Faux Ribbing

I’m adapting this technique from an old Threads article. A quick search shows that the Sewing Divas also made a blog post. In the original Threads article, the author uses various twin needles to create the look of ribbing by using multiple rows of pin-tucks. Why would you go to all this trouble?  Ribbings have a purpose beyond simple appearance. Historically sweater knits have been protection from the elements particularly bitter cold and wind. People looked for ways to cinch the knitting close to wrists, necks and waists to keep the wind and cold from sneaking in through those openings. Ribbing, simple knit 1 purl 1 stitch, is a classic way to cinch those openings.  Many different ribbing patterns have been developed ranging from simple stitch combinations  to complex cable patterns.  Today, I mostly appreciate the fact that ribbing snugs knit fabrics close to my body creating a more visually balanced and attractive silhouette.

As has happened all too often this year, I have a light weight knit fabric but no ribbing.  My fabric is an emerald marl of acrylic fiber.  It’s a plain knit ie. knit on one side purl on the reverse. It is one of the few sweater knits I purchased this year that is not sheer but is light enough to wear inside or under other garments. There are options other than eibbing for finishing the edges. Some will even snug the garment to my body. But I really want and have decided to create my own ribbing using the information from the Threads article and my cover stitch machine, the CPX900.

I’ve shared pin tucking and reverse pin tucks with the cover stitch machine before. So this is not new information, but information used in a new way and using our cover stitch machines in an unusual way: Faux Ribbing for sweater knits. Faux Ribbing can be used and will produce a similar effect on any knit fabric from sheer knits to bulky knits.  If you have a 3-needle  machine, you have the option of 2 different pin tuck widths. However, for sweater knits, I really recommend the widest width(i.e. take out the middle needle).  I opted immediately for the longest stitch length. I can’t imagine using less than 3mm except with the thinnest of knits. I did not engage my differential. The CPX900 works really well for the fabrics I use. It was a machine designed for the things I sew.   In fact, I mostly adjust stitch length and as I’m doing today, and changing threads.

For the first round of testing I used serger thread in the needles and wooly nylon in the looper.  I’m calling it wooly nylon ’cause that’s the term I learned eons ago.  My cone is polyester not nylon; named “Stretch”; and  manufactured by  Maxi Lock.  I’m slowly acquiring one cone of each color Wawak sells. (I especially like this thread for rolled hems.)

I stitched 5 rows,  one foot-width apart. Wooly nylon type thread makes low but distinguishable ribbing. I didn’t have a color-matching “Stretch” and opted to use black which shows up pretty clearly there on the right side of the pic.  My sample didn’t seem to lose any stretch but the spaces between the pin tucks do the stretching and can become transparent when stretched far enough.  I have loose threads because I didn’t make a concerted effort to clean it up. OTOH the threads pretty much stayed like they should and didn’t make much of a mess to clean up.   I would prefer that the pin tucks were closer together for this particular sweater knit and stitch configuration. I actually like the reverse side better than the typical front side.

The sample with the lettering “Wooly Nylon” was done on a cotton woven for the purpose of testing the stitch i.e. did I get thread in all the guides that were supposed to have thread.

My 2nd test has the same settings including serger thread in the needles but uses elastic thread in the looper.  As far as I know, elastic thread comes in black or white. Period. Black was fine.

Again, the sample with lettering was just a test to see if I had correctly threaded the machine and in particular the looper.  On the front, the pin-tucks stand up nicely and draw in the fabric so that it looks more like a ‘real’ ribbing. The elastic thread practically disappears on the back side. Additionally, while the wooly nylon sample tended to stay flat, the elastic thread is gathering ever so slightly.  I’m planning pin tucks at least 13″ long  and can see the gathering could be a problem on work longer than my 3″ long samples. The back side is more messy. The elastic thread was a bit wild and seemed to ummm retain an opinion of its own.  In order to assure the elastic did not ‘snap back’  both unraveling from the fabric and unthreading the machine, at the end of each row I opened the front cover and pulled 6-8″ of elastic thread down into the that area:


This is annoying.  It has to be done at the end of every row. But I would do it if it produced the desired end result.

One important note, neither of these samples have been pressed,,,  YET.

I preferred working with the wooly nylon and performed a 3rd sample.  I kicked up the looper tension to 8.  this produced a satisfactory ‘ribbing’ for this project



^^^^^^^^^^^Whats in the Cook book?

3 Pages with all samples.  I consider none ‘wrong’ rather each would be useful for different projects.


Additionally, be sure to consider using both sides, matching thread and pin tucking the purl side for use as the right side.



This entry was posted in Embellishments, Faux Ribbing. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Faux Ribbing

  1. Pingback: Knit Bodice: Color Blocked, Sweater Knit | sdBev Block Party


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