A step-by-step tutorial on the fisherman’s rib stitch, alternative ways of knitting it, and helpful tips and tricks
Do you want to knit a voluminous scarf using the fisherman’s rib stitch but you have no clue how to knit it? The instructions say to “knit one below” and it has you totally confused? Well, then fear not because this tutorial is all about this very classic knitting stitch pattern – including a video.
The fisherman’s rib stitch is a very simple pattern once you understand it’s all about knitting each row twice and “skipping” every second stitch by knitting into the row below and letting that stitch unravel. A bit like intentionally dropping a stitch. This will create some extra slack that defines the structure and texture of this very stretchy fabric.
Let’s show you how to knit it!
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- Cast on an odd number of stitches with a standard long tail cast-on using two needles or the stretchy cast-on of your choice and add one selvage stitch on either side.
- Knit across one preparation row in the 1x1 rib stitch pattern like this: SL1, *p1, k1*, p2. Then turn your work around.
- Start the second row (and the actual fisherman's rib stitch repeat) by slipping the first stitch purlwise with yarn in the back. This will create a well-rounded and neat edge.
- Step 4: Knit one below. Instead of entering the next loop on your left needle as normal, you look for the loop directly below it, enter your knitting needle through the front, wrap the working yarn around counter-clockwise, pull through, and drop the stitch off the needles.
It's a normal knit stitch. The only difference is that you go through a different part of your knitting.
- From here, purl one stitch as normal.
- Continue repeating steps 4+5 until you there is only one stitch left, then knit the last stitch.
The full repeat for the right side is: SL1p wyib, *k1 below, p1*, k1 below, k1
- Turn your work around and knit across the wrong side with SL1p wyif, *p1, k1 below*, p2
- Once your knitting reached the desired length, bind-off in pattern using a standard bind-off. Consider using one or two needle sizes bigger for a stretchier edge or pick the stretchy bind-off of your choice instead.
You can also knit the Fisherman's rib stitch with an even number of stitches and no selvage stitch. In this case, the repeat would look like this:
- CO an even number
- Preparation row: *k1, p1*
- RS/WS: *k1 below, p1*
This repeat has the advantage of being the exact same on the right and wrong side but you will not end up with a different edge on either side.
Instead of counting stitches, you can also read your knitting. You only need to know the difference between a knit versus a purl stitch. Every stitch that appears to be a purl stitch (so it has a bump at its base) needs to be purled. And every stitch that looks like a knit stitch (the two legs form a V) needs to be knitted below. If you follow that simple rule, you will create the fisherman's rib stitch - no matter how many stitches you cast-on or the selvage you picked.
Fisherman’s rib stitch purlwise
Instead of knitting into the row below, you can also purl one below. This will create the exact same fabric but might be easier for you or produce neater results. It is also a technique required for the 2-colored fisherman’s rib stitch. Here’s the repeat:
- CO an even number
- Preparation row: *k1, p1*
- RS/WS: *k1, p1 below*
Of course, you can adjust this repeat and add selvage stitches as you see fit. This is just the base repeat, so to speak. Here’s how to purl below:
Step 1: Bring the yarn to the front and enter the loop below the next purl stitch from behind.
Step 2: Wrap the yarn around the needle counter-clockwise.
Step 3: Pull the yarn through and drop the resulting stitch off the left needle.
So, it’s more or less the same pattern just done from the other side. As I said, it creates the same fabric but might be easier (or harder for you).
How much more yarn is required for the fisherman’s rib stitch?
Depending on your individual tension, you will typically need 30 to 40 percent more yarn compared to stockinette stitch or standard ribbings. The fisherman’s rib stitch is quite the yarn eater and your progress is rather slow. That’s because this stitch pattern is essentially a form of double knitting.
You have to knit each row twice, after all. Think about it. You knit one stitch below. This will add one loop but one loop will unravel. It’s like taking one step backward and one forward. You end up in the very same position. Only the other half of the stitches that you purl make any real progress. This explains both the slow knitting and the yarn consumption.
Brioche stitch vs fisherman’s rib stitch
You might be wondering if the brioche stitch is the same as the fisherman’s rib stitch. Yes, the outcome is EXACTLY the same. When you knit one below, the row above will unravel and form a yarn over that rests in the back of the stitch. When you knit the same pattern brioche-style, you intentionally create a yarn over and you will carry it to the back by knitting it together with the stitch you slipped.
It’s just a different way to achieve the same result, just like you could SSP on the wrong side to achieve a stitch that looks exactly like an SSK on the right side. Or slip one stitch, knit one stitch, and pass the second stitch over.
Due to your individual tension and knitting technique, one or the other way to knit a fisherman’s rib stitch may appear neater than the other. That’s why I invite you to try out both and see for yourself which version looks best for you.
As a general rule of thumb, the Fisherman’s rib stitch typically looks a bit wonky before you stretch it out the first time. Before, some of the stitches where you knitted one below haven’t unraveled fully. It often takes some manual force for the little strands to settle in and recede into the fabric.
The best selvage options for fisherman’s rib stitch
Some people like to knit the fisherman’s rib stitch without a selvage. While you can absolutely do this, I am personally not the biggest fan of it – especially as knitting that first stitch into the row below can be super tricky. My personal favorite selvage is the double-stockinette stitch edge. Here’s the repeat:
- Cast on an odd number of stitches +6
- RS: K1, Sl1p wiyf, k1, *p1, k1b,* p1, k1, sl1p wiyf, k1,
- WS: Sl1p wiyf, k1, sl1p wiyf, *k1b, p1*, k1b, sl1p wiyf, k1, sl1p wiyf,
The kind of selvage you pick will, however, depend a bit on the project you are knitting. For a 2-colored fisherman’s rib stitch (see below), the double-stockinette stitch selvage won’t really work. Here, I typically pick a twisted slip stitch selvage:
- Cast on an odd number of stitches +2
- RS color B: k1,…, k1
- RS color A: Sl1 through the back loop, …., Sl1 tbl; turn around and twist the colors
- WS color B: P1, …., p1
- WS color A: Sl1 tbl,…Sl1tbl; turn around and twist the colors
The best cast-on
For a super invisible cast-on edge, try to start your fisherman’s rib stitch with an Italian cast-on. That way, your knitting will appear to start out of nothing.
Other than that, you can use any stretchy cast-on of your choice. Since the fisherman’s rib loosely follows a 1×1 rib stitch pattern, I recommend casting on in pattern. Meaning you alternate a normal longtail cast-on with a longtail cast-on purlwise.
As an alternative, you could also pick an alternating cable cast-on. This might be a bit easier for beginners than the Italian cast-on but will almost look the same.
The best bind-off
The very same could be said about bind-offs. You will achieve the probably neatest results with a tubular bind-off (which is nothing else but a glorified Kitchener stitch done on one needle).
If you don’t like grafting with a tapestry needle, then you might opt for Jeny’s surprisingly stretchy bind-off or any other bind-off method that is based on adding a yarnover.
As an alternative, you could also make use of this stretchy-bind off for ribbing. So, you knit every stitch the way it appears. Instead of passing the second stitch over, you either knit them together through the back loop (if the last stitch was a knit stitch) or purl them together (if the last stitch was a purl stitch).
2-colored fisherman’s rib stitch
The fisherman’s rib stitch can also be knitted using two colors. The process is almost exactly the same but you will have to truly knit every row twice. This means you need either double-pointed-knitting needles or circular needles, so you can slide your work back to the other end of the needle. Here’s the repeat:
- CO an odd number of stitches with color A
- Preparation: *k1, p1*, k1 using color A;
Then slide the work back to the beginning of the needle, join in color B
- Row 1 (color B): *k1, p1b*, k1;
both tails are dangling down on the left side, switch back to color A
- Row 2 (color A): *p1b, k1*, p1b;
Slide work back to the beginning of the needle and pick up color B
- Row 3 (color B): *p1, k1b,*, p1;
both tails are dangling down on the same side, switch back to color A
- Row 4 (color A): *k1b, p1*, k1b
- Slide back work to the beginning of the needle and repeat rows 3+6 over and over again
For a neater edge, you could also start the 2-colored fisherman’s rib with an Italian cast-on using both needles. Also, do consider adding a selvage stitch. I personally like a twisted selvage stitch but I invite you to check out my list of the 10 best selvage stitches as inspiration.