How to knit the zig zag stitch

A step by step tutorial on knitting the zig zag rib stitch for beginners.

Have you seen a picture with some knitting in an amazing zig zag stitch? And now you are wondering how to knit this pattern? Then you came to the right place.

In this tutorial, I am going to show you how to knit the zig zag stitch in 10 easy steps. I tried to keep things as easy as possible, but it’s probably a pattern better suitable for intermediate knitters. So, if you are starting out, maybe check out my rib stitch post with plenty of wonderful alternatives for beginners (but nothing speaks against giving it a try anyways).

Zig zag rib stitch on the needles

With this pattern, you can create a very voluminous and moderately stretchy fabric that has a remarkable 3-D effect to it. Sadly, it’s not reversible and the wrong side looks rather plain. It’s also a bit slower to knit and probably not the best pattern for knitting while watching the TV.

Anyways, let’s show you how it’s done, eh?

Zig-Zag rib stitch instructions

Cast on multiples of 3 stitches and then add one more stitch. So 22 stitches or 25, 28, 31 etc. You might want to add a couple of selvedge stitches, but I feel the standard garter stitch edge actually works remarkably well with the zig zag rib.

I’m going to give you the repeat first, and then follow up with step by step instructions

  • Row 1: P1, *knit the second stitch on the left needle through the back loop without dropping it, knit the first stitch, drop them both, P1*
  • Row 2: K1, *purl the second stitch on the left needle without dropping it, purl the first stitch, drop them both, k1*

Step by step

Step 1: Purl the first stitch as normal.

Step 2: Now, insert your needle into the back loop of the SECOND stitch on your left needle and knit it through the back loop (ktbl) but leave the stitch on the needle (important).

knitting the second stitch first through the back loop for the zig zag stitch

Step 3: Knit the remaining first stitch on the needle.

Knitting the remaining first stitch as normal

Step 4: Now you can drop both stitches you just knitted.

dropping both stitches for the zig zag rib pattern

Step 4: Purl one stitch.

purling the next stitch to crease the full repeat of the zig zag stitch

Repeat steps 2-4 until the end of the row.

Step 5: (Start of the return row) Knit one stitch as normal.

Step 6: Purl the second stitch on the left needle and leave it on the needle (note: unlike in the first row, you are not knitting this stitch through the back loop).

purling the second stitch first for the zig zag rib stitch

Step 7: Purl the first stitch on the left needle.

Then purl the first stitch as normal as well

Step 8: Drop both stitches you just knitted.

dropping both purl stitches to create the wrong side of the zig zag stitch

Step 9: Knit one stitch.

Repeat steps 6-9 until the end of the row

Step 10: Start the new row with Step 1 and follow through until step 9 and repeat over and over again.

Further tips

a close up of a zig zag rib stitch swatch on the needles

I already mentioned that these instructions will create a garter stitch selvedge and it works well and I probably wouldn’t change it. I would, however, do a little different cast on to go with the flow of this pattern.

I always use the long tail cast on but alternate one knit stitch and 2 purl stitches.

In terms of casting off your stitches, you’ll be fine with the standard bind off as well. The fabric is not that stretchy that an Icelandic or a yarnover bind off would be necessary (and it actually bit be counterproductive). A picot bind-off might be worth considering to stay with the general theme of the zig zag ribbings, though.

The wrong side of a zig zag rib stitch
The wrong side of the zig zag stitch

Also, the wrong side of this pattern looks quite unremarkable. So, don’t forget to plan that when you start knitting 🙂

So, that what is. This was my guide to knitting the zig zag stitch. I’m sure you were able to follow along, but make sure to ask any questions in the comments below.

How to knit the zig zag stitch

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