Working with Micro Rib Knits

If you are like me, you have been drooling over rib knits forever, trying to figure out what on earth you can make and how on earth you’re going to do it. Well, wonder no more! I am here to tell you everything I have learned about rib knits.

Rib knits are not the same as ribbing. Ribbing is thick, has amazing recovery and is used most often for cuffs, neck bands and hem bands. Rib knits (and in particular micro or mini ribs) are very light and fluid and do not behave in the same way. They have amazing stretch and drape and terrible recovery. As a result, they are only suited to specific patterns.

You want to choose a pattern that is made for something with a lot of drape and isn’t meant to be fitted to the body – this fabric is going to stretch out the second you put it on. In my experience, this fabric is best for things like flowy tank tops and dresses (and the occasional light cardigan!). Here are a few patterns I have made with a micro rib knit or think would be well-suited:

Once you’ve got your fabric and your pattern, you need to actually sew the dang thing. Through trial and error, I’ve acquired some wisdom I’d like to pass on:

  • Don’t over press. Like anything with a high pile, you can squish rib knits. I’ve got permanent dots on one of my tops from over-zealous ironing.
  • Use a rotary cutter. Rib knits are slippery and shifty. For precise cutting, use a rotary cutter.
  • Stabilize with tricot interfacing. If you are making something with any kind of neck or arm bands, stabilize those bands with knit interfacing before doing anything with them. If you don’t the weight of the garment (or simply moving) is going to pull those openings riiiight open and you will have armholes that will extend down to your waist. I speak from experience here. Tricot interfacing will still stretch, but will keep your bands (or pockets or whatever) from stretching out.
  • Block interface. It will be easier. Trust. Basically fuse your interfacing to your fabric in a chunk before cutting out your pieces.
  • Stabilize with 1/4 inch clear elastic. Consider sewing some clear elastic into your shoulder or side seams to make sure your garment doesn’t stretch out under the sheet weight of its own fabric.

And with that, you are ready to make something soft and swingy with a rib knit fabric!

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