Monday, July 5, 2021

Shortening ribbing: K2, P2 (part 2 of 3)

Supposing you want to shorten bottom-up ribbing. Just as there are two ways to pick up the loops in K1, P1 (1/1) ribbing, so there are two ways to pick up the loops in K2, P2 (2/2) ribbing. 

The first way is to snip a single stitch, then pick out the yarn, catching the ribbing stitches one-by-one as they pop loose. The second way is to insert a slim double-pointed or circular needle ahead of time, then do the snipping and the picking. Let's look at these in order.

One-by-one method

On this sample, I've knit a 2/2 ribbing topped with a few rows of seed stitch, to represent the bottom part of a sweater with a too-long ribbing.  The part of the ribbing to be removed is worked in orange.  

The process of cutting a single stitch, teasing out the cut end and catching the loops on a slim needle is virtually identical to that shown in the previous post about 1/1 ribbing.  Below it is illustrated for 2/2 ribbing.

Decide where you want your ribbing to end.  This soon-to-be bottom row is called the "target row." The target row in this sample is the bottom-most oatmeal-colored row, and the  row BELOW the target row was knit in a different color to make thing easy to see.

One stitch in the row BELOW the target row is carefully snipped

The unwanted fabric excess 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. As each stitch pops loose, it will be caught on a slim dpn

In the above photos, the waste fabric is separating below the target row as the cut end is picked out and the loops of the target row are caught as they pop free.  This process is repeated all along the row until all the loops are caught.

Shortcut, picking up all the stitches ahead of time: the all-at-once method

For the one-by-one method, above, there's no significant difference between 1/1 and 2/2 ribbing. However, if you want to try the all-at-once method, below, there is a difference. 

With 2/2 ribbing, you can't just insert your dpn down the arms of the stitches on the fabric surface in the target row.  If you try it that way, you'll miss some of the loops you need. Instead, you must re-adjust your eyes to see not the arms, but the  BOTTOM loops of the target row--the TAIL of the stitches, rather than the arms leading to the tails.  (For a quick review of the parts of a knit stitch, this link shows the parts, labeled.)

If this sounds confusing, it'll all come clear in a moment. 

I find that for this trick, it helps to think about these bottom tail loops in a series of four, with each of the four in the series being named after what percentage of the stitch shows on the surface of the fabric from the side you are working. Another way of saying the same thing is that only partial tail loops show on the target row, and it is into these partial loops that you have to thread your slim dpn, as illustrated below. 

  • the first tail loop of the series is not too hard to see: it is a one-quarter (1/4) loop, which can be found where the stitch in the second KNIT column segues into the stitch in the first PURL column. 
  • The second tail loop of the series is a half-stitch (1/2) loop, which is easy to see, it's found right in the middle between the two PURL columns.
  • The third tail loop, like the first, is a 1/4 stitch, which is found where the stitch in the last PURL column segues into the first KNIT column, 
  • The final tail loop of the series is the hardest to see: it is a one-eighth (1/8) loop, hiding almost completely between the two KNIT columns. 
(Geek note: if you think about it, all the loops are actually half-loops, because, regardless of position, structurally speaking they are all the same thing: the bottoms of the tail between the stitches.  What distinguishes them from one another and makes them partial like this is how much of the loop is exposed on which fabric face.  Thus, the 1/4 stitches are equally exposed on both fabric faces, while the 1/8 stitch is actually the back of the 1/2 stitch, meaning, if you flipped the fabric over, the 1/8 stitch--located between the knit columns--would show as the 1/2 stitch located between the purl columns.)

Click to enlarge. In the schematic (right) as well as the photo (left) the series details are highlighted. It is along these partially-visible tail loops that you would insert a slim dpn for pick-up when using the shortcut all-at-once method

As to where to start and stop with your pick-up: you DO have to pick up every single tail-loop, but you DON'T have to start with the first loop of the series as I've described it (and in fact, you probably won't).  If the first tail loop to pick up doesn't happen to be the 1/4 loop which starts a series, you just start with one, two or three "introductory loops," being those loops from a previous partial series which lay on the needle ahead of the first full series. Once past the intro loop(s), the pattern remains consistent all the way down the target row, and that is the use of it. By chanting "quarter-half-quarter-eighth" to yourself, you'll be that much less likely to miss a tail loop or become confused as to to which loop to grab. 

Just to really fasten this concept down tight, here's one more run at it. On this extreme close-up, you'll see that the first tail-loop to be picked up is one of these intro loops.  It is a 1/8 loop, although in actual practice, it could be any of the loops of the series. It is after the intro loop (or loops) that the regular progression of the series develops. 

Close-up: after picking up this introductory loop, the rest of the pattern follows in regular sequence.

This is what the shortcut method looks like in real life, with the needle inserted into the tail loops, all the way down the row. Note that as soon as you insert the needle, the tail loops all stretch to become the same size: the fractional appearance is only how the loops lay in the fabric before the needle is inserted

Once the needle is inserted, all the tail-loops swell to the same size. 

Bind off

Whichever way you got the tail loops on the needle (whether one-by-one, or all-at-once) after the yarn of the row below has been snipped and picked out, this is the end result. The orange waste fabric has been removed and the shortened ribbing ends in loops on the needle.

Now remains only to bind off, and here is the bind off in progress.

This post and the previous have illustrated the conventional method of shortening ribbing which was knit bottom-up.  In sum, so far in this series, you snip a single stitch and pick out the row below, catching the tail-loops of the ribbing on a needle either as you go or beforehand.  Once all the tail loops are on your needle, you bind off.  

Ordinarily, ribbing is bound off in pattern, meaning to knit the knits, and purl the purls.  So you may wonder: why wasn't that done on these samples?  

The short answer is, the loops on your needle, being the tails, don't line up with the loops of the ribbing: the loops on the needle are 1/2 stitch off the ribbing above them.  Because of this offset, you have to use a more general-purpose bind off, and a good all-a-rounder is the ordinary chain bind off

The ordinary chain bind off makes a good workmanlike finish--sturdy and attractive.  Further, with chain bind off, you can easily pull back if it's turning out too tight or loose, so you can mess around until the bottom edge is just right--neither tightly puckering nor loosely flaring, which is an advantage, for sure. 

However, chain bind off is not the only choice.

In the last post of this series you'll see that there are several other alternatives to approach the bind-off problem. 


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