Ribbing provides an elastic edge to a knitted garment. Sleeve cuffs, the garment hem, front edges of a cardigan, and collar are often done in ribbing. There's more to ribbing, however, than just the ends of a sweater. Fancy rib stitches can be used for the body of a vest, a stretchy hat, or a scarf where it's ideal to have the two sides alike. Here are some plain and fancy rib stitches to try:
Use 1x1 rib on the edges of a garment where you want a smooth, finished look. Cast on or pick up an even number of stitches. Knit 1, Purl 1, and continue until the end. Repeat for each row. For a neater look, knit the knit stitches in the back of the stitch, which puts a half twist in the stitch and keeps the ribbing firm.
A 2x2 rib is also used at garment edges, but gives a more textured look for casual garments. It also has a little more stretch than 1x1 rib. Cast on or pick up stitches in multiples of four. Knit 2, Purl 2, repeat to the end of the row. Repeat for each row. If you cast on or pick up stitches in a multiple of four plus two more, you'll need to remember to always knit the first two stitches on one side and purl the first two stitches on the other side.
This attractive ribbing can be used for the body of a garment or for a scarf. The stitch is similar to 2x2 ribbing, but with each k2p2 unit offset one stitch each row. It's highly elastic, so is great for body-hugging designs. It's also extremely easy to do. Cast on a multiple of four stitches plus 3 extra. Knit 2, Purl 2, until the last 3 stitches, Knit 2, Purl 1. Repeat for each row.
This attractive rib is great for vests. The stitch produces a right and wrong side, so it's less suitable for scarfs. It is basically a 2x2 ribbing with knotted stitches instead of purl stitches between the knit ribs. Cast on a multiple of 5 stitches plus 2 extra. First row (right side): Knit 2, *Purl 3, Knit 3, repeat from * to the end of the row. Second row (wrong side): Purl 2, *Knit 1, Purl 1, Knit 1, Purl 2, repeat from * until the end of the row.
Prime rib is a chunky, highly elastic ribbing that closely resembles Shaker stitch, but is a bit easier to do. It produces a thick, warm fabric that is good for hats, scarfs, vests, and very warm sweaters. Its super-elasticity is great for body-hugging garments. The stitch was created by the famous knitter, Elizabeth Zimmerman. Garment shaping is tricky with this stitch, so stick to simple shapes. The instructions sound complicated, but it's actually fairly simple once you find the rhythm. In essence it's a 1x1 rib, but in the first row you knit the the knit stitches and slip the purl stitches while wrapping the yarn over the needle to create a new stitch. In every row thereafter, you knit the knit stitches together with the loops from the last row, and purl the purl stitches while creating new loops. Work carefully, because mistakes are hard to repair.
Cast on an even number of stitches.
First row (worked only once): *Knit 1, bring the yarn forward, slip the next stitch as if to purl, carry the yarn over the right needle, which creates a loop. Repeat from the *. End with the yarn forward and one last stitch. Slip this stitch as though to purl.
Second row (and every row thereafter): Knit 1, *bring the yarn forward, slip the next stitch purlwise, carry the yarn over the right needle making a loop, Knit two together (the stitch and the loop from the last row). Repeat from the *. End with yarn forward, slip the last stitch purlwise.