Adding Rib Bands with Cut and Sew - Part 1

This post has been updated as Determining the Length and Width of Rib Bands (08/2015).
Click here if you're looking for Part 2 - Attaching the Rib Band to the Garment.

This is the tutorial that I needed about three months ago on attaching ribbing to a garment or accessory. There are a couple of tutorials online that are very well done, but they didn't address problems that I eventually ran into. And there are the instructions given in Revised Knit, Cut and Sew: Bk. 1 by Pam Turbett on the "T-Shirt Neckline" that were extremely helpful. All are variations on a single technique, found on many store-bought items.

I've been practicing several techniques and variations -- first on the Providence sweater, then on mittens and a hat. And I'm not even counting the practice runs to determine stitch length, width, other optimal settings, and then just to make sure I had the technique down. I have a favorite procedure now. It's briefly outlined in Steps for Sewing a Sweater. I've edited out the non-ribbing parts, filled in the missing pieces (hopefully) and added some pics. I've divided the tutorial into two parts: Making the Rib Band and Attaching the Rib Band. I'll post Part 2 soon. (Posted. Link is now live.) I hope you'll find this useful.

Part 1 - Making the Rib Band

Step 1.  Choose fabric you love.
Yep, this is always the first step!  I think it's best to chose a relatively lightweight ribbed fabric with this method, because in its finished state, the ribbing will be double its original thickness. My preference is to use a soft and very stretchy rib. (Ribbing that coordinates with my other fabrics will be available in my shop soon.)

Step 2.  Determine the length needed.
Let's say you'd like to attach a cuff to a sleeve and you'd like the finished length of that cuff to be two inches long. The length of the rib fabric you cut will need to be five inches altogether. That's two inches for the public layer of the rib, two inches for the inside layer, and a 1/2 inch seam allowance on each end.

Step 3.  Determine the width needed.
I've read that the width of the ribbing should be three-fourths the width of the sleeve. I've also read that it should be two-thirds the width! Obviously the width depends on the look you desire and the stretchiness of the fabric. You might want the cuffs at the wrist to really gather the bottom of a relatively wide sleeve, or perhaps you don't want any gathers at the waist. I did learn that making the neck ribbing three-fourths the circumference of the neck opening was a really good guide for the ribbing I use. The neck bands lay nice and flat. Just be sure there's enough fabric for the band to fit over your head (for a neck band) or around your hand (for a cuff). You get the idea. ;)

Step 4.  Stitch the sleeve seam
(Or stitch the side seams or the shoulders, depending on where you're attaching the rib band).

Step 5.  Fold the rib band vertically with right sides together and baste.  
Machine baste (or hand baste) this seam while carefully matching top rib to bottom rib. You will form a tube.

Turn the tube right side out. If the basted seam looks good, turn inside out again and serge this seam. If the seam is crooked and the ribs look bad, remove the basting and try this step again. Don't worry too much about any ragged edges on the top or bottom. They'll soon be serged too.

Step 6.  Bring bottom edge along the outside of tube to meet top edge.
The seam allowance can't be seen anymore; it's hidden between the two layers. The cuff looks like the pic below. Steam well and let dry.

There! That was easy. Next we'll attach the cuff to the sleeve. To be continued...

Click here for Part 2 - Attaching the Rib Band to the Garment.


Last edit 10Aug2015. Post updated as Determining the Length and Width of Rib Bands (08/2015)

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