just feels like I'm doing something wrong... Thanks so much!!! :)

Posted by: sean | Aug 6, 2006 11:37:40 PM

back already. 2 things, first, i don't know if this is anywhere near correct, but it occurred to me that the clockwise wrap twists the stitch, hence the TBL being necessary the following row/rnd, so P'ing TBL AND clockwise wrap would basically be twisting twice or twisting and untwisting, not sure which. thus, since posting last, trying the clockwise wrap one round, then just the TBL the next round without the clockwise wrap, then the following rnd, the clockwise wrap again and it is working BEAUTIFULLY. nicest ribbing i've had EVER, round or flat. thanks bunches!

second, just wanted to say that although i have viewed this particular post a zillion times, i never realized how chock full of wonderful information you have throughout! awesome site! thanks! :)

Posted by: sean | Aug 7, 2006 2:49:49 AM

Sean - do you use this technique for rows and rounds? So, you are alternating which way you wrap your purls, but are always going TBL after the first row, right? I'm going to try this out and see if my ribbing will look better. I, too, have been having rather loose stitches in spots with my K2,P2 ribbing and it drives me crazy! Hopefully this will solve the problem. Thanks for the help!

Posted by: Susan | Aug 12, 2006 7:55:01 PM

susan, when i am in the round, basically I am alternating since you are always using the technique on the same purl stitches unless the pattern changes. when i come to the purl stitch, if it is twisted, i purl TBL. if it is normal, i use the clockwise wrap. doing both every round was awkward and seemed wrong to me because of the double twisting, although it may have been right. working flat, i always use the technique on each row because the stitch you are doing it to alternates. hope this helps! (I really don't know if I'm "right" in the least though! I'm happy with the results and it's ribbing that actually looks and feels like ribbing without holes so I guess I'm ok. ;))

Posted by: sean | Aug 14, 2006 4:26:02 PM

I just found this info and want to thank you so much for sharing it! It's made my ribbing look fantastic!

Posted by: Jan in CA | Nov 10, 2006 11:14:38 PM

Hi Nona,
I have had this problem forever and just thought it was me. The ribbing and my end cable stitches are now fixed but I still seem to have a problem with the last knit stitch before a purl going into a cable. I've tried the same method but it still seems to be loose. Have you encountered this??

Posted by: Kelly | Mar 5, 2007 7:17:48 PM

My ribbing problem is soooo pronounced that I cannot use ribbing at all. Tried your method but it is only a little better. Have any other fixes for saggy ribbing? Many thanks!

Posted by: Pamela | May 22, 2007 1:00:31 PM

wow, i have had this problem for such a long time and it drives me crazy. thank you so much for this post (although a three-year belated thanks it is....)

Posted by: Becky | Aug 13, 2007 1:28:03 PM

You just saved my socks from lengths of wobbly weak ribbing!! I can't thank you enough; my ribs are now so smooth and tight!

Posted by: Shobi | Oct 18, 2009 10:22:18 PM

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