Exploring the Art of Decorative Knitting Ribbing

Exploring the Art of Decorative Knitting Ribbing

Knitting is not just a craft; it's a form of art that allows for endless creativity and personalisation.  Ribbing, often used for cuffs, collars, and waistbands, is typically associated with its practical purpose of providing elasticity. However, when approached with an artistic eye, it becomes a canvas for adding intricate details and personal flair to your knitting projects.  In concluding our series on Knitted Ribbing, we delve into the decorative potential of this stitch technique.


The Basics

Understanding the basics of ribbing is essential before exploring its decorative aspects. Traditional ribbing involves alternating knit and purl stitches to create a stretchy, ribbed pattern. This foundational knowledge is essential as you move towards more decorative and complex patterns.  More about this can be found our Guide to Ribbing Techniques.


Transforming Ribbing into a Decorative Element

  • Textured Ribbing:  Experiment with different stitch combinations within the ribbing. Incorporating twisted stitches, slip stitches, or cable stitches can create a raised, textured appearance that adds depth and interest to your knitting.
  • Colourful Ribbing:  Corrugated ribbing, where each rib alternates in colour, adds a playful and visually stunning element when strong contrasting shades are used.
  • Lace and Eyelets:  Incorporate lace patterns or eyelets into your ribbing for a delicate, airy effect. This is particularly effective in lighter garments or accessories like summer tops or shawls.
  • Combining Ribbing Styles:  Don't hesitate to mix and match different ribbing styles in one project. A combination of plain, textured and colourful ribbing can produce a striking effect.


Practical Applications

Decorative ribbing isn't just for show; it can also serve practical purposes. In sweaters and cardigans, decorative ribbing can accentuate the waistline or highlight the cuff of a sleeve. In hats and scarves, it adds a touch of elegance and uniqueness. Even in home décor, such as cushion covers or blankets, this can used to great effect as a statement feature.

Decorative rib stitches are a favourite here at Verde as a simple but effective way of adding texture and visual interest to our knitting projects. Here are a few favourites:

  • Cartridge Rib: 


This reversible mock rib pattern is known for its deep, defined ribbing.  Although it doesn't have the elasticity of standard ribbed fabric, it is still an excellent choice for various projects like scarves, cowls, hats, and sweaters

This simple technique includes only knit and slip stitches, with the slip stitch being worked purlwise with the yarn held to the front.  The pattern is worked over a multiple of 4 + 3 stitches and involves a simple two-row repeat:

Row 1 (RS): *K3, slwyif; repeat from * to last 3 stitches, k3.
Row 2 (WS): K1, *slwyif, k3; repeat from * to last 2 stitches, slwyif, k1. 

Knit flat with no purls it's a great choice for beginner knitters and you can find it in our Acqua Cowl pattern.

  • Broken Rib:

The Broken Rib Stitch modifies the 1×1 rib by inserting a column of seed stitches between the ribs, which breaks up the pattern and gives it a unique texture. This stitch looks similar to regular ribbing but doesn't stretch as much horizontally.

To knit the Broken Rib Stitch flat, you can use any number of stitches, but an odd number is recommended for a symmetrical outcome. The stitch pattern is relatively simple and consists of a two-row repeat:

Row 1 (RS): Knit all stitches across.
Row 2 (WS): Alternate between purl one and knit one, ending with a purl one.

Match this with plain stockinette for a contrasting texture as seen in our Snowdonia Hat and Osprey glove patterns.

  • Slip Stitch Rib

Slip stitch ribbing is a simple yet effective way to create a stretchy fabric with a delicate slip stitch pattern running through the centre of the vertical pillars.

Worked on a multiple of 4+3 stitches.

Row 1 (RS): (K1, sl1, k1, p1); repeat to the last 3 stitches, k1, sl1, k1.
Row 2 (WS): (P3, k1); repeat to last 3 stitches, p3.

  • Mock Cable Rib

This is a winning stitch with all the curves and texture of cabling without the complication of a cable needle.  The effect is achieved through the use of clever increases and decreases and you can even add eyelets (as below) to create a lighter, elegant fabric.  A variation of this stitch is used in two of our most popular kits, Torridon and Norsk.

Start with a multiple of 4+2 stitches.

Setup (RS):  P2, *(k2, p2); repeat from * to end.
Row 1 (WS): K2, *(p1, yo, p1, k2): repeat from * to end.
Row 2 (RS): P2, *(k3, p2); repeat from * to end.
Row 3 (WS): K2, *(p3, k2); repeat from * to end.
Row 4 (RS): P2, *(sl1, k2, pso (pass slipped stitch over), p2); repeat from * to end.

  • Brioche Rib:

Brioche knitting creates a squishy, ribbed fabric that's reversible and lofty. It involves a unique combination of slipped stitches and yarn overs. Brioche Rib is ideal for cosy, luxurious garments and accessories such as our Dulcet headband and Bergen Cowl.

To work a simple ribbed Brioche stitch, cast on an even number of stitches:

Sl1yo - Slip one and yarn over. Bring the yarn between the needles to the front. Slip the next stitch purlwise and take the yarn over the needle to the back, so that this sits on top of the slipped stitch.  This is now ready for the brk stitch on the following row.
Brk - Brioche knit stitch. Knit the slipped stitch from the previous row together with the yarn passing over it.

Sl1yif - Slip with yarn in front. Bring the yarn between the needles to the front (towards you). Slip the stitch purlwise.

Setup row: *K1, sl1yo; repeat to last 2 st, k1, slwyif.
Row 1: K1, *sl1yo, brk; repeat from * to last st, slwyif.
Repeat row 1 as required.

Final Thoughts

Ribbing doesn't have to be plain knits and purls and each of these stitches brings unique texture and style to knitting projects.  Experimentation is key to mastering these stitches offering extensive possibilities for creativity and personalisation in your next endeavour.

Happy knitting!

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