There are three fundamental stitches in weft knitting: (1) plain knit stitch, (2) purl stitch, (3) rib stitch. Novelty stitches are variations of these three stitches. The hand method of knitting is weft knitting. On a knitting machine, the individual yarn is fed to one or more needles at a time
1. Plain-knit Stitch: The plain knit is the basic form of knitting. It can be produced in flat-knit or in tubular (or circular) form. The flat knit is also called jersey stitch because the construction is like that of the turtleneck sweaters originally worn by English sailors from the Isle of Jersey; it is sometimes called balbriggan stitch after the hosiery and underwear fabrics made in Balbriggan, Ireland. Plain flat knits may be shaped or full-fashioned. The knitting is done with a row of latch or beard needles arranged in a linear position on a needle plate or in a circular position on a cylinder. All the needles are evenly spaced side by side and are moved by cams, which act on the needle butts. The spacing of the needles is referred to as the gauge, gage, or cut. As applied to many flat knits and some circular ones, gauge refers to the number of needles in 11/2 inches; for example, a 60-gauge machine would have 40 needles per inch.
2. Purl Stitch: This construction is also referred to as the link-sand links stitch after the German word “links,” or on the left). It is made on flat-bed and circular machines by needles using hooks on both ends to alternately draw loops to the front of the fabric in one course and to the back in the next course. It is a slower and more costly technique. The fabric looks the same on both sides and resembles the back of the plain knit. Like the plain knit, the purl knit will run up and down if a loop is broken. But a purl knit fabric will not curl at the edges.
3. Rib Stitch: Rib-knit fabrics have alternating lengthwise rows of plain and purl stitches constructed so that the face and back of the fabric appear alike. This may be produced either on a flat rib machine or a circular rib machine. In the flat rib machine, one set of needles is placed opposite the other set of needles is placed opposite the other set of needles in an inverted V position of 45 degrees to the horizontal; in the circular rib machine, one set of needles is placed vertically in a cylinder and the other set of needles is placed horizontally on a dial. In both machines, one set of needles pulls the loops to the front and the other set pulls the loops to the back of the fabric. Each set of needles alternately draws loops in its own direction, depending upon the width of the rib desired.
For example, rib stitches can be 1 x 1, 2 x 2, 2 x 1, 3 x 1, and so on. A combination of 1 x 1 and 2 x 2 is called an accordion rib. Rib construction is costlier because of the greater amount of yarn needed and the slower rate of production Rib knits are made on a two-bed machine with one set of needles forming the loops for one wale and the other set of needles forming the alternating wale.Rib knits have greater elasticity in the width than in the length. They are stable and do not curl or stretch out of shape as do the jersey knits. For this reason, they are often used to make cuffs and necklines on weft knitted garments. Rib knits are reversible unless the number of stitches in the alternating wales is uneven, as in a 2 X 3 rib.