Step-by-step tutorial on knitting the 2×2 rib stitch pattern – flat or in the round
There can be no doubt that ribbing is probably one of the most popular knitting stitch patterns. No matter if you want to knit a hat, socks, or a scarf – the very versatile 2×2 rib stitch has always been a favorite. But how do you it?
In this tutorial, I will show everything you need to know about knitting 2×2 ribbing – step by step. I’ll show you the basic repeat, there’s a video included, how to cast off and cast on, and if you scroll all the way down you will even find how to knit it in the round.
The double rib stitch pattern (just another name that means the same) is particularly well suited for hems, cuffs, and all other places where you need a little bit of extra stretch and grip. It has remarkable negative ease. This means, while your finished project might only be 10 inches wide, it will easily stretch out to 12 inches and hug your body perfectly.
Let’s dive right into it, and show you how to knit it!
Note: Definitely check out my tutorial on other rib stitches & the 1×1 rib stitch in particular as well. I also have a tutorial on creating corrugated ribbings with the double knitting technique.
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- Cast on multiples of 4 with a longtail cast-on; preferably with two needles for a stretchier edge
- Knit two regular knit stitches
- Bring the yarn to the front and purl two stitches
- Repeat these two steps until you've reached the desired length. Remember to always bring the yarn to the front and back respectively. Be careful so you don't accidentally create a yarnover as you do it (may happen when the yarn gets caught as you bring it back & forth)
For symmetrical edges, you may consider casting on multiples of 4 +2 (so 18, 26, etc). That way, you end up with neat ribs on both sides. In this case, the repeat changes a bit like this: RS: *k2, p2*, k2WS: p2, *k2, p2*This version is better for scarves and flat projects that need to be seamed.
For a neater stitch definition, try to knit the 2x2 rib stitch with one needle size smaller than recommended for your yarn (or the rest of your pattern). So, if you knit a sweater and you knit the stockinette stitch for the body with a size 6 needles and you come to the hem, switch to size 5, etc.
Reading tip: Here’s how to improve your stitch definition and make your rib stitches look neater.
Cast on for the 2×2 rib
Ribbing has a lot of negative ease (about 20% and more). So, a lot of beginners make the mistake that they use the standard longtail cast on and then their scarves (etc) get wider after a couple of inches. Or their socks are too tight around the cuff, etc.
An easy way to prevent that is casting on around 2 needles. So, normally you might use one needle and do your cast on. You can use the exact same technique. But if you cast on holding 2 needles close together (or a needle 2 sizes bigger), you will create a much stretchier edge.
Another thing to consider is alternating between casting on knit and purl stitches (watch this tutorial on how to cast on purlwise). A standard longtail cast-on creates a knit stitch, and if you turn it around (as you always do when you start your first row), this stitch will appear like a purl stitch.
For an in-pattern edge, you may consider alternating between casting on 2 knit stitches and 2 purl stitches.
You could also use a tubular cast-on. But personally, I feel it looks much better for a 1×1 rib and is only okayish for the double ribbing since you always end up with that one slanted stitch. There’s also the Italian cast-on but as it’s essentially the same technique. It shares the same problem.
STRETCHY BIND OFF FOR THE 2×2 rib
One of the biggest mistakes most beginners make is binding off their 2×2 rib too tightly. If you use your standard bind-off, you will effectively restrict all the stretchiness and your hat/socks/etc might not even fit.
A very easy way to combat that is by stretching out the stitches a lot while you do the bind-off. So, don’t knit them regularly, but keep a very loose tension, and every time you pass the stitches over, stretch them out, etc. It also helps if you bind off in pattern – meaning you purl all purls before you bind them off.
Or, you use a stretchier bind-off for the 2×2 rib (click on the link for the full tutorial with video & pictures). And since it’s so simple, you might as well try it. Here’s the repeat:
- Step 1: Knit 2 stitches
- Step 2: Knit these two stitches together through back loop (k2tog tbl)
- Step 3: purl 1 stitch
- Step 4: Purl the two stitches on your right needle together (p2tog)
- Step 5: Purl another stitch and p2tog (so repeat steps 3+4)
- Step 6: Knit one stitch and k2tog tbl the two stitches on your right needle
- Step 7: Repeat step 6
- Repeat steps 3-7 until you bound off all stitches
Sounds complicated? Actually, there are only two differences between the standard cast-off method. You bind off in pattern, and instead of passing the stitches over, you use a decrease. P2tog if the last stitch was a purl and k2tog tbl if the last stitch was a knit stitch. However, it will be almost twice as stretchy.
Do take consider, however, that using a stretchy bind-off for a 2×2 rib will create a bit of flare. That will be utterly unnoticeable for most fitted garments (like a hat or toe-up socks) that rely on negative ease. But if your project just lays flat (say a scarf or a coaster), then it definitely will be noticeable and picking a different bind-off might be preferable.
Making a scarf in a 2×2 rib can look really lovely and it’s a great way to keep your knitting from curling. But if you stick to the standard repeat, your edges won’t look all that nice. First of all they will be lopsided, meaning there is a knit ridge on the right but a purl ridge on the left. And on top of that, the ridge will appear to be thinner than the rest.
As a remedy, you need to adjust two things:
- First of all, cast on multiples of 4+2. That way, you get symmetrical edges.
- And then add a one-stitch slip-stitch selvage on each side.
So, the pattern for a scarf in a 2×2 rib could look like this:
- Cast on multiples of 4+2 (e.g. 26 stitches)
- RS: SL1, *k2, p2*, k3
- WS: SL1, p2, *k2, p2*, p1
2×2 rib in the round
Maybe you want to knit a hat in the 2×2 rib stitch and you are wondering how to knit this knitting stitch pattern in the round. It couldn’t be easier, as it’s exactly the same repeat.
- Cast on multiples of 4
- Every round: *k2, p2*
It’s really that simple. However, if you are knitting in the round with double-pointed needles, I found it helps to always place 2 knit stitches after each gap. At least for me, this helps to prevent the second knit stitch of a rib from “opening up” to the left.
Weaving in the tails
And here’s one last little tip. When it’s time to weave in tails for a 2×2 rib, try to spear through a rib with your tapestry needle. I find this is an incredibly invisible and secure way to hide the ends. For more information check out my full tutorial on how to weave in ends.
You can also use a variation of the classic Kitchener stitch to graft two pieces of ribbing together to join them in the round without a seam. This is a somewhat advanced technique but once you understand the underlying principle of grafting stitches, it’s actually not even difficult.