Ribbed Fabric Story

I nailed my own illustration! Or did I?

After decades of sewing all kinds of fabric, how did I miss sewing a ribbed knit (or rib knit)? This particular one is a bamboo/elastane blend; it handles easily and is extremely comfortable! I bought the yardage from Sew Much Fabric, where you’ll find more colors to choose from, if you’re interested.

Rib knit has inherent stretch even without added elastane or Lycra. That is due to the stitch structure of alternating knit and purl stitches in the same row, repeated throughout the yardage, resulting in “wales”. It’s very easy to actually knit ribbed garments on your knitting needles. Since rib knit fabric is usually a finer yarn and structure, and is available as yardage, we can sew very cool wearables by just following certain “rules”. If you have sewn plain jersey or any other knit formation, use the same processes when using a rib knit. However, there are a few additional things to be mindful of.

First, credit goes to the author of this book published by the Taunton Press, authored by Connie Long. It’s the only place I found relatively detailed sewing information about rib knit fabric which makes sense.

Design: Body hugging or body skimming silhouettes are the norm when designing with rib knits. Norms are made to be broken, though. Therefore, items that skim rather than body-hug look just as good. That is the direction I went.

Are you inspired?
Dress by Hanifa

Minimal seams: rib knit garments are designed to take advantage of body curves; this is where they differ from your other garments. It is the wearer’s body that gives shape to a ribbed garment. Therefore, these clothes are made with minimal seams and minimal curves. Keeping that in mind, take a look at the creativity of these clothes. It can be made as a tube and will take the shape of your body when worn. Don’t be scared — it doesn’t have to be a tight fit; it can hug you in the right places while skimming in others. My tunic and pant set is basically a tube, except for the armholes and neckline.

The vertical seams are cut along the vertical rib as much as possible with almost no curves other than areas where a slight curve is essential. That means the ribbed garment should have as few curved seams as you can get away with. An example would be the neckline, the sleeve cap and the armhole; the armhole should be cut straight down from the shoulder on the same rib and then curved in to the underarm point.

All other sewing processes are the same as any knit fabric: use a jersey or ballpoint machine-needle, narrow width zig zag stitch, stabilizer tape on the shoulder seams. I used a bias stabilizer tape for the neckline and armholes as well. After these basics are taken care of, you can whiz through sewing your rib knit.

Neckline finish: The best way to finish the neck and armholes is to apply fold over elastic, but this is where I diverged. I had to use facings due to the neck detail needing strong support. That took away the stretchiness of the fabric in the neck area but it suited my purpose.

Not pictured is the back of this neckline which is interfaced behind the buttonholes and the dip. Buttonholes are a bit of a sad story which I’ll address in a future post. There were supposed to be grommets there. Sigh….

The neckline detail is not exactly as I envisioned but that’s okay. All it needs is a it of refinement with the next version.

I will see you right here again next week! Take care, friends.


4 thoughts on “Ribbed Fabric Story

    1. Thanks, Roz! Working on a capelet or something in leftover rib knit — I’m gonna get those grommets in somewhere in this outfit.


  1. Your sketches are excellent, Samina: you capture your face shape, body proportions and garment designs beautifully! I went to design school and still don’t draw at all well, but my area was graphic design, not illustration.

    I love your gray ribbed outfit: it is flattering and suits your coloring.

    Thank you for the pointers about rib knits: I have purchased a couple of ribbed knit pieces from Mood Fabrics, and have no interest in making body-con tops, just love the ribs in these knits. Your tips will help.

    Finally, I had Connie Long as a teacher at G-Street Fabrics years ago when we lived in the D.C. metro area: I think for pattern drafting/pattern manipulation, and she is terrific! (I have her knits book, too).


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