Friday, September 4, 2009

Tips for Learning Your Ribber

In you're starting with the ribber lessons, here are some ideas to make this whole learning process easier:

1. Use skinny yarn! It doesn't hurt a thing to use thinner yarn than necessary when working with your machine, especially when making practice swatches; however, if the yarn you use is too thick you will be terribly frustrated! It may jam, or it may not knit at all. You want a yarn that is smooth, too - no bumps, hairy stuff, or crimps. The easiest yarn to use as you are learning your ribber is thin, cheap, acrylic yarn. Set a cone on the floor for best flow of the yarn through the tension unit.

2. Consider making your swatches and keeping them rather than unravelling and reusing the yarn. You could staple them to pieces of paper with a label of what yarn you used, what technique, and what machine settings.

3. Use enough weight. You will gradually develop a good idea of how much weight to use. Most ribber manuals have a chart showing how many weights to use for different numbers of stitches. As you begin, refer to that chart.

4. Balance the ribber comb! What I am mean is that the ribber comb should stick out the same amount on each side of the stitches. Here's how to do that - if you want to knit 60 stitches of ribbing, center them by using needle 30 on the left to needle 30 on the right. Then, when you put the ribber comb in, hold it against the bed first and see how long it is, then put it in so the right edge and left edge are at about the same needle numbers. A shortcut I use is to have the center of the comb marked. I hold the comb with my thumb at the mark and put that at zero.

5. Take your time, and after each change in settings, compare them to the book so you don't forget to change a setting.

6. Have faith in your ability to gradually memorize all of this. Because you will do a bunch of short lessons, these things that are peculiar now will be habits later. It gets easy, I promise!

7. If you look in the book and think one of the ribber techniques isn't very interesting, or you look at my lesson and say, no, that's not for me, think again. These things are often much more interesting in your hands than they are in a photograph, so try them anyway and feel them. It will spark your imagination and you'll start having ideas as to how to use the different stitches. Don't be surprised if I act excited about a particular stitch and you think it's nothing special - that's the fun of it, that we're all different.

8. Go on over to and look at the English Rib Child's Sweater in the free patterns. There's a photo of it on a cute little girl on the Free Patterns page. Here is an entire sweater, intended for beginners, made with the ribber! I think this is such a good teaching project for ribbing that I may do the whole thing on video, and rechart it for the bulky, besides. It's just rectangles. Honestly, this is a MUCH easier sweater than the V-neck raglan beginner sweater I put up on video with the beginner lessons! There is no shaping whatsoever. You can knit these sweater pieces at an amazing rate, and they really do fit and look cute on children. A favorite trick of mine is to use a fun, variegated yarn for the yoke and make the rest plain.

9. Do play around with using the techniques for full needle rib as well as 1 x 1 rib. The difference between the two is simply gauge. You'll be able to use more kinds of yarn, and you'll get more effects.

10. Look through your things and find your "fine knit bar." This is just a long, somewhat flexible piece of plastic that you slide between the main bed gate pegs and the main bed needles. It helps the stitches knit off, and is very helpful for some stitches and gauges. In fact, sometimes I like to use it when just doing main bed work.

11. Swatches are a wonderful way to learn. If you do swatches ahead of a project, you avoid all kinds of unpleasant surprises. I hope you'll do a swatch for every single lesson!

12. Make sure your ribber comb wires are in good condition. Insert the comb, then grab the bent end of the wire and pull the wire out just enough to get the comb in place, then push the wire back in. It certainly is much easier than removing the wire all the way, then trying to hold the comb with one hand and rethread the wire with the other.

13. After the cast-on is done, for the next 8-10 rows, watch and make sure that the comb drops as the ribbing lengthens. This was one of my biggest issues when I was learning my first ribber. Apparently, there wasn't much room for the comb to drop and it would just sit there, either not moving down or only moving down on one side. I was probably using yarn that was too thick, too, my biggest beginner mistake. You can give it a gentle tug downward after each of the first few rows and make sure it isn't sticking.

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