How to Increase Your Knitting Knowledge (Pun Intended)
One of the things I love most about knitting is that there are so many choices when it comes to working even the most basic techniques. Take increases, for example. Knitting increases serve a very practical function: to shape the fabric by adding new stitches. But beyond this practical function there is also a decorative element.
Depending on the desired effect, an increase can either be so subtle as to be almost invisible, or it can be very obvious. Increases also have direction in that they lean either to the right or to the left, and when increases are worked in pairs (at each end of a sleeve, for example), the right and left-leaning increases can be made to mirror one another.
In this article, we’ll take a close look at some common increase methods to see exactly what gives each increase its particular appearance. The steps to create each increase are included but our focus will be on the final result, so if you need more information about how to work a particular increase, visit our online glossary (the entries are listed alphabetically). In the illustrations, I’ve omitted the knitting needles so you can see the stitches more clearly.
One thing to note: I have never seen right-leaning counterparts for a few of the increases (such as the KFB). These increases may exist (and have fancy names); I’m just not aware of them, so I’ve created my own versions and included them here for the sake of completeness.
Whether you’re following a pattern that doesn’t specify what type of increases to use or you just want your increases to have a different appearance than the ones called for in a pattern, it’s a good idea to be familiar with a few different methods.
In future blog posts, I’ll look at more types of increases, including ones that add more than one stitch at a time. Let me know your favorite method and if it’s not covered here, I’ll include it in a later post!
There are two major categories of increase methods; those that create stitches in the strand between the needles and those that create stitches by working into existing stitches.
Creating Stitches Between Stitches
A stitch can be created between stitches on the right and left needles in a couple of different ways: either by knitting (or purling) the strand of yarn that connects two stitches or by using the working yarn to create a loop on the needle. The first type of increase is called a “Make 1” and the second is called a “Loop Cast-on.” The finished result of both these methods looks similar, but the Loop Cast-on uses more yarn than the Make 1 so it tends to be a little looser. This can be good or bad, depending on how the increase is used. I once knit a top-down sweater that had a yoke that was shaped using increases. The first time I knit the yoke, I used Make 1 increases. But after working for a few rows, I noticed that the fabric was puckering. I tore it out and reworked the yoke using a Loop Cast-on to increase instead. This time, the fabric was perfectly smooth because there was enough extra yarn in each increase to provide the right amount of give to go around the yoke.
Note: All the methods shown here involve twisting the stitch to eliminate a hole. For decorative increases that leave a hole, simply omit the twist.
Make 1 Left (M1L)
Insert the left needle from front to back under the strand that runs between the right and left needles. Knit this strand through the back loop so the right leg twists to the left over the left leg. In the illustration below, the M1L is shown on the blue row below the (gray) stitch that was knit into the strand.
Make 1 Right (M1R)
Insert the left needle from back to front under the strand between that runs between the right and left needles. Knit this strand through the front loop so the left leg twists to the right over the left leg.
Make 2 (M2; also known as Double M1 Inc)
Working an M1R, then an M1L into the same strand creates a decorative increase that can be used in the center of a knitted piece. This increase was used to shape the shoulder of the Alder Capelet by Debbi Stone and Marcy Vandale in the Tahki Yarns Terra Collection. It was also used to shape the Star Garland by Claudia Eisenkolb in Quick & Easy Knits.
The Loop Cast-on is worked by wrapping the working yarn around the needle. The loop can twist to the right or to the left.
Left Loop Cast-On
In this illustration, the working row is shown in blue and the Left Loop Cast-On appears between two stitches on the same row (rather than in the row below, as for the Make 1).
Right Loop Cast-On
The Right Loop Cast-on is also referred to as a Backward-Loop Cast-on because the right-slanting leg of the loop sits behind the needle. When working this stitch on the following row, it’s necessary to work through the back loop so it won’t be twisted twice.
Another way to work this increase is to work a yarnover on one row, then twist the yarnover on the following wrong-side row. To work a Left Twisted Yarnover, work a yarnover on a right-side row, then purl into the back loop of the yarnover on the next wrong-side row to twist the stitch to the left. To work a Right Twisted Yarnover, work a backward yarnover (bringing the yarn over the needle from back to front) on a right-side knit row, then purl into the front loop of the yarnover to twist the stitch to the right.
Creating Stitches Using Existing Stitches
Increases that are worked using existing stitches can either be worked into a stitch on the needle or into the row below the stitch on the needle.
Lifted increases are often described (a little tongue-in-cheek) in terms of familial relationships: the stitches that sit on the needle are the daughters, the stitches below these stitches are the mothers, and the stitches below the mothers are the grandmothers. In the illustrations below, I’ve numbered each stitch to make it easier to identify.
Left Lifted Increase (LLI)
The LLI is worked into the stitch two rows below the stitch on the right needle. In the illustration below, Stitch 1 (the daughter) is sitting on the right needle, Stitch 2 is the mother, and Stitch 3 is the grandmother. Insert the tip of the left needle from back to front into the left side of Stitch 3 and knit it. Stitch 4 is the increase (so I guess that makes it an aunt?).
Right Lifted Increase (RLI)
The RLI is worked into the stitch one row below the stitch on the left needle. The illustration below shows the increase after it is complete and the rest of the row has been worked. Before the increase is worked, Stitch 1 (the daughter) is sitting on the left needle and Stitch 2 (the mother) is the stitch below the stitch on the needle. To work the increase (Stitch 3), insert the tip of the right needle from back to front into the right side of Stitch 2, place the stitch on the left needle and knit it to complete the increase. Stitch 4 is created by knitting Stitch 1 and isn’t considered part of the increase.
Knit Front and Back (KFB; also known as K1f&b and Bar Increase)
To work this increase, knit into the front of a stitch but don’t remove the old stitch from the left needle; bring the right needle behind the left needle and knit into the back of the same stitch, creating a second stitch. The top of the old stitch forms a horizontal bar across the second knit stitch that is positioned to the left of the first knit stitch.
Because the bar falls to the left of the stitch, the increases are usually mirrored by working the increase on the right side one stitch closer to the edge than the increase on the left side, which ensures that the bar falls the same distance from the edge on both sides.
I’ve never seen instructions for working the increase so that the bar falls on the right side of a stitch, but after a little trial-and-error I came up with a method that seems to work. It’s more complicated than just knitting into the front and back of a stitch so maybe it’s not worth the effort, but it would make it a little easier to mirror the increases because they could both be worked the same distance in from each edge.
(I called this increase a “Right Bar Increase” because I wasn’t sure what else to call it.)
Right Bar Increase
Slip 1 knitwise, then return this stitch to the left needle, knit into the front loop of this stitch so that the stitch twists to the right, then insert the tip of the left needle under this right-slanting leg and knit into it.
Knit Front, Slip Back (KFSB)
I first heard about this increase from a coworker who said she’d seen it on a popular knitting blog. She said it was supposed to be “an easier way to work the KFB that doesn’t leave a bar.” I’ve never found the KFB increase particularly difficult to work (it’s usually the first increase new knitters are taught), and I think the bar can be an interesting design element, but I’m always interested to hear about a new technique, so I tried it out on a swatch. To work the KFSB, you knit into the front of the stitch, then bring the right needle behind the left needle and, instead of working into the back loop as for the KFB, you slip the stitch to the right needle without working it.
In the illustration, the blue stitch is the knit stitch and the elongated stitch below it is the one that was slipped.
After examining the results, I immediately had two questions: First, why is it necessary to bring the right needle to the back of the work before slipping the stitch when you could more easily slip the stitch with the needle in front of the work? But I figured this was probably just an (unnecessary) holdover from the KFB. My second question was about the name. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to describe this increase as “an easier way to work an LLI” since the end result is exactly the same?
If you compare the illustration of the KFSB to the illustration of the LLI, you can see that the arrangement of Stitches 2 and 3 is the same for both. There is no gray row for the KFSB because those stitches haven’t been worked yet, but there are now two stitches on the needle, so the increase is essentially complete.
Calling this an easier way to work an LLI might be a better “selling point” for the increase since the LLI actually is pretty fiddly to work. The only reason I probably won’t adopt this as an alternative method for working the LLI is that the only method I could come up with for working a correlating RLI isn’t quite as “easy,” and I usually work those increases in pairs.
Right Version of KFSB
K1 (the blue stitch in the illustration below), then slip this stitch back to the left needle, insert the tip of the right needle from back to front into the top of the stitch in the row below (the white stitch), then slip the blue stitch to the right needle.
Knit Back and Front (KBF)
Knitting into the back and front of a stitch minimizes the bar, but it twists the stitch in the row below and isn’t all that attractive.
To keep the stitch from getting twisted, you need to reorient it before knitting into the back of it.
Slip 1 knitwise, return the stitch to the left needle, then knit into the back and front of it.
Getting a version of this that results in the bar falling to the right of the stitch took a little doing, and it’s so fiddly to work that I will probably never use it, but here it is:
Right Version of KBF Untwisted
Knit 1 stitch through the back loop, the right leg now twists to the left over the left leg, insert the tip of the left needle from back to front under the left leg (the lower leg) of the stitch and knit into it.
What kind of increases will you encounter in your next project?