Monday, June 28, 2021

Shortening ribbing: K1, p1 (part 1 of 3)

Suppose you have a sweater which you have worked bottom-up, and you decide you want to shorten the ribbing. Suppose further that the ribbing is K1, P1 (1/1) ribbing. You're in the right place: that's what this post is about.  (Iif you have K2, P2 ribbing, check out the second post in this series.)

shortening ribbing in knitting, overview sketch
Shortening ribbing, overview sketch.
This is the cartoon version.
📺😺📺 **
In real life you don't actually hack off
many columns of ribbing with a scissors!  Read on...

If this were stockinette you wanted to shorten, this would be easy to do.  You'd simply snip a stitch free, then unravel that row, catching each now-loose stitch from the row above onto a knitting needle.  You'd then bind off these new loops.

The conventional way to shorten 1/1 ribbing

The conventional way to shorten ribbing is nearly the same, but with a few variations. Here's the illustrated how-to for 1/1 ribbing (K1, P1). 

Suppose, on this two-tone fabric sample, that the maroon-colored fabric is the excess length to be removed. 

shortening ribbing, knit sample overview
Like the opening sketch, the bottom ribbing is shown in a darker color--maroon. The seed stitch represents the first few rows of the garment-body.  The maroon-colored ribbing is the excess to be removed. When we are done, the ribbing will be all oatmeal-colored, and much shorter (5 rows only).

shortening ribbing, closeup of stretched fabric
Close up of above, with the fabric stretched out

Here's the removal in four steps

Step 1: Somewhere along the target row, and at least a few stitches away from any edge, carefully snip a stitch.  Although the opening sketch showed the scissors cutting off a bunch of ribbing, that was only the cartoon version. In fact, after snipping this one stitch, put away your scissors, you won't need them any more.  Instead, the fabric is going to be separated by picking the cut end of the yarn out of the fabric--unraveling-- using the pointed end of a slim knitting needle. 

shortening ribbing, step 1: snipping a stitch
One stitch in the target row being carefully snipped 

shortening ribbing--after snipping there is a cut end
After snipping, there will be a cut end.  Locate the loop adjacent to the cut end in the row above the snipped stitch.  This is the first loop to catch.

Step 2: Once you've identified the loop to catch, insert a slim, pointy needle into the loop. Best to use is double-pointed needle (dpn) or a circular needle. 

shortening ribbing, the first loop caught on a knitting needle
The loop identified in the previous step has been caught by inserting a slim pointy dpn.

Once the loop is caught, begin to remove the cut yarn.  The easiest way to do this is to fish around with a second dpn, teasing and picking the cut end out of the fabric. 

Step 3: As you tease and pick out the cut end, and as further loops pop loose, catch them on the needle. Pretty soon, you'll see the waste fabric coming away from the loops caught on the needle.

A short-cut way to accomplish the same thing, especially with 1/1 (k1, p1) ribbing, is to pick up the entire row at once, by inserting a slim needle along the row.  Below is what that trick looks like. 

Instead of picking the cut ends loose and picking up the loops one-by-one, you can choose to insert a needle all the way down the row, and only then cut loose a single stitch.

Once the needle is inserted, the process is the same as stitch-by stitch: you carefully snip free one loop of the row below, then remove the excess by picking. 

Regardless of how you caught the loops--whether as they popped free, one-by-one, or whether you took the short cut and inserted a needle down the whole row--once the cut end has been picked loose all the way down the row, the result is the same. The waste length of fabric is separated, and the stitches at the bottom of the ribbing are on the needle, waiting to be bound off.

The final result before bind off: the loops are all caught, the waste fabric has been removed.

The picked-out loops of 1/1 ribbing do not sit on the needle in the normal configuration of right-arm forward.  Instead, the right stitch of each pair  lays left arm forward, while the left stitch lays right arm forward.  This is a normal artifact of picking out 1/1 ribbing: the topology (path of the yarn) is complex. (There will be more about the topology of the yarn in the second post of this series...stay tuned!) Further, even if your stitches lie in some other configuration, all will still be well as long as there is no obvious twist at the loop-top where the needle meets the yarn, per below photos.

The ordinary way that picked-out 1/1 ribbing sits on the needle is as shown in the above closeup: the right and left loops of each stitch-pair lie with different arms forward.  However, even if yours looks different, just as long as there is no twist where the loop meets the needle (blue arrow), you're fine to go on to the next step.

Step 4: the final step is to bind off the stitches on the needle.  Below is the bind-off in progress. 

Note that this is ordinary chain bind off, NOT in pattern.  "Binding off in pattern" means knit the knits & purl the purls as part of the bind-off process.  This makes a nicer edge for binding off ribbing.  Unfortunately, here you can't actually do that.  The reason is that the unraveled loops sitting on your needle are the tails of the stitches, not their heads, and the tails of stitches are offset 1/2 stitch from the heads.

As to where to get the yarn for the bind off, that's easy. I knit my ribbing in two colors for illustration purposes, but your ribbing is almost certainly one-color.  This means the waste fabric which you've separated off will contain all the yarn needed to unravel and re-use for the bind off. Note that when you go to unravel ribbing in the OPPOSITE direction from that in which it was knit (which you will be doing with the waste fabric) it readily unravels: one tug and out it comes, easy peasy. 

* * *

The second post in this series illustrates shortening 2/2 ribbing (K2,P2). The third and final post in this series shows alternatives for binding off, with a new trick which doesn't even require any bnding off at all! 

Until next time...


PS: To shorten ordinary knitting (non-ribbed) check out this post: