Q for You: What’s your favorite edging?

Q for You: What's your favorite edging?

Edge treatments — cuffs, hems, neckbands, selvages — are one of the easiest things to tamper with as a knitter and also one of the most important details there is. And geez, so many options. You’ve got your ribbing. (1×1, 2×2 … twisted rib, garter rib, cartridge rib, corrugated ribbing …) You’ve got garter stitch and seed stitch. Folded hems. Stockinette roll. Slip-stitch selvage. And there are a million ways to get fancy with it. Any really good pattern designer will have put a lot of thought into what happens at each edge of knitted piece and how it relates to the rest of the fabric — getting the ribbing properly centered or lined up with other elements (e.g. raglans), or how a cable pattern transitions neatly into the edging — as well as what the yarn does or doesn’t want to do. But not all designers are that thoughtful, and edge treatments are ultimately up to you anyway!

I remember once hearing a knitting designer say he always uses 1×1 ribbing because it looks the most professional to him, most like ready-to-wear knits, but I find a lot of yarns don’t like it. My black cardigan, for example: The Linen Quill (held double) looked terrible in 1×1. That yarn wants to be stockinette, and when I switched from 1×1 to 3×2 — more knit surface than purls — it breathed a visible sigh of relief. But I don’t always love a picked-up button band worked in ribbing, and didn’t think the 3×2 here would be firm enough for that purpose, so that sweater got a garter stitch band for a little more firmness and contrast.

Generally speaking, I like 2×2 ribbing. I’m a simpleton — the less decorative the better — so when it’s up to me (or there’s no good reason not to depart from a pattern), that’s my default. And that’s my Q for You today: What’s your favorite edge treatment? 


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Flat or in-the-round?

Pictured is my Top-Down Knitalong sweater in progress, in Shibui Pebble held double

46 thoughts on “Q for You: What’s your favorite edging?

  1. I am with you on the 2 x 2 ribbing for garments! I too have tried other edgings, but that seems to be the neatest and most serviceable, and really the nicest looking one. I do love knitting lace edgings on shawls but to be honest my favorite shawls to actually wear have neat, tidy, and slightly weighty i-cord bind-offs!

  2. One thing I like about 1×1 edging is the ease of doing a tubular bind off.

    I do like a hem but I don’t like how it’s often too bulky or flips out.

    I did an applied i-cord around the neckline of a summer tee and I like how tidy it is, although it doesn’t feel completely my style.

    It’s a good question, I’m curious to read all of the responses.

  3. Another vote for 2×2 ribbing. But in a fingering weight sweater, a folded hem is really nice. I did try that in a worsted weight sweater once, and it was way too bulky.

  4. My main use of edging is to flatten and finish the edge of the knitting, so I often use wide ribbing, 3×2 or 4×2, but I let the sweater guide me. My last sweater, just finished, looked best with five rows of 1×1, just enough to keep the edges from curling. I like a sweater to come straight down, no indentation at the waist, so I always knit the edging with the same size needles as the rest of the sweater.

      • Yes, this! No fond of the ‘bubble’ effect of reducing needle size at the hem. A individual style thing for sure.

        • Me too! As a pear-shaped person, I have trouble imagining how ribbing that pulls the bottom of a sweater in ever became a “thing”—as soon as I raise my arms to do something I have to pull it down again, or live with the bubble effect which I find really unattractive and bunchy-feeling. Maybe it works on some body types? For my shape, an edge that’s the same size as the sweater or flares out just slightly works much better.

          • :) I just posted about this below without reading the comments and have come back to find I’ve been scooped. Solidarity in pear shapes!

  5. It really depends on the item and the pattern look. I often deviate from the pattern in this because I know the yarns I use and I know how I want the item to look. I’m very, very picky about how I want things to look and I’ve never yet knit a pattern exactly as written. In terms of ribbing edging though, most of my FOs are 2×2 ribbing. I find 1×1 ribbing can look bad when stretched out in certain yarns. My first hat was done in 1×1 rib and it didn’t suit the yarn, but as it was only my second ever project I didn’t know any better. I still wear the hat, but I always think the ribbing looks terrible, even though it is by far my most complimented on FO.

  6. Sometimes nothing looks good so after I cast on the first row will be knit 1 purl 1 and then carry on with the pattern it stops the rolling a bit, or I just let er roll!

  7. Design considerations aside, my favorite ribbing, especially with the fingering weight yarns I prefer, is K2, P1. The purl stitch sort of disappears, but still does its job to prevent curling. On heavier weights, its likely to be K3,P2…because I like asymmetry in all things. I dislike fold over hems, and I’m not that fond of knitted buttonholes, so if a buttonhole is needed, I will choose ribbing which provides the narrowist possible cavity in which to hide it, often that is garter stitch. One of the main reasons to knit a big swatch is to have a place to test swatch the ribbing before you pick up 100s of stitches for the button band of a cardigan sweater; and swatching the ribbing includes swatching the buttonhole.

  8. My favorite is 1×1 twisted rib. A little fiddly, but I so love how it looks. I definitely don’t like ribbing that pulls in at my hips or wrists, so I work with then needle size so it stays even with the body (I don’t like it to flare out, either). But yes, it depends on the yarn and the pattern.

  9. I like the math of 3×2–asymmetry in interesting but predictable proportions. But K2P2 is what I do for button bands, apparently because I like them conventional. I prefer seed stitch over garter for an alternative edging.

  10. I’m also a 2×2 rib fan, but I’m currently stuck on the best way to bind off the shawl collar on a featherweight cardigan that I did in 2×2 rib. I’ve tried a normal bind off, Elizabeth Zimmerman’s sewn bind off, and an icord bind off, and haven’t been happy with any of them. Does anyone have any suggestions?

    • Jeny’s super stretch bind off (JSSBO)? There are instructions on Knitty and Youtube and you can make it match the 2×2 rib.

      • I was wondering about that! So you just follow the knit stitch instructions twice, then the purl instructions twice, and so forth?

  11. I fell in love with the 3×2 rib on your linen quill sweater so I’m trying it on my improv. I think it would look nicer with a stockinette stitch pattern but I do like it!!!! I might do 2×2 because I have to rip back on the sleeves and haven’t done the bottom yet.

  12. I am generally not a fan of ribbing, it pulls in too much. For shawls, a picot edge looks amazing- if you ask me crochet is very much underutilized for edgings. For sweaters, a provisional cast-on picked up for a folded hem is very tailored. I’ve done a provisional CO and yo, k2tog picot edge for baby sweaters to great effect. As someone else mentioned, an applied i-cord is just right sometimes. I recently finished my Konglelua hat and liked the decorative ribbing on it a lot, I’d like to use it on a future sweater.

  13. Folded hem for stockinette, there’s something magical about how that purl row bends the fabric

  14. No one has mentioned seed stitch. Sometimes, this is very pretty. Sampling is a great way to go.

  15. i have been trying out some of the sequence knitting for edges. i love the reversibility of most of the edges, as well as the fact that they don’t curl. sequence knitting by cecilia campochiaro.

  16. generally, I don’t like ribbed edges because they cling or ride up. I like a garter stitch edge, or a rolled edge if it matches the rest of the sweater. I also have dome some lace edges which are lovely. If I MUST do a ribbed edge, the more knits between the fewer purls the happier I am.

  17. Corrugated rib has substance and hangs straight, used for fair isle sweaters a la Alice Starmore. Actually, now that I think of it, I wonder how this would be in a single color (2 strands same color). I’ll have to try it.
    Also, I recently saw a brioche rib on a sweater design…

    • Alice Starmore also has a gorgeous colour-work garter stitch button band on one of her cardigan /jackets. The fairisle colour changes in garter stitch don’t look anything like either colour work or garter stitch but come over as rather intricate crochet or lacework .

  18. I like 2 by 2 rib because you can increase up to a k2 p3 rib for a couple rows for a looser bind off. It barely shows because 2 by 2 is chunkier looking and I am only adding one stitch for every 4. If working bottom up I start with k2 p3 and decrease to k2 p2 after a couple rows. At least it works well for sock tops. I have seen this used in reverse for neck edgings to keep the ribbed look but decrease the stitch count.

  19. am I the only one to pipe in so far who kind of hates all ribbing in general? this is largely due to the fact that my knit stitches are significantly tighter than my purl ones, and so all ribbing i have ever knit looks a bit… off, to me, with gaps between the knit and purl stitch transitions, and this gap becomes even bigger/more obvious in ribbing with multiples – ie K3P2. I have yet to find a solution to this specifically, but also yet to find an edging I love more that accomplishes what ribbing does… oh the road to perfectionism is paved in questions, no? x)

    Agreed with all who dislike ribbing that pulls in too much at the waist! straight sided sweaters forever for me, too. :D

    • Try wrapping the working yarn the wrong way around the needle for the purl stitch following a knit. You’ll have to work this stitch through the back loop on the return row (or the next round if you’re working circularly), but the wrong-way wrap uses less yarn so that gap can’t yawn open between stitches.

  20. Broken rib is my favourite! It looks like rib, doesn’t flare out and doesn’t pull in so it’s my favourite when I don’t want the edges to cling. I just knit it in the same needle size as the body so extra lazy points. I wish I could get regular 1×1 rib looking good but it just always looks sloppy, no matter how tight I knit, alas…

  21. Generally speaking good ole garter stitch. Though lately i have been using a garter rib stitch that lays nicely but is really stretchy like a regular rib.

  22. Ellen; I dislike knit button holes, too. Loops are too fiddly, particularly when driving. I find I-Cord edges are the perfect place to hide a discrete button hole that is easy to unbutton. It’s a WIN-WIN situation for me.
    I also like how tidy an I-Cord edge is. For button holes, I use the same size needle as the body of the work so it melts into the other stitches. For a non-button hole edge, instead of going up in needle size, I will go down and use only three stitches. That creates a smaller tighter edge that doesn’t interfere with the body of work. Want to talk about tidy!

    Karen, Lisa and Tasha; I agree with you all. I dislike ribbed hems and its insistence on hugging hips and never letting go. And like Karen, I like a garment to hang, not grab at my hips. My solution, thanks to Stella on Knit Knit Frog, is her non-rolling Twined Stockinette stitch. I lays perfectly flat and can be worked with other stitches, as well. It’s rather like carrying yarn in colorwork. Here is the link: http://knitknitfrog.blogspot.ca/2008/01/non-roll-stocking-stitch-edge.html

    Megan and Deepa; Jeny’s Super Stretchy BO is an excellent idea. If you do not care for the look of the edge of those types of bind-offs… and have the capacity to drop a needle size or two, try two or three rows of Stockinette (on the wrong side) or Reverse Stockinette (on the right side). The finer gauge makes the stitches roll tightly with no need to tack it down, and looks good when the collar is standing or folded down.

    Kathy; That is a mighty slick trick with your 2 by 2 rib changed to 2 by 3. Thank you for sharing that one. All those hatband ‘edge’ marks are history now. AWESOME!

    Alice; Have you tried wrapping the purl stitch counterclockwise? It leaves the stitch mounted backwards on the back, but knitting through the back loop makes it right again. It works wonderfully for tightening up the loose purl stitches and makes all ribbing (1 by 1, 2 by 2, or whatever) much more even. Give it a try and see what I mean.

    Have a great day… KNITTING! I’m off to try Kathy’s trick. ; )

  23. I’m also a big fan of 2×2 ribbing – I find my 1×1 often looks too sloppy! And icord edging for some things. I did a cardigan this year that was finishing all aroud the neck and buttonband with icord, and it’s very minimal and lovely.

    Like others, I’ve been thinking a lot about buttonholes yesterday and teh ways buttons pull at knitted fabric. I have decided to try out puting very small snaps on button bands, then sew on decorative buttons (if I want them) on the button band for a neater finish — got the idea from Kate Davies who seems to do it for lots of her cardigans (I swear she has a blog post about it, but I can’t find it at hte meomnet — but this sweater is one example: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/deco-4)

  24. If you like a rib, but prefer a straight up and down sweater, you can do the rib on more stitches: either decrease the extras away or increase if going top down. Professional UK patterns tend to use this method. Don’t know what to the ratio is for sure but it seems to be about a fifth extra on the total. The rib is usually on a smaller needle so you get a nice neat finish. Eg main needle 4mm, rib 3.25mm.
    Fond of a roll stocking stitch (stockinette) neckband – a bit 80’s but I can’t help it.

  25. Does there have to be a favourite???
    Ribbing (ratio depending on the rest of the design, or how to fit in with cables/pattern, whether straight or twisted or corrugated is my go to (because I’m lazy), but also hems (reduce wool weight or stitches and don’t be lazy with the length to keep from flipping), moss (single or double) for a smart edge, (tried twined ss, but mine was you stiff and didn’t like it enough to continue) or, gasp! Crocheted button bands. No idea what the stitch is, but if you work a dc (sc) through the back of the stitch (not the back loop) you get rows of chaining, which, depending on work, can look good and is easy to slip button holes into.

  26. Karen – quick question about the bottom of your stripey sweater. Did you know the width of the stripes would mean the last grey section would be part stockinette and part ribbing? Do you prefer that look to ending a stripe and starting a brand new colour at the same point the stockinette ends and the ribbing begins? Thanks in advance!

  27. I am bad at favorites, whether colors or edging types! I think it really depends on the application for me. I do love a very firm gauge 1×1 rib button band (knitted separately and sewn on), but I don’t always have the patience to make one! I’ll also add to those voting for garter ribs and broken ribs — definitely worth exploring if you want a rib-textured look without the “grab”. And while I often forget about the humble rolled edge, it’s quite lovely on very lightweight fabrics — and as a bonus it wears extremely well.

    I seem to be in the minority, but I like the hem ribbing of a sweater to anchor well at my hips (assuming it’s a fitted style), and if I’ve gotten the fit right elsewhere I haven’t usually had trouble with it riding up/ballooning. However, for everyone who disagrees… have you tried pressing your ribbing? (I know, gasp!) In the right circumstances, knitting the rib on smaller needles (which is often necessary for it to look tidy) and then pressing it to kill the elasticity can actually be a nice look. Definitely want to experiment with a swatch first! But if that’s too extreme, I also endorse the more-stitches-on-smaller-needles approach that jocolumbine mentioned.

    If you like the idea of folded hems but have found them bulky and/or flip-y, two things to try:

    1. Switch to a much lighter weight yarn for the inside layer of the hem (e.g., fingering if you knitted the sweater in DK or worsted). This can be an opportunity for a subtle (or not!) color contrast, if you like.

    2. Though it’s fun to do the method where you secure the hem by knitting the live stitches together with the backs of RS stitches, it can make the flipping worse. Try binding off the hem edge and sewing it down (using an overcast stitch/whip stitch). I also usually sew the edge down a row or two further up the inside than where it would naturally fall, a tip I must credit to the wonderful TechKnitter (she once did an entire series about hem and band flipping).

  28. For situations where a clean, minimal I-cord edge would look best but you need to match the elasticity of the base fabric, I like to work a few rows of reverse stockinet and bind off with JSSBO. It rolls inward to mimic the look of the cord. I learned this from Lene Alve’s Minni pattern and used it for the neckband of my Flight pullover — works best in finer yarns and using a needle a size or two smaller than your main size.

  29. It’s going to depend on the item, of course, but in a vacuum I tend to like garter and seed stitch. Maggie Righetti is very firm that you need RIBBING at the bottom of a sweater and cuffs, or there is no natural resting place for the garment on your body and the sweater will just stretch and grow. She’s equally firm that garter stitch is NOT APPROPRIATE for a sweater hem or cuff, because it doesn’t provide that stability, and tends to flare out. But re: hems, I am somehow both pear shaped and thick-waisted, and really don’t want my sweaters to cling to my hips *or* waist – I want them to skim gracefully past that whole area, clinging to nothing. A-line is currently my favorite shape, and since ribbing tends to contract/pull inward, it seems to run counter to the very point of A-line. I also like to wear sweaters over longer tops, and sweaters that pull in at the bottom tend to mess up those lines. So I like garter and seed stitch because they lie very flat. And re: cuffs, I have always hated tight cuffs, in part because I tend to overheat and they make me think of childhood snow suits where my wrists start sweating from all the hot air trapped by those cuffs. So I usually just knit 3/4 sleeves so if they stretch out a bit they’re still not going to get in the way.

    Of course, you can knit ribbing loosely enough that it’s not really going to contract much, and sometimes I do that, but whether I like the look of that depends on the yarn. I generally don’t like sloppy looking ribs and mine always seem to look sloppy.

    Another option I like the look of is a folded hem – that’s also a lovely smooth finish that doesn’t get hung up on my hips or wrists, and looks quite sleek and professional. However, it can get a little bulky in heavier yarns, so again, it will depend on the project.

  30. Pingback: Q for You: Are you a wardrobe planner? | Fringe Association

  31. I’ve just done a cardigan in raspberry stitch. I want to change the cuffs and band from wide ribbing to seed stitch as I think it looks better with the raspberry, but I’m not sure if it will work. There are no button holes and the band is about 3 ins. I’m concerned that the seed stitch will be floppy in comparison with ribbing. Any suggestions?

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