Crochet Ribs: Old & New Grooves
I've been contemplating what counts as 'ribbed' and 'ribbing.' I read a lot and swatched a bunch. See some of these swatches at right. I even weighed them! I'll be posting more at my Designingvashti blog. At left, a ribbing used for Orbit Cowl http://bit.ly/gmT1dS
While preparing this newsletter issue a few weeks ago, a bad head cold felled me & my crochet inspiration! Returning to the topic, I'm surprised by its peculiarities when I simply ask a few questions :-) At right and below, slip stitch ribbing used for Eva Shrug http://bit.ly/gJHPuQ
; Ravelry: http://bit.ly/w6qtcv
In 30 books published from 1886 to 2011, I found very uneven mention and use of ribbing.
Whether knitted or crocheted, it can be an all-over fabric. It's iconic when bands of it edge a sweater, yet several books of edgings omit ribs altogether. Other books use ribbing everywhere. I think it's partly because classic sweaters with ribbed waistbands and cuffs have gone out of vogue after dominating a certain 20th century fashion silhouette.
The terms ribbing, ribbed, ‘rib stitch’ and ‘a rib’ seem to be used more by American authors, often quite loosely! Just about any raised part of a crochet fabric has been called 'ribbed.' The British authors I consulted are more likely to reserve ribbing for the knitted variety. Sometimes they use welt for a waistband or the ribbing itself, and use terms like raised, ridged, rib-like, and textured relief stitches for crochet types.
I now use ribbing narrowly for a functional (stretchy) ridged band of stitches that can trim cuffs and hems. I use ribs and ribbed loosely to refer to the ridged appearance and surface of a fabric regardless of its behavior. A ribbed stitch pattern could be used as a band of edging and look like ribbing but not function like it.
Which Ribbing is the Best?
Most people use classic knitted ribbing as the gold standard, but it's 2012 now. Is it still the best? And, what if you don’t knit? Authors and online chatters all vary in their opinions of which ribbed crochet stitches also qualify as ribbing. Author M. Righetti emphasized that different people produce different ribbing with the same stitches—this is one reason for varied opinions. (I hope you will be inspired to make your own ribbed swatches to compare.) Also, the elasticity needed will always vary with each sweater style, wearer's fit preference, and yarn choice.
People also vary greatly in how much they think a type of crochet ribbing looks identical to the knitted type. Differences in photostyling, yarn textures, and more factors mentioned above can account for this, so you really need to swatch them yourself and see what you think.
The top three crochet ribbings based upon their occurrences in 30 books:
1. BLsc (blue swatch above left): Single crochet in the back loop only is the classic crochet ribbing. It appears in my 1886 book too). [UK: BLdc]
2. FP/BPdc (at right): Alternating double crochet front post and back post stitches (Sylvia Cosh uses this ribbing exclusively for every sweater in her book). [UK: FP/BPsc] A yarn gobbler.
3. Hdc rib (Pallas Scarf http://bit.ly/xoxpoo at left): Half double crochet worked in the lower third loop of each stitch (this ranks a distant third place). [UK: Half Treble is used] I like how it collapses into pleats around the neck rather than for stretch. Not a yarn gobbler.
Most of you already know that I’m in love with slip stitch ribbing, so for me it’s solidly in first place. I even prefer it over knitted ribbing so far. It’s completely absent from all but 3 of the 30 books, so it's not traditional. Those three were all published recently: R Chachula’s 2011, M Hubert’s 2010, and B Carter’s (stitch variation) 2006. I won’t keep haranguing you about slip stitches, but I have 200+ new subscribers. Welcome and thanks for subscribing. I have to bring everyone up to speed on slip stitch ribbing! Some earlier issues: #9 http://bit.ly/i4MKYU, #29 http://bit.ly/zGLlpd.
What About Tunisian Ribbing?
I found several online requests and suggestions for a good Tunisian ribbing. When I started to swatch a few, I found that they qualify as ribbed in appearance only. Sometimes even calling some of them 'ribbed' is a 'stretch' for me LOL. At left is an early ribbed washcloth I swatched in Tunisian simple stitch rows alternated with some type of Tunisian purl. Ribbed but not ribbing.
I'm seeing two basic strategies for building elasticity into a ribbed crochet fabric so that it can also function as real ribbing. One is what also makes knitted ribbing stretchy: recessed columns of stitches alternate with raised columns ('ribs'). The combination causes the columns to compress into a spring-loaded accordion. The same principle can be applied to alternating rows instead of stitches. It explains why the alternated rows of BLslst & BLsc are stretchy.
I'm noticing a second tantalizing strategy: make and use crochet stitches in such a way that each of them is a wee reservoir of additional stretch, like a coiled spring. For a true Tunisian crochet ribbing, I want to try combining these strategies. I suspect it will be a future newsletter topic!
That's it for issue #36. If you know someone who would enjoy this newsletter, please forward this to them so that they can subscribe. (Click here to subscribe: ) If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me. Thanks! --Vashti