Bomber Jacket Sew-Along: Adding Ribbing To Your Jacket

McCall Pattern Company blog: Bomber Jacket Sew-Along

I know a few of you had some trepidations about making bomber jackets, specifically because of the whole ribbing part being new to you. Ribbing is actually one of the easiest ways to finish cuffs and jacket hems. I learned how to sew knits and ribbings when I was 13 and my mom signed me up for a class in making knit tops at the local fabric store. If I could successfully master ribbings when I was an impatient teenager, then you can too! The basic rule for attaching ribbings is Divide and Conquer, which I’ll explain later here.

We talked about what types of ribbing to use and where to purchase ribbing in this post. The most important things to look for in a ribbing are good recovery—meaning it won’t stretch out of shape and turn into a baggy mess—and comfort factor. If a ribbing feels scratchy to the touch, imagine how it will feel around your wrist—icky.

Cuffs: Very easy to attach. Use the pattern piece we give you to cut your size, but make sure the width is comfortable around your wrist. I always like to push my sleeves up, so I check that my arm won’t feel strangled by the ribbing if I do wear my sleeves at a 3/4 length.

Stitch the ribbing seam as directed, then fold your cuff so the seam is on the inside and the raw edges are even. Lightly press the fold. Now here’s where the whole Divide and Conquer thing comes in. Divide your cuff at the raw edges into four equal sections. Do the same with your sleeve edge. I usually make the sleeve seam and cuff seam into one of the section points.

Ribbing for bomber jackets; how-tos. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
Cuff with four equal sections marked off with pins.

Now attach your ribbed cuff to the right side of the sleeve, raw edges of cuff and sleeve together, and matching section points. Stitch through all layers, stretching the ribbing as needed between section points. Check to see that everything looks the way it should, then finish the seam by serging it.

Jacket band: The same principle of dividing and conquering applies here too. Use our pattern guides to cut out your ribbing, but make sure the ribbing is long enough or short enough to hug your high hip the way you want it to. This is a matter of personal preference: some bombers are tight here, others are loose.

Ribbing for bomber jackets; how-tos. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
Assessing the ribbing’s fit early on.

Attach the front band pieces as directed (these are the big tabs by the zipper that are usually made from your jacket fabric and not ribbing), then attach the ribbing as directed to the front band. Just as you did with the cuffs, divide the ribbing into four sections and mark with pins. Then halve the sections again. Mark off the jacket hem with the same amount of equal sections. Pin ribbing to right side of jacket, matching pins. TRY ON for fit. Stitch, gently stretching the ribbing as needed between sections. Finish the seam by serging.

Ribbing for bomber jackets; how-tos. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
Stitching the ribbing to the jacket hem.

Neckline: For McCall’s M7100, cut your ribbing for the neckline using the pattern piece. Pin in place, leaving room to turn the jacket’s front edges under by 5/8″. (You will be stitching the zipper next.) Important: TRY ON jacket and see how the neck ribbing fits. The ribbing should gently hug your neck. If it doesn’t, try stretching the ribbing at the neckline and repin it. Try on again and repeat as needed to get this kind of fit:

how the neckline ribbing should fit
[bomber jacket image from Nordstrom]
Once you are satisfied, baste the ribbing in place and stitch. If you aren’t lining your jacket you’ll want to finish this seam somehow so it’s not scratchy against your neck. I recommend binding it with ribbon or satin binding; see finishing options here.

Note: For my version of Butterick B6181, I wanted to use ribbing instead of encased elastic. Ribbing worked fine at the cuffs and hem, but it was a minor fail at the neckline. This is because A), the neckline on this pattern is cut low; and B), my ribbing was on the thicker side and couldn’t stretch satisfactorily here to hug my neck. So I ended up making the ribbing smaller at the neck for this pattern.

Ribbing for bomber jackets; how-tos. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
Here you can see how the ribbing is gaping badly at the neck with Butterick B6181. The lower cut of the neckline makes substituting ribbing here just a little harder to do. The pattern calls for a woven, shaped collar here, not ribbing like I attempted to do.

So, all in all, attaching knit ribbing is generally pretty easy to do. I think the part that poses some trouble for people is where the front band piece is attached to the jacket, and then the ribbing is attached to the front band and then to the jacket. (Steps 27-31 in B6181 and steps 25-33 in M7100.) Here are some images that might help you visualize these steps a little better:

Ribbing for bomber jackets; how-tos. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.

The front band serves the purpose of enclosing the zipper and providing a place to attach the ribbing. As you can see in this diagram, the ribbing/jacket seam is left open, so you can easily serge the seam after you’ve stitched it for a neat finish.

Ribbing for bomber jackets; how-tos. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
For Butterick B6181, since I hacked the pattern and used ribbing instead of encased elastic, I had to make up my own directions for this part of the jacket. The circle shows where I clipped the ribbing/band seam so I could easily stitch the ribbing and then turn down the band seam allowance to enclose it.
Ribbing for bomber jackets; how-tos. On the McCall Pattern Company blog.
Before I stitched, I pinned the band and the ribbing in place just to make sure my pattern hack would work. 

I hope this post helps you with applying ribbing to your jacket. Feel free to leave any questions or suggestions in the comments. And don’t forget you can still join our Bomber Jacket Facebook Group! #BomberJacketSewAlong

We’ve been sewing since 1863.

  1. This is the step that stops me from mending or making a bomber jacket. And this is a great tutorial for the process. I particularly like that you’ve shared the fail at the collar and discussed how to repair it. I’m bookmarking this one! Thanks

  2. Please keep these tips and helpful hints on your blog, please. I’ve just cut out my bommer jacket, waiting for lining fab to arrive in the mail, along with my zips. Thanks so much! Laura

  3. Help stuck where can I get the whole tutorial from cutting to finish

    1. It’s all on this blog. Just search “bomber jacket”

  4. I am attaching a knit band to a bomber jacket and my machine is skipping stitches. It is a new leather needle and I just do not understand why. Can you help?

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