I thought we’d talk a little about ribbing. I’ve done a fair amount of ribbing lately and I’m pretty chuffed with how straight and even it has turned out. Once upon a time my ribbing was wonky but I’ve learned a thing or two lately and my ribbing has improved out of sight!

Apparently, many knitters knit stitches tighter than they purl them. You can check if you are a loose purler by looking at the back of your stocking stitch; loose purls make the back look like clumps of little ridges.

I don’t notice too much clumping on the back of my stocking stitch but when it comes to ribbing my difference in tension is more visible (the same goes for cables). With ribbing, loose purl stitches warp the knitted stitch immediately before them. Overall, the whole lot looks a bit wibbly wobbly.

wonky ribbing 

Above is 3 X 2 ribbing (3 knit, 2 purl) with a loose purl. See the bigger knit stitch? 

neat ribbing 

Now, here is the same ribbing with evenly tensioned knit and purl stitches. Very nice!

You might not have this problem, your ribbing might be perfect. But, if you do have wonky ribbing, I may have a solution…

A while ago I learned, thanks to the lovely Ysolda, that there is more than one way to knit a stitch and more than one way to purl. Well, I knew that there was a complicated-looking continental way that looked all back to front and real fast, but didn’t realise that there was a Western European way and an Eastern European way too. Did you?

I learned to knit the Western way. Knit is like this: 

Ribbing - East Meets West Ribbing - East Meets West

Purl like this: 

Ribbing - East Meets WestRibbing - East Meets West 

With the Eastern way you knit like this:

Ribbing - East Meets WestRibbing - East Meets West

and purl like this:

Ribbing - East Meets WestRibbing - East Meets West 

It is the Eastern way of purling that most interests us here. See how the yarn is pulled over the needle? From left to right. Less yarn is used to make the stitch and this means your purl stitch is tighter. Ah ha! That’s what I was after, a tighter purl!

The one snag is that the stitch created lies the opposite way on the needle, see here:

Ribbing - East Meets West 

So, if you use an Eastern purl when you are knitting ribbing flat, you need to use the Eastern knit stitch too, or at least insert the right needle into the back leg of the stitch, or you end up with twisted stitches. But, when you are knitting ribbing in the round, you knit on knitted stitches and purl on purled stitches. So, you could (like I do) knit west and purl east (this is called combination knitting) and that way you don’t have to change too much!!!

It takes a wee while to get into the rhythm of things and it helps to “read” your knitting. Check which way stitches lie on your needle. Remember to stick your needle in through the correct leg! From the correct direction!

If you have a go, I think you’ll love the difference the Eastern European purling makes to your ribbing and you’ll be hooked!

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