As my cardigan project evolves (just the fastening left, hooray) I thought I do a post on ribbing. This is something I’ve struggled with quite a bit over the years but also learned a few tricks along the way. So here goes my five tips:
1.Ribbing doesn’t always have to be smaller
If you look at many ready-to-wear garments today, you can see that the waist rib has pretty much the same circumference as the bodice piece. This is also common for sleeve cuffs and leg openings. The amount of gathers is a trend thing, and varies as fashion changes.
Lululemon hoodie from 2015 vs a vintage college sweater. Notice the difference in the amount of gathers.
2. When in doubt make samples
For my cardigan, I was unsure about how much stretch the ribbing should have since I would attach it along the length and not just across the width. Most knits have more stretch crosswise and less stretch lengthwise. My samples proved that point. Only 100% worked out. Both 90% and 80% curved, which would be great for a neckline, but not a good look on a button placket.
From left: 100 percent, 90 percent and 80 percent.
3. Add notches to make sure the stretch is even
When I attach ribbing to a neckline I always make sure to put several notches on the rib and the corresponding neckline to make sure the stretch is evenly distributed. Notches mid back, mid front and at the shoulder seams will suffice. Just make sure to do the right calculations, for example, if your rib is 80 percent of the neckline, the corresponding length on the rib pattern piece should be 80 percent of the bodice neckline length.
Back neckline mid-back to shoulder: 10 cm (4 inches)
The length between notches on the rib : 8 cm (3,15 inches)
The calculations and notches for my cardigan.
4. The rib will get narrower the more you stretch it
Yes this might be a no-brainer for everyone but me, for I often seem to forget that rule. So if you want a finished neckline rib that is 2.5 cm (1 inch) you’ll need to add some width. Just stretch the rib fabric to see how much that is needed
5. Feeling overwhelmed? Here are some general rules:
If the ribbing has good recovery, in my experience the following formulas will work in most cases:
Neckline: Ca 75% . I know several sewing books recommend 66 % (2/3) but I’ve often found that to be too much. I’ve even done 80% with good results.
Sleeveless arm openings: Ca 80%
For a front fastening on a cardigan: 95-100%
Waist rib, hoodie or pants: 95–100% (for a smooth finish that fits in with current fashion). You can shape the side seams on the rib for a more form fitting look
Cuff: 95% for a smooth finish, 80% if you want gathers. If you want both a smooth finish and a narrow wrist width, just make the rib cuff v-shaped.
So that was my primer on sewing with ribbing. Please don’t take my suggestions as an absolute gospel, as the end result will always depend on the fabrics you are using and the look you are going for. And I would love if you shared your experience and methods when it comes to ribbing in the comment section!