Ask Patty: Fake It – Modern Daily Knitting

Last month we faced that little devil the purl and its effect on our fabric when we work garter and stockinette. This month we have another purl question. Prepare to nerd out over rib.

Keep it Boxy

Dear Patty,

Is there a way to stop a ribbed hem (or cuff) from pulling in and remain true to a boxy sweater’s boxy silhouette—without aggressive blocking? On one garment, I tried using the same needle size as the body and adding a few increases to the ribbing, but I wonder if there are other, better solutions. I recently heard someone suggest, for example, that a broken rib won’t pull in, although I haven’t tried that myself.


Dear Jo,

When I was a new knitter, it seemed so counterintuitive to me to increase after knitting ribbing to transition to stockinette—even for a boxy sweater. After all, the ribbing pulled in, so it seemed like if I wanted boxiness, I would have to decrease after the rib in bottom up (or increase in the rib in top down). But decreasing did not work—I got a weird fluted edge. “But why?” you might ask. (Okay, maybe you didn’t, but I’m gonna answer anyway.)

When we move our yarn back and forth between the knits and the purls, we use more yarn than we do when we work in stockinette. Let’s look at swatchzilla. Here’s bird’s eye view of ribbing:

These six stitches used quite a bit more yarn than the six stitches in stockinette.

Since the ribbing uses more yarn than stockinette, if I went right into the stockinette without any increases, the transition row would be a mess.

Decreases—But Not Where You Think

When it comes to a tunic-length garment, to avoid “bubble butt,” you can put in your increases after the rib, and then gently shape the entire garment by decreasing a stitch at each side, as you would for waist shaping. This is what I did in the Highrise Vest.

But what about your boxy pullover? Here you would not want to shape the garment—you want that straight side look—so we come back to the question: How do I get the look of rib without the behavior of rib?

It’s time to do a little swatching!

This One Is Too Tight

Here I have a plain old 1 x 1 rib. You can see that it pulls in quite a bit. I measured across 26 stitches at 3 ½” (9 cm).

This One Is Too Bumpy

Next up on our swatch parade, I tried a bit of broken rib. Here you work the same row over and over: *k2, p2; rep from *, end k2, p1. The result was a slightly less pully-in (yeah, that’s a word) rib. 26 st measured 3 ¾” (9.5 cm).

But it doesn’t look like 1 x 1 rib, so if that’s what I want it to look like, it’s a fail.

There had to be a way to get the look of 1 x 1 rib and have it not act like 1 x 1 rib. Then of course, I remembered: I pulled out a trick I used for Harbor Springs—FAKE 1 x 1 rib.


Here we have a lovely 1 x 1 looking rib that is not flat and lifeless, does not pull in so it looks like stockinette, but lies flat and does not pull in.

Here our 26 stiches measured 4″ (10 cm). That means if I cast on 114 stitches in this rib, my sweater hem would measure (unstretched) 17 ½” (44.5 cm), while the same 114 stitches in a regular 1 x 1 would measure (unstretched) 15 ¼” (39 cm) ). QUITE a difference. Look how lovely.

What’s the trick? How did we get a 1 x 1 ribbing that didn’t pull in? Simple, knit a 1 x 2 ribbing! That’s right, this is actually a k1, p2 rib. If you flip it over and look at the wrong side, you’ll see why this works.

When we are looking at the WS, we see a K2, p1 rib. You can see that single purl pulls in the two knits so much it almost looks like stockinette.

Once again, behold the power of the purl! On the RS, the two purls pull in those single columns of knits so it ends up looking like a perfect 1 x 1 rib.

As with so many things in life, the answer is, FAKE IT!!

Patty in your Pocket

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