Following on from my blog post showing how to use the Alternate Cable cast-on for 2x2 ribbing, here's a glimpse at how to tackle cast-ons for both 2x1 and 1x2 ribbing. When Fiona left a comment asking about these ribs, it got me thinking, and then it got me experimenting.

First things first - just like 2x2 wouldn't work by casting on multiples of 2 knit sts then 2 purl sts, casting on the stitches in a literal manner doesn't work for 2x1 or 1x2, either.

The cast on for a 2x1 or 1x2 rib is virtually the same as that for a 2x2 rib, except it has one extra step, performed during that first row when the stitches are juggled from our base 1x1.

For this blog post, I won't start from scratch with the basics of the Alternate Cable cast-on - I'll direct you to the main PDF for that. (else we'll have way too many photos in this post!) 

So, just like before, we'll start with our 1x1 Alternate Cable cast-on. Except this time, you need to cast on 1/3 more stitches than you need. So if you need 60 sts (a 2x1 or 1x2 works on a multiple of 3, right?) then you'll want to be casting on 80 sts. Which means we'll always be casting on in a multiple of 4, and that is just how we want it,

As you'll have noted from the other tutorial PDF, I treat the first slip knot of the cast-on as a purl stitch, and after casting on the required number of stitches (incl. that first knot), the last stitch cast-on will be a knit stitch. I then work the first row flat, and join after that. It makes the first round sturdier, less likely to twist, and makes a much neater rib as well as put a knit stitch at the beginning of the round, which we're most familiar with.

2x1 rib, (K2, P1)

So let's start with 2x1 rib (K2, P1), because how we start that very first row is bit different for each.

Our first flat row: knit the first stitch. 

The next stitch we come to is a purl stitch, so before we do anything else, we want to swap that stitch around with the knit stitch following it. Remember to bring the knit stitch via the front when you swap them over, else it'll go rather pear-shaped.

This bit is the same as the 2x2 rib - swapping your stitches like this gets us the paired stitches sitting neatly together, and gives us that wonderful edge to the cast-on. If you're not sure about this step, I'll quickly refer you back to the 2x2 AC blog post to see this step in more depth.

Then proceed to knit the next stitch....

... then we find ourselves with 2 purl stitches, which is exactly what we should have. And this is where the penny drops - we only want one purl stitch here, seeing as we're working a K2, P1 rib, and when we have 2 sts and only want 1st, what do we do? We decrease.

I found that the purl decrease that gave the neatest results was actually a p2togtbl (purl 2 sts together through the backs of the loops). At first I tried a regular p2tog but didn't like the way the stitches were stacked on the reverse. This might not make much difference to some, but I do like having things look neat on both sides. Then I tried an ssp, but the stitch that was underneath wasn't quite hidden well enough, it wasn't snug. And so finally I tried the p2togtbl and hey presto, it looked great. The twist doesn't actually notice and seems to strengthen up the edge that little bit more without compromising the stretch.

However, you may wish to experiment by yourself to see if one of the other purl decreases work better for you. If you're not wanting to swatch several times over, than I'd say the p2togbl will give you good results.

And then we repeat the sequence: knit next stitch, swap next 2 stitches over, knit next stitch then purl next 2 stitches together. You should end with a multiple of 3 sts, and after that you can work your ribbing as desired/instructed.

I think it looks pretty good (shocking pink yarn permitting) It isn't perfect, and it won't be - an unbalanced number of stitches like this will need a few tricks and juggling to create a cast-on that matches the stitch pattern. I didn't knit a whole Hat with this cast-on as I did with the 2x2 but I can tell you it is perfectly stretchy (that stitch we decreased is still there in the cast-on, giving us extra wiggle room) and neatens up even further after a good length of knitting.

1x2 rib, (K1, P2)

Now, let's look at it's sibling, the K1, P2 or 1x2 rib. I've covered this one second as it's a little more fiddly to start, but not much, and then follows virtually the same method as the 2x1 with the purls and knits worked the other way around.

So, as before, we start with our 1x1 Alternate Cable cast-on. 

Instead of knitting the first stitch as we have previously on the first row (worked flat), we're going to slip it, purlwise, onto the right hand needle and leave it there for a bit. 

Then we do the whole swap the next purl stitch over with it's following knit stitch, so that we have 2 knit stitches together at the beginning. This manoeuvre is the same for all 2x2, 2x1 & 1x2 variants. Remember to bring the knit stitch via the front.

Once we've swapped the stitches over, then we slip that first knit stitch (the one that's been hanging out on the right hand needle whilst we juggle) back to the left hand needle. 

And then we decrease. And just like before, I found the k2togtbl the neatest knit decrease for the job.

There'll be 2 purl stitches waiting to be worked, and we purl them as normal. 

And then we repeat the process again - slip knit stitch purl-wise to right needle, swap purl stitch over with it's following knit stitch, slip knit stitch back to left needle from right, k2togtbl, purl 2. Once we've completely worked all the stitches, we'll be back to a multiple of 3 and we can continue working the next rows or rounds in pattern.

And voila.

In this shot we can see how the decrease sits much more clearly, and really, it looks pretty good, don't you think? The twist from the k2togtbl doesn't notice, and the decreased stitch is nice and snug and not looking like we tried to lose it. Like I said before, it's not perfect and it can't/won't be, due to the pure mechanics of the stitches. That said, I do think it is worth the effort and looks way better than the alternative of a regular, non-rib cast-on.


The PDF for these 2 isn't finished just yet. You may have gathered that with Tom's birthday, the emergency site rebuild and various other mayhem's that have been happening back here, I'm a few days behind. And there is only me working on it all and I'm feeling more than a little exhausted after this last week! But I figured that it'd be cool to get this up as soon as, and then I'll let you know in a couple of days that the PDFs are up (there'll be 2 or 3 new tutorials all going up together)

AuthorWoolly Wormhead