When ribbing goes wrong

It was another somewhat frustrating knitting weekend.

Buttercup started so well. The top down construction was a breeze and, even though I am using thin fingering for this project, I had the entire body and most of the arms done within a couple of pleasurable knitting weeks. I was enjoying the silky BFL and loving the cool, iceberg-y colour I dyed for this project, the lace quick and fun…everything was going smoothly…then came the ribbing.

First time around on the hem I tried something new – a sideways garter rib. I got halfway around the bottom before admitting it looked like crap where the new rib section joined the body. Frog one. L zero.
I then decided I would do a twisted rib hem instead. Twisted rib. On 3mm needles. With a tubular cast off. Ahem.

I may have well just poked myself in the eyes with those needles, it was so painful. And, naturally, since it was so much work, the twisted rib looked horrible. I hadn’t twisted the purls so they looked looked all stringy and loose next to the twisted knit ribs. It just wouldn’t do. Frog 2. L zero.

Not able to let the idea of twisted rib go I frogged the cuffs (and made the sleeves longer), and then I dragged my feet and did everything I could to avoid having to painfully re-do the hem. I finally got back to it, this time twisting the purls AND bloody knits. Both alllllllllll the long way around. It looked better. It really, truly did.

After the previous tubular failure I decided a simple suspended bind off  on a much larger needle would be THE ONE. Only to find it was slightly too tight at the end. Frog 3. L zero.

At that point I figured I would use Jenny’s Surprisingly Stretchy bind off. That works on everything, right? First the cuffs, then all the way around the hem, just barely making it with the very, very last of the yarn, spit splicing bits together so I wouldn’t have to break into a new skein. Ouch.

So I thought I had it and rejoiced, dancing the dance of completion with vigour and sending thanks to those cruel knitting gods for letting me finish at long last…

Only to find those sadists weren’t quite done with me yet. Take a close look at the sleeve cuff on the left of the photo. See anything …odd?
It looked ok  at first, a little curly on the edge after blocking but fine stretched out on the arm. However, after a day’s wear this is the monstrosity that presented itself:
Stringy, stretched out and gape-y , with weird YOs show along the edge. I nearly retched every time I looked down at my arms. No, really. It was so upsetting. What a disappointment…but it got worse. By the time I got home this is what the hem was doing:
It had loosened up and gone all hideous loose and frumpy on the bottom edge.

So new Knitting Rule– and this is obviously news to me as I have only ever used twisted rib with very bouncy wools – twisting stitches make them rather un-elastic. Makes sense if you think about it. IF you think about it. ;-?

So instead of tightening my ribbing up by going through all the effort of twisting the purls as well as the knits what I actually did was make the ribbing even less elastic than before. And to make matters that much worse I also realised that when I frogged back on the arms I missed some decreases on one side so the left arm has a weird row of k2togs bumps all around the mid bicep. wtf? (Who was it that said my approach to knitting was somewhat ‘Rainman’??? Sigh. Yeah.)

Frog 4. L zero. This little frog is kicking my butt.

I am so grateful knitting Camomile is still such proving such a huge source of joy or I would be right despondent by now. There is definitely something to be said for having multiple projects on the needles after all! Back to silky soft goodness for a while.

Does anyone else struggle with casting off? Casting on and off with a clean/stretchy edge always seems to be an issue for me. I have sorted out the casting on with long tail cast ons, but have not found my go-to cast off yet, despite purchasing a book entirely on the topic!

What is your favourite or fall back cast off? I know one of you must have a good one! Share?


8 thoughts on “When ribbing goes wrong

  1. This is the reason I’m not a fan of top down knitting! But if I have to do it, I usually do the following cast off:

    P2tog, *slip the stitch on the right needle back onto the left, P2tog* to the end.

    This is the one I usually use on shawl edges – it’s stretchy without looking stretched out.

      • This one sounds like a variation on the one I mentioned as my new favourite stretchy cast off. It does create a lettuce edge when not stretched out but it would only matter for something with no tautness in it. I think that makes sense.
        I wonder how different this purl one is?
        I so feel your pain on the cast offs issues! Thanks for the heads up on the different way the twisted stitches work. I’ll add that to the ol’ knowledge bank! Ever tried EZ’s sewn cast off? I used it on Miette which has semi twisted rib and it looks fine. Thanks for your interesting posts. Maybe your pain well prevent others’…. therefore it’s at least semi worthwhile??

        • Oh good. I am glad someone is finding it useful! I was worried that all my posts were starting to sound like whinge-a-thons!

          I tried the sewn bind off in one of my first projects and found it laborious…like kitchener, almost, though maybe not quite as painful. I absolutely hate lettuce edges (I have just decided. Hah!). I just want something that looks clean and nice, you know? Like tubular, though it wouldn’t work with this yarn.

          You were asking about the qualities of superwash a while ago and this might be something to keep in mind with your superwash project – the yarn does behave differently depending if it is stripped or coated. I am guessing this stuff might be coated, and will find out, as it behaves slightly cotton-y in that the stretch is somewhat reduced along with bloom, so anything that needs bounce to look nice won’t work. with the tubular on this one you could see the set up slipped stitch rows and it looked string-y and ugly! On my Audrey, with the really bouncy BFL/Jacob, it just blooms up and is hidden.

          Something to think about…

  2. oh ouch! i feel your frustration, i too am having issues with my latest knit, a supposedly ‘simple’ one, agg! i love your buttercup, the bodice is so SO pretty, i know as soon as you get the ribbing/cast off sorted it will be gorgeous. i might try staying with a simple rib and using a larger needle for binding off. or i do like using elizabeth zimmerman sewn bind off:


    good luck! (i have both these knits queued too!)

    • Thanks Lori! I was going to try again with the suspended and a huge needle and see, as I am much too lazy for a sewn bind off…though considering how much effort and time I always end up taking with my bind offs maybe it is worth it in the end?

      Buttercup has been pretty simple so don’t be put off by my gimpy mistakes. These annoying detail mods are ALL ME. The pattern is pretty flawless, though I did bring the neck up and narrowed the front a bit so the lace doesn’t go too low with my little mangos! ;-D

      Luck over your way as well. Must go stalk you to see what you are knitting now!

  3. Ooh, that top thread on casting off is very useful, thanks! And really, it’s too bad about initial cast off because the sweater is actually beautiful at the neckline and fits terrifically in the shoulders and upper torso.

    • Thanks! I do really like the fit and the material is perfect for the cool weather we are still having, so must get it finished soon. I am back down to the cuffs and hope this will be the last go or you might find me rocking in a corner this weekend…


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