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« Molly's Sketchbook: Felt Snow Ball Ornaments | Main | Whit's Knits: Homespun Boot Socks »

Whit's Knits: Rick Rack Scarf

I recently unearthed the first project I ever knit, a moth-eaten stockinette scarf. I made it over twenty years ago while I was spending a school year in rural France. My French "mother" was the town librarian and an amazing knitter. She opened her stash basket to me and walked me through every step of that crazy scarf.

Since then I've made dozens of scarves, and I wonder sometimes if I've run out of fresh ideas for the next one. After all, the criteria for a scarf pattern are rather stringent: something that lies flat, that looks good on both sides and that has a soft and beautiful drape. I was so happy to discover this Rick Rack Rib; it meets all of those standards and also happens to evoke one of my all time favorite things, rick rack! Thanks, Barbara Walker!

With the holiday season upon us, I made sure to use a super special yarn for the super special people on your list, including scarf-o-phobe men! Jade Sapphire's softer-than-soft 8 Ply Mongolian Cashmere amazes everyone with its cloud-like loft and downy touch. This is definitely a far cry from that first wonky scarf!


The Materials

  • 4-5 skeins of Jade Sapphire's 8 Ply Cashmere, 100% Mongolian Cashmere. This color is Sterling. Four skeins will make a 53-inch long scarf and five skeins will make one 66 inches long.
  •  US #8 knitting needles, straight or circular.


The Pattern


6 1/2 stitches = 1 inch in Rick Rack Rib

Finished Size

With 5 skeins: 7 inches wide and 66 inches long

With 4 skeins: 7 inches wide and 53 inches long


Cast on 46 stitches. (The Rick Rack Rib works over any multiple of 3 plus 1.)

Row 1 (right side): P1, *skip first stitch, knit into back loop of second stitch (leaving stitch on left needle), knit into front of first stitch (removing both stitches from left needle), p1, repeat from * to end of row.

Row 2 (wrong side): K1, *purl into second stitch (leaving stitch on left needle), purl into first stitch (removing both stitches from left needle), k1, repeat from * to end of row.

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until piece measures 53 or 66 inches long (depending on how many skeins you're using), ending with Row 2.

Bind off on a right side row in a p1, k2 pattern.

Weave in your ends and gently block!

Here's How to Do It!

Row 1:

To "knit into back loop of second stitch" bring the right needle to the back of the work and insert it into the back of the second stitch on the left needle and knit:

Then, leaving that stitch on the left needle, go on with "knit into front of first stitch" by bringing the right needle around to the front of the work and knitting the first stitch through the front loop, just like you normally would:

Now take both stitches off the left needle, bring the yarn to the front of the work and purl 1 stitch.

Row 2:

To "purl into second stitch" bring the yarn to the front of the work and purl into the second stitch on the left needle, just like a normal purl stitch:

Then, leaving that stitch on the left needle, go on with "purl into first stitch" by purling the first stitch through the front loop, like you normally would:

Now take both stitches off the left needle, bring the yarn to the back of the work and knit 1 stitch.

And here's what the right side of the Rick Rack Rib looks like!

Reader Comments (76)

I bought a scarf that was this stitch! Thanks for posting this because I've been wanting to make a scarf based on it!
November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
Thank you so much for the detailed instruction; the only thing I ever knit was a little bunny, and I was waiting to find a project that I liked, but looked suited to a beginning - and this tutorial is it! If I succeed (though I imagine it will take me well over a month to finish), I will come back to leave a link to the finished project. Thank you again!
November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreta
Oh! That is just lovely. I love the texture, I can imagine it in a cardigan as well.
November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKrisha
Woow! Nice!
November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGesa
gorgeous as usual! I think a bunch of rick rack scarves may be in my future!
November 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermargaux
Can you suggest some alternate yarns at lower price points? And perhaps thicker gauges? I do better with big needles!
November 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan L
a handsome and manly scarf! I will try this with my pancake and lulu terra organic merino!
November 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAimee
Perfect. I like scarves for things like Special Olympics and the Red Scarf Project and am always on the lookout for reversible ones that look good too. You hit the spot perfectly. Thank you for sharing!
November 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Zander
HI Susan,

Sure! The Jade Sapphire 8 Ply is a worsted weight yarn, so some great slightly heavier alternatives would be:

Blue Sky's Worsted: This is a super soft, totally gorgeous alpaca/merino blend with great stitch definition. I would maybe use a US #10 needle for this one, , depending on your tension and taste!

Swan's Island Bulky: This spectacular hand dyed organic merino yarn would make a classically lovely scarf. Try a US #10 1/2 needle with this one!

Cascade's Eco+: This would be a super affordable option (you only need one $21 skein!), but also very beautiful. A US #10 needle would probably be good.

For all of these yarns you should get between 400 and 500 yards.

Thank you so much for your question - I know the cashmere is quite a stretch for most people this holiday season! I'm happy to offer alternatives!

November 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Using some leftover Rowan wool in burgundy. Wonderful pattern. Makes a nice, dense fabric good for keeping the neck warm. Thanks again, Whit, for a great story and a great pattern. I've posted a picture of the scarf in progress at my own blog
November 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBecky BIanco
I really love the look of this scarf, and it looks so easy, but I am finding myself completely baffled. After knitting into the second stitch, I am finding it completely impossible to leave it on the needle, bring the needle to the front, and knit the first stitch. Is there something I'm missing? Are my cast-on stitches too tight? I'm not a beginner, per se, but I don't have many advanced techniques. Is there any way you could clarify this for me? Thanks!
November 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy
i love the stitch, but just can't seem to understand hows its done. after you insert your right needle into the back of the second stitch on the left needle, it says to knit the stitch, but also keep it on the left needle. how would you complete the knit stitch without it going to the right needle?
November 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersusan k
Susan- wrap yarn around and pull through, putting st on right needle. You are completing the st so far as you have a new st on the right needle, but keep the worked st on the left needle.
November 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenn
Thank you so much for this pattern. I love to do scarves, in between other projects and for gifts. And I love having a new pattern to try. Can't wait.
Purl Bee/Purl Soho just can't be beat. I love everything you do! You are wonderful!!
November 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMargie Singleton
Hi Kathy,

Do your cast on stitches slide easily up and down your needle? If not, your knitting may be a little tight, and you may want either to cast on more loosely or to knit the first row and start the pattern on the second row.

It should not be a struggle to bring the needle around to the front, so whatever you can do to loosen up the tension will probably help you - smaller needles might be a good place to start!

I hope this helps! Thanks for asking and good luck!
November 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Hi Susan K,

Sorry to hear about your confusion! Did you happen to read Jenn's response to your comment? I think she very helpfully addresses what may be the problem by clarifying that, yes, you do have a new stitch on your right needle, but you also left the old stitch on the left needle. So really, the stitch is half way complete.

The technique is a little out of the ordinary, but once you get the hang of it, it's easy, so hang in there! And thank you for your question!

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
i think i understand now- thanks so much for the help and also special thanks to jen!
November 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersusan k
Thank you!
November 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertokeberry
Hello again, I am having trouble starting this wonderful project for two reasons, and wanted to ask for help if that's ok:
1. When stitches fall off for whatever reason, is there a way to recover them with a stitch pattern like this (I am a beginning, and understand this concept only for regular stitches, not when the stitch is skipped, etc, as it is here).
2. My ric rac is not as nicely defined (more like a raised center area than a zig zag), so I wonder if this has to do with my bringing the yarn to the front/back along with the right needle?
So far, I've made it to about 6 inches a few times, and it looked great (albeit a bit different), but I keep having to start again because I eventually lose a stitch.
Thank you in advance for your time and help.
November 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreta
On the page for the Mongolian Cashmere, it states that the gauge for the yarn is 4.5 stitches to an inch and the pattern states it is 6.5 stitches to an inch, both using #8 knitting needles. Which one is correct? Thanks.
November 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDarcy
Hi Darcy-

They are both correct. The gauge given with the yarn is for stockinette stitch while the gauge given with this pattern is for the rick rack rib stitch.

Thank you for your question!- Molly
November 23, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
GORGEOUS! One question - how stretchy is the finished fabric when using this stitch? I am experimenting with different bulky/contemporary stitches to use for laptop sleeves, but one requirement is that they create a dense, not-too-stretchy fabric at the end. I can always knit up a swatch and test it out, but thought I'd ask as well!

Also, any experiments with knitting this stitch in the round?

Thanks in advance! :)
November 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermrs_mouse
Happy Thanksgiving weekend!
I'm just writing again to say that I figured a few things out - there really is nothing like practice! - so please disregard my previous comment. I've learned about "frogging"!
(So, thank you again for an interesting but accessible enough pattern to motivate me to learn.)
However, I did make some mistake in the stitch in that mine is not as ric rac, in that the loops do not ric rac as I see they do in the photo. But whatever I've done still looks zigzaggy enough, and I will post a photo when I'm done - if I haven't troubled you too much by then...
Thank you again!
November 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreta
HI Greta,

I'm so glad it worked out! By the way, it's possible your rick rack looks a little different from mine just because of differing tensions. But anyway, I'm happy you're happy and please do post a photo - we'd love to see it!

November 27, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Thank you so much for your response, Whitney!
Below is a photo of my scarf (as yet unfinished, but enough for you to see if the difference in appearance is due to more than a difference in tension).
Thanks again for your time!
November 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreta
I love this pattern. It's simple looking and it has a certain degree of "manliness" to it. Perfect knit for my boyfriend! I'm using a 100 percent organic cotton yarn which is making this pattern a little difficult because there is no give in the material at all. But I'm slowly working my way through it. I found the first row to be the hardest and decided to knit to rows in garter stitch before beginning the rick rack. So far it is coming along nicely! I will post a link to an image when I have it finished. Thanks so much for this wonderful patter! (Can't believe this was your first knit! I'm a fairly experienced knitter, and found it rather difficult in the beginning!)
November 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmeliaGrace
Thank you so much for the suggestions!!! Really grateful!

Merry holidays,
November 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan L
First of all sorry that I sent the wrong question to you about a pattern that was not yours. I got the sites mixed up. Now that I have it straight I was there by chance a youtube video of this stitch. I have read it several times and still seems a bit confusing to me even with the pictures. It would be great if I could see each step from beginning to end. I am particularly confused about Row 1 written instructions and Row 1 tutorial instructions. I want to make sure I can get this right before I start on expensive yarn. Thanks.
December 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie
Hi Marien,

If you go back a few comments to my response to Mrs. Mouse, you'll find directions for knitting the Rick Rack Rib in the round. It's super easy!

Thanks for asking!
December 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Hi Charlie-

Unfortunately we don't have the capability to do a video of this stitch at the moment. It might be worth it to practice on some scrap yarn before you get started with the more expensive stuff.

Thank you so much for your question!

December 19, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Beautiful pattern! Thank you for sharing.

I am planning on knitting this for my little sister and was thinking of using Madeline Tosh Tosh Merino. Would this yarn work as a substitute? Should I use a size 9 or 10 needle? Thanks so much for taking the time to post.

December 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
Love this pattern, but I knit left handed, and curious if the results would be the same. Or if I just reverse the right/wrong side instructions for the similar result - any insight here before I start this project! Thanks!
December 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNEdmonds
HI NEdmonds,

I'm not quite sure what you mean by "knitting left handed". In my experience, most left handers knit continental style (as do many right handed knitters), and in such cases, there are no special instructions or changes to the pattern.

If, however, you mean that you actually knit from left to right, that would be a rarer thing. If you have learned to adjust patterns for your specific way of knitting by reversing the right and wrong side instructions, then you can go ahead and do that.

If you need more help and can tell me how exactly you knit, I would be happy to try to sort things out for you!

Thanks for you question!
December 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Hi Megan,

Yes! The Tosh Merino would be a great substitute. Exactly which needle you should use depends on how tightly or loosely you knit, and also on how you want the stitch to look. If you're an average knitter, my best guess would be a US #8 or #9 needle.

Sounds beautiful! Good luck!
December 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Goooorgeous!! Must knit this one! :D
January 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSine
Thank you for this beautiful pattern.
One question though, does the finished scarf curl? This will be a third attempt of knitting a scarf for my husband this winter, and I've had a terrible luck picking patterns! I don't think the yarn can take any more ripping and re-doing and neither can I. ;-)
January 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkay
Hi! Is it possible to knit this in the round so that the ribs are horizontal instead of vertical?
February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNyela
Hi Nyela-

Yes you could make the ribs horizontal by casting on the length of the scarf onto very long circular needles. If you're working with 4 skeins you could cast on 349 stitches and then just work the rib pattern as written in the patten.

Please let us know if you have any more questions. Thank you!

February 13, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I knitted this scarf for my father-in-laws birthday present. He loves it and always wears it. My advice to people struggling with the pattern- hang in there! It was really tight for the first few rows but after that things loosened up and I got quite speedy at it. It doesn't knit up quickly but the end product is worth the effort. I used a 4ply 50% merino, 40% alcpaca 10% silk wool which was beautifully soft.
May 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatiepie
Hi, Im kinda having a problem with my stitches. So I knit in the back and then in the front, but then when i go to pull both stitches off at the same time, basically the second stitch that gets pulled off kinda creates a loop which stays there and which later turns into a bulge. I tried pulling gently to tighten or knitting tighter, looser, with bigger needles and its still there. I mean its not ruining the look of the scarf its not that bad, but like on your scarf you have space between the actual "ribs" but on mine the bulge fills that in so basically the second stitch bulge makes my scarf look kinda crowded and wonky. Any ideas?

And also, I made a swatch of ric rac, but when I cast off, the cast off edge was much longer than the width of scarf. Its hard to explain but I hope im making it clear enough. The only way I know how to explain it is that the cast off doubled the width off the edge of the scarf. Help me please! Thank you, and the site is lovely!!
June 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicholas
Hi Nicholas...just wondering if you're remembering to purl one stitch after you've knitted into back and front and dropped stitch off?(Sorry if you're a good knitter and I've just insulted you) It does look a little bit bulgey until you do your next row then it all evens out. It took me a while to get the hang of this stitch but I ended up you tubing it which helped. Good luck!
June 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatiepie
This an awesome stitch, something different. I've figured out it's easier with a loose tension! It's much easier to separate the yarn if you aren't holding it to tight. Thank you for sharing your instructions!! Have you done anything else besides a scarf with this stitch? It seems that with the layering effect it would make for excellent dishcloths or a baby's blanket maybe. I've enjoyed checking out your other projects as well, I love the owl. Very cute.
June 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaria
Hi Maria-

Thanks for the nice comment. This is the only project done in this stitch (for now at least) on The Purl Bee but I will pass your suggestions on!


June 15, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
Hi Nicholas,

I'm sorry you're having trouble with the stitch - it does seem to be a bit tricky for people! I think both of your problems (the "bulge" and the wide cast off) are related to the same thing. I wonder if you're being very careful about having the yarn in front when you're purling and in back when you're knitting, especially when it comes time to make the one normal purl or knit stitch after the rick rack stitch. It seems like maybe you're making inadvertent yarn over's which would account for a much wider cast off.

Please let me know if this doesn't solve your problem and I'd be happy to troubleshoot with you some more! Thanks so much for asking your questions and good luck!

June 20, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
lo puedes poner en español no se ingles gracias o como lo puedo traducir
September 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMARIANA
I tried knitting this in the round with the suggestions you said earlier in the comments.
The result is not the same. It looks more like a small vauge cable - not as angular and crisp as it does when knitted flat.
Is there an important step/movement thats missing from Row 2 when you knit in the round? It seems as though you have to knit it back and forth to get the correct stitches slipped together.

I would love to know if there is a better way to knit this in the round. Row 1 alone does not seem to be right.
September 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSkipper
Hi Skipper,

Right you are! I just did a little test and it is more complicated than I had thought- sorry about that! So here's the correct way to work the Rick Rack Stitch in the round:

Cast on a multiple of 3, place a marker and join for working in the tound.

Round 1: *Skip first stitch, knit into back loop of second stitch (leaving stitch on left needle), knit into front of first stitch (removing both stitches from left needle), p1, repeat from * to end of round.

Round 2: *Knit into front of first stitch (leaving stitch on left needle), knit into back loop of second stitch (removing both stitches from left needle), p1, repeat from * to end of round.

Repeat Rounds 1 and 2 until piece is as long as you want.

Bind off in k2, p1 pattern.

Again, I'm sorry for the totally wrong information. Thank you for setting us all straight!
September 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
For in the round - could you show how to "Knit into front of first stitch (leaving stitch on left needle), knit into back loop of second stitch (removing both stitches from left needle)?" Thanks!
October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
Hi Amanda,

Is there a particular part of that instruction that is confusing you? I'd be happy to clarify!

October 8, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I just made this scarf with '100% Peruvian Highland Wool'. How would you suggest blocking it? It's laundry care symbols are hand wash, 30 degrees, no bleach, dry flat.
I am afraid of it felting!
October 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErica

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