Guide to rib knit fabric – Our Social Fabric

Guide to rib knit fabric

Heard of rib knit but not sure what it is? Or want some guidance on how to sew with rib knit? This is our guide to give you all the information you need about working with rib knit fabrics.

What is rib knit fabric?

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Rib knits are easily distinguished by their distinct ribbing which looks like rows of vertical lines running parallel to the salvage of the fabric. The ribbing appears as a series of alternating ridges and troughs in the fabric. 

Rib knit is often very stretchy in the crosswise direction (selvage to selvage), but usually has little to no stretch in the lengthwise direction. 

Rib knit fabrics typically have good recovery. This means they return to their original shape after being stretched out. Its stretch and subsequent recovery is the key characteristic of rib knit. 

Rib knits often look so similar on the right side and wrong side that they can be easily confused. It’s best to select one side of the fabric as the right side before you cut out your pattern and stick with that for all pattern pieces. 

Rib knits are available as regular flat cuts or as tubes. Tube knits have no selvage. When we sell tube knits we list the width as the total circumference of the tube, or the width if you cut the tube open. 

Unlike a jersey, when pulled, the edges of rib knit do not curl.

The terms ‘rib knit’ and ‘ribbing’ can be used interchangeably to describe the same fabric. 

How is rib knit fabric made? 

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Rib knit fabric is created by alternating knit and purl stitches. This is what gives the fabric its distinctive texture. The vertical lines in the fabric are created by knit stitches. The gaps between the lines are created by purl stitches. 

The number of knit and purl stitches determines the width of the lines. A rib knit with very fine ribs will be created with a 1×1 pattern (one knit stitch then one purl stitch, repeated). A rib knit with chunky ribs might be created with a 3x3 or 4x4 pattern.

The type of yarn and stitch used will alter the weight and thickness of the rib knit.

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What is rib knit fabric made from?

Rib knit fabrics can be made from a variety of different fibers. Cotton is extremely common but you can also find rib knits made from polyester, bamboo, wool and a multitude of other substrates.

Spandex might be added but often it is just the way the fabric is made that gives rib knit its stretch and recovery.  

What to sew with rib knit fabric

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Rib knit’s stretchy nature makes it ideal for making form-fitting garments - think tank tops, underwear, tees and turtlenecks. 

One very common application for rib knits is as bands on garments. They are commonly used as neckbands, cuffs, waistbands, and hems.

Rib knit fabric by its nature has a texture and depth that flat fabrics do not. You might want to use them to visual interest in a garment.

Knit fabrics have different weights, and those weights determine how you can use the fabric. Heavier ribs will have less drape and will feel stiffer. They might be better suited to applications such as the bands on bomber jackets or structured coats. Lighter rib knits have less structure but could feel softer against the skin and would be better for applications such as under garments. 

Rib knits tend to resist wrinkles so can be great for garments for travelling or all day wear.

The Our Social Fabric team have sewn up a selection of samples to show you how versatile rib knits can be. Check them out on our rib knit sewing challenge blog post. 

How to sew with rib knit

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Rib knits can be sewn on a serger or a regular sewing machine. Make sure you are using ballpoint needles. If you are using a sewing machine be sure to use a zig zag or stretch stitch so that your stitches do not break when the fabric is stretched. If you have one, a walking foot on your sewing machine can be useful to help prevent the fabric stretching as you sew and creating wavy seams. 

When cutting out rib knits use the ribs as the grainline of the fabric. If you are cutting bands make sure that the pattern piece is parallel and perpendicular to the fabric ribs whenever possible. 

If you are substituting rib knits for regular jersey for the neckband of a pattern you may need to cut the pattern piece slightly smaller to prevent gaping. How much shorter to cut the neckband will be determined by the stretch percentage of the rib knit. 


And that concludes our guide to rib knits! Are you ready to get sewing with rib knits? Check out our wide selection to find your ideal rib knit


  • Thanks! I need to get a ballpoint needle!!

  • Wow! What a thorough description of Rib knits and their uses. I feel like I can dive in to sewing them on my serger. Could you please continue this blog for other challenging textiles such as faux fur and very fine silks, such as habotai for scarves.
    I have been a shopper of OSF for many years and have many of your fabrics in my stash!
    Thanks again,
    formerly from Common Thread

    Kathryn Grant

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