Friday, March 9, 2007

Where the ribbing ends: improving the transition zone

click picture
ribbing transition zonesincludes a how-to
The transition zone where the ribbing meets the sweater (hat, mitten) is the subject of today's post.
* * *
Where the ribbing meets the sweater is often a weak spot in knitting. Along with the change of stitch pattern comes a distortion in the column of knit stitches, especially when switching from ribbing to stockinette fabric. Although this is no earth-shattering condition, it's so easy to improve that you might as well--for the cumulative effect of little improvements is greater than you might believe.

For various arcane reasons, the transition zone between ribbing and the body of the garment is actually more of a problem for top-down ribbing. Therefore, as the second photo below demonstrates, the improvement is correspondingly more dramatic for top-down knitting. However, the first photo shows that bottom-up ribbing also benefits from an improved transition zone.

Here is the how-to:


For the purposes of this discussion, I assume you are at the point where you are going to switch FROM ribbing TO stockinette or a patterned fabric.
  • On the LAST ribbing row, SLIP every knit stitch (slip them "open," also called purlwise"). Purl every purl stitch.
  • After this last row or round of ribbing, switch to the larger needle you'll use for the body size, and begin the body of the garment.
click picturetop down 1x1 ribbing
(Photo above) In bottom-up ribbing, the improvement is subtle, but still visible. The corrected knit columns bridge more directly from the ribbing to the body of the fabric (right arrow). Although it's hard to tell from this photo, the uncorrected transition zone (left arrow) features a bulkier transition from ribbing to the smoother stockinette fabric of the garment body.

For the purposes of this discussion, I assume you have worked your garment down to the point where you want your ribbing to start.
  • Using the needle size for the ribbing (usually a needle 2-3 sizes smaller than that with which you worked the body of the garment) work one last row or round in the body pattern (i.e.: the last row of stockinette, or whatever you were working).
  • On the next row or round (the first row of ribbing) SLIP every knit stitch (slip them "open," also called purlwise.") Purl every purl stitch.
  • After this first row or round, work the ribbing in the usual way to the desired length.
click picture
top down 2x2 ribbing(Photo above) The corrected knit columns bridge more directly from the body of the fabric to the ribbing (right arrow). The unimproved transition zone (left arrow) features wandering, zig-zagging knit columns.
* * *

ribbing w/increasesMarjorie, a reader of this blog, asks the excellent question of how to reconcile the technique set forth in the post--slipping the knit stitches--with the advice often given in patterns to start bottom-up ribbing on fewer stitches, and then increase to the larger body number of sitches "evenly in the last row." Per the photo (left) if the fabric above the ribbing is to be stockinette, or a near-stockinette fabric, it would be my advice to do all increases on a purl using an increase, such as backwards loop, which leaves a "bump." This "bump" will blend into the purls. By not making increases on the knit columns you will have preserved the attractive transition where the knit columns of the ribbing segue into the knit columns of the stockinette fabric above it.

* * *
A final note: although 1X1 ribbing is demonstrated in bottom-up knitting, and 2X2 ribbing is demonstrated in top-down knitting, the directions given for bottom-up ribbing work for both 1X1 AND 2X2 ribbing worked from the bottom up.

Similarly, the directions given for top-down ribbing work for both 1X1 AND 2X2 ribbing worked from the top down.

If you want to work a 3X3 or larger, do a swatch to decide for yourself whether the slip-the-knit-stitches technique creates a noticible improvement over so wide a rib.



Blogger sarah said...

Not just a way to correct a flaw, but a reminder to look for flaws: I'd never really looked at that transition before. Thank you!

March 9, 2007 at 8:25 AM  
Anonymous marjorie said...

Usually when I make the transition between ribbing and the body, I increase stitches evenly on the last row of ribbing. Do you do this? And if you do, do you still slip the knits? I've never tried your technique, and when I add the new stitches on the last row, I generally don't make a distinction between adding the stitch in a K or P. I used to knit front and back to add the stitches, but more recently I use a raised increase between two stitches (I'm a combined knitter, but I hardly think that matters here).

Your blog is terrific.

March 9, 2007 at 3:58 PM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

Hi Marjorie. Thanks for your insightful question. In answer, I've added a photo and some more text to the post. I appreciate your feedback. The post will be far more useful because of it.

Thanks again--


March 9, 2007 at 9:32 PM  
Blogger bibliotecaria said...

Well, I have another detail question. When slipping the knit stitch purlwise, do you do it with the yarn in front or in back? I'm assuming from what I can see that you have the yarn in back, but I wanted to be sure.

March 14, 2007 at 8:24 AM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

Hi Bibliotecaria--Thanks for your question. The short answer is "Yes, you'd want to slip the yarn so it's on the back (inside) of the fabric."

In other words, if you are making the slip from the front of the fabric, then you'd want to hold the yarn AWAY from you to keep the "bar" created by slipping on the back of the fabric--where no one will ever see it but you.

HOWEVER (and you can file this in the category of "more information than you probably ever wanted") IF you want to do the slipping from the back (for example, so you can start right away with a texture pattern on the first row of the sweater body in a bottom-up piece of knitting) you'd hold the yarn TOWARDS you as you slip, to keep it on the back of the fabric. Of course, if you DO create the slip from the back, you've got to remember to slip what looks like the PURL stitches--because those will be the KNIT stitches on the FRONT of the ribbing.

--Hope this isn't TOO techno-weenie of an answer...


March 14, 2007 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger Estellika said...

Wow! So glad to have discovered this blog! Will be sharing with many! Thank you for the in depth and detail oriented explanations, pics, and diagrams. I didn't even relize the transition zone could be prettied up! I love this stuff! It's like gourmet knitting!

May 1, 2007 at 10:58 PM  
Blogger kathy said...

Does this prevent the ribbing from "flipping up?" The sweater I knitted for my husband has the bottom curling up and it's frustrating. I would gladly frog the sweater up to the end of ribbing and reknit if this will solve the problem.

Thanks for the tutorial!

November 19, 2007 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger Evelyn said...

Interesting. I have ignored the "suggestion" to change needle size for ribbing, but I do find that when I go from ribbing to stockinette, the first row or two of stockinette is very tight and hard to knit. Would this help? (Would following the instructions about needle size help too?)

December 30, 2007 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Kenny said...

Dear Technknitter, what about when you have to increase even in stockinette after the last round of ribbing. What kind of increase do you recommend?

July 1, 2008 at 10:32 PM  
Blogger Jersey Shore Deb said...

Even though this was posted over two years ago, I thought I'd write and tell you how helpful this post is to me. I am making a fitted tank top that has ribbing at the waist, and there is decreasing before the ribbing and increasing after it (stockinette before and after). The yarn is a bamboo-cotton-silk blend and shows every flaw. I hated how my piece was coming out so I ripped back and will now use both techniques described in this post. I know it will help.
Thank you, Tech Knitter!!!

May 17, 2009 at 3:33 PM  
Anonymous Lilo said...

This works beautifully. Thank you!

May 3, 2010 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger Sanhita said...

Like many others, never noticed this 'flaw'!! What an idea!! Will be using it in my next project! Just used successfully your "Almost Invisible Increase" in a pair of mittens recently.

August 7, 2010 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger maja said...

Wow, what an amazing resource your blog is, and the ribbing transition is exactly what I was looking for! My question though, is would this also apply in my case, where the "ribbing" in question serves more the purpose of adding a narrower stretchier part - waist - in a tubular pattern. I'm doing stockinette and want to start a *K10 P2* ribbing pattern for about 20 rows before going back to stockinette. But that would mean the first row being *S10 P2* or what? Would you do that? Thanks!!!

December 13, 2010 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Maja--I would not slip 10, because you would have such a long float on the inside. Instead, I try this: slip 3, k1, slip 2, k1, slip 3 (assuming here that you are knitting on circular needles). This will pin down the float while giving you most of the benefit of the transition-zone improvement. Thanks for writing --TK

December 13, 2010 at 2:02 PM  
Blogger maja said...

Thanks for replying so quickly! Yes, I'm knitting on circular needles, but I should have added an important fact: I'm double knitting! So a long float in the back is not a problem, because it's hidden inside the two layers. So in this case do you then think *S10 P2* would work?

December 13, 2010 at 6:19 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

No, it doesn't really change the advice, because such a long float has no "reserve" like a knitting stitch has, and so will it cannot stretch--it will make a very tight spot in your sweater--it would be better to tack it down in a few places.

Best, TK

December 13, 2010 at 7:31 PM  
Blogger maja said...

Thanks TECHknitter! You've been very helpful with this, and your blog has also changed my perspective on knitting - in a good way! Please keep up the amazing work!

December 14, 2010 at 8:54 AM  
Blogger RibbonFest said...

This is such a cool technique - will it work for twisted ribbing as well? (2X2 twisted rib in my case)

Thanks so much for the awesome blog!

September 10, 2011 at 5:23 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Ribbon--I haven't tried this on twisted ribbing but it ought to work. You might have to twist the stitches being slipped--try it both ways and see which looks better to your eye.

Thanks for your kind words about TECHknitting blog.


September 10, 2011 at 7:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I am transitioning from a 2x2 rib (20 rows) that acts as fringe to a cabe scarf, to a 1x1 rib so that the scarf will be reversible. Everything I have tried has given me unsatisfactory results! I will try this method, do you have any additional tips for "ease" of transition for this particular situation?

Thank you!

January 26, 2012 at 11:13 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon--not sure this trick is going to work to transition between different types of ribbing. I would just go from one to another with no attempt at transition, I guess. It's going to show, but then, so is anything else I can think of...

January 28, 2012 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger kushami said...

Techknitter to the rescue - again! I'm knitting top down, making the transition from stockinette to ribbing, for the first time. My first thought was 'Boo hoo, why does my knitting look so terrible?'. But my second thought was 'Techknitter has a post on this.'

Thank you for putting so much thought and effort into your blog for the benefit of knitters everywhere :-)

September 29, 2012 at 1:10 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

You are welcome :)

September 29, 2012 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger NYCraig said...

Love this technique! What about the transition from stiockinrtte to ribbing for the neck on a bottom up sweater? Is there any technique for improving that? Thanks!

November 16, 2012 at 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Laura said...

Does the slipped stitch row reduce the elasticity of the ribbing at all?

January 4, 2013 at 9:24 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Laura--the slipped stitch, even in teeny-weeny sock yarn, even when repeated every other row, does not affect the elasticity of the ribbing. Surprising, but true. Best, TK

January 5, 2013 at 6:47 PM  
Blogger JessicaLonsdale said...

Such a great post (as so many of them are), thank you so much for such a great idea and explanation!

I did find that for my sock, this technique DID negatively affect the stretch, but here's why: I was doing a K2P1 ribbing, AND purling in what I believe is called "Eastern European purling," where you wrap the yarn CLOCKWISE around the needle to make a tighter purl stitch. (There are lots of potential reasons to do this... personally, I find that it gives me a tighter ribbing without having to switch down a needle size. Also, in the dark fuzzy yarn I'm using, it's harder to lose my place: you can tell which stitches are purls because they're sitting "backwards" on the needle.)

That meant I only had one-third purls to balance out two-thirds of floats, AND that those purls had less yarn in them to do the stretching! No wonder it wasn't stretchy enough! :-)

So, I re-did it: I kept the K2P1 ribbing with a LOOSE float, and purled the normal way for that one transition round, and it worked out fine.

Thanks again!

September 16, 2014 at 5:46 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Jessica--Smart thinking to deduce the problem. Glad it worked out in the end.

Best, TK

September 18, 2014 at 8:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does this work when the ribbing is a different color, especially when working from the body piece to the ribbing? I have done the ribbing in a different color going from ribbing to body and it looks great but the first row going fron body to ribbing is looking a little strange with different color stitch/loop in strange place. Will the next row, first row of ribbing, look better?

November 25, 2014 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon--the yarn will trace a sort of toothed edge (jagged line) where the colors come together due to the slipped stitch. It could be quite a pretty effect--maybe work a tiny sample? A swatch 12 stitches wide and 10 or 12 high will show you all you need to know to decide whether you like it or no.

November 27, 2014 at 11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is from Anonymous who wrote on Nov 25, 2014: I was making a hat that is knitted flat and then seamed together so the transitions need to match, from ribbing to body and from body to ribbing. I needed to finish the hat so I could mail it before I got your response so I went with advice from another knitter and just knitted the first row of ribbing before the K1P1 and that worked out okay. I have not had the opportunity to try your suggestion and I did not make it clear in my post that the transitions need to match. Will your suggestion produce a matching look with ribbing to body and body to ribbing Transition

December 1, 2014 at 2:42 PM  
Blogger hmship said...

I just saw this post and it seems straightforward for knitting in the round but if you are knitting flat the knits you slip on the last row (WS) will be purls when knitting the first row in stockinette. In this case, should you be slipping the purls

December 7, 2014 at 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Newishknitter said...

Hello. Will this also help with the "flip up" problem i experienced at the transition point between ribbing and the body? Its almost like a fold in the knitting. And i should tell you that i am ribbing on this piece only so that I don't get a roll. Also, when you say, "On the LAST ribbing row, SLIP every knit stitch...", does that mean that I don't actually knit the knit stitches at all but I just slip them (purlwise)? Thank you!

March 27, 2015 at 4:56 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Yes, that is what it means, simply slip the stitch untwisted (transfer it, in the same positon it is in originally, to your other needle) and pass the running yarn behind it. (You would be working form the front...)

March 28, 2015 at 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Lynda said...

Hi, I've just finished a cardigan and the bottom ribbing is flipping up. I really don't want to unpick and work bottom up. I've tried adding a crotchet trim around the bottom of the rib but this doesn't stop the flip. Is there another solution to correct this problem in an already knitted garment?

August 6, 2015 at 8:59 PM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Hi Lynda--sorry for the delay in responding. IF you want a quicker answer next time, may I suggest e-mailing direct--the address is in the right sidebar. At any rate, the answer is yes! Put a couple of rows of Fake Latvian Braid around the transition point where the ribbing is flipping up. FLB t is sort of like embroidery but done with a crochet hook. The below link (cut and paste it into your browser window) shows several different designs of FLB.

Good luck!

August 26, 2015 at 9:10 PM  

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