Ribbing is usually used at the bottom of a sweater or on the cuffs of sleeves or the open part of a hat. It’s a stitch that has some stretch to it. Ribbing helps us keep our hats on and our sleeves from gaping open at the cuff. There are some rules or guidelines for using ribbing. Once you’ve been knitting for a while you’ll discover that ribbing doesn’t always follow the rules!
FIRST I’ve posted before about how ribbing almost always should be knit with a needle one size smaller than the body of the item you’re knitting. That way the size of the ribbing matches the size of the body of the item. It’s all about having the right proportions. So I knit this hat using size 11 (8 mm) needles for the ribbing and then knit the top (body) of the hat using size 13 (9 mm) needles. There is no US size 12 needle so 11’s are one size smaller than 13’s.
I really like the look of this teal tweed yarn in stockinette stitch in the size 13 needles. The flecks of neon green and hot pink really stand out. Click on the photo of that hat at left if you want a closer look at the tweed. Now, take a good look at that ribbing in the photo below. The ribbing actually looks like it was knit with larger needles than the body of the hat. This look is what I’d expect if I’d used size 13 needles for the ribbing, not size 11 needles. The ribbing has broken the rule!
SECOND Ribbing is a stitch that always uses more yarn than stockinette stitch or garter
stitch. Moving the yarn from one side of the fabric to another after one or two stitches takes extra yarn. Knowing this gives me some additional design options. If I rip out this ribbing and re knit the brim with smaller needles there will be yarn leftover. I can use it to add several rows of stockinette stitch or I can make the brim longer.
Additional design options are always a good thing! At this point in the knitting process it’s really a question of style. The knitter needs to ask, “Do you like the look of this
ribbing with the stockinette or would you like a different look?” I could have re knit the ribbing with smaller needles, and gotten a more delicate look. Instead I decided to use a different stitch for the brim of this hat and it completely changed the style of the hat. My design change turned the hat into a cloche that can also be worn as a slouch hat. See more photos of it in my shop, All Unwound.