Tips for Increasing in Lace Patterns: Part 1

It is so good to be on the OTHER side of moving, the side where all your stuff comes out of the boxes and you finally get to eat with Real Forks again. I also love the dreaming part, where I get to stand in my new craft room and dream about how I want to organize it, what I want it to look like… So the worst is now over (yay!) and there are Fun Times ahead for putting together my little craft studio.

Meanwhile, I have been able to do some Actual Knitting in between the unpacking and the faucets exploding–in the photo at right, Nicholas is holding up the Star Light Star Bright baby blanket (free pattern!) in our new backyard, in celebration of me reaching the halfway point! Whoo! Seven rows of stars total, so three more to go. I've got my redesigned star charted, but there's still one stitch I am unhappy with, right at the base of the bottom two legs. I'm going to take some time to study it and see what the problem is and how I can fix it. So stay tuned!

Until then, it seems to me I promised you all some tips on wrangling increases and decreases in lace knitting…

Part 1: Wee Short Lace Primer

I always like to start from the beginning, just to make sure we all have the same basic toolset for our little knitting adventures…

Lace knitting seems like it is some sort of magic, but truly, it's not that hard. If you know how to do a yarnover, an ssk, and a k2tog, you can do most of the knitted lace out there.

The yarnovers create the holes; the k2togs and ssks create the surface designs and textures.

In most lace knitting, each yarnover is paired with some sort of decrease stitch nearby. Why? Well, a yarnover, while it creates pretty holes, also increases the stitch count. So in order to maintain a consistent, stable stitch count (and thus maintain the overall shape of the shawl, stole, or scarf), every time you make a hole and increase the stitch count, you also must work a decrease to get things back to normal on your needles.

Thus, each yarnover/decrease pair has two jobs: to create the actual lace designs, and to maintain the shape of the overall piece.

However: Some garments, such as lace sweaters, require actual real increases and decreases, for shaping armholes, waists, sleeves, and necklines, for example. How do you manage all those increases and decreases in the middle of the piece of fabric that is made up of increases and decreases without losing the shape of the garment, the integrity of the lace pattern–and your ever-lovin' mind?

I'm going to show you two ways to tackle all this and keep your sanity. If any of you knitting gurus out there know better/faster/more ways to handle this stuff, please chime in!

Here's the first way…

Part 2: Stockinette Side Panels


You could, of course, just simply add extra stitches to the end of your needle as specified in the pattern (for a cuff-up sleeve, let's say) and then work the new stitches in stockinette. This would result in a panel of stockinette at the sides of your knitted piece as in the illustration at left–not really a problem, if this is part of the intended style of the sweater. 

The chart at left is a sample "swatch" illustrating this technique. (Row-by-row instructions for this chart are here.) Notice how the lace becomes an isolated section surrounded by stockinette as the increases continue.

NOTE: I think it is very helpful to do this sort of thing as an actual knitting exercise, sooooooooo: Check out the knitting homework below!

On the other hand, if you want the lace to be an "all over" pattern, then you have to find some way of gradually working those new stitches into the pattern repeats of the lace pattern you are using.


While working a shoulder-down sleeve, if you just started decreasing at the ends of the needle, within a row or two you'd be "cutting into" a lace pattern repeat. If you don't wrangle those partial repeats properly, you can end up with a very strange stitch count along the way–extra yarnovers, or decreases gone AWOL.

To prevent this, some patterns plan ahead and require you to work enough edge stitches in stockinette from the very beginning so that you only decrease within the pre-planned stockinette side panels and never cut into a lace repeat. Again, this requires panels of stockinette at the undersides of your sleeve, or the side seams of your garment, in order for this technique to work.

But again, what if you want an all-over lace pattern?


If you like, we can make this a little Virtual Lace Classroom…and here's your (very optional) homework:

1. Work the chart above, where the increases are incorporated using Stockinette Stitch panels on either side of the lace repeat. (Row-by-row instructions for that chart are here.) Since this swatch is essentially a mini-sleeve, ask yourself what you like and do not like about how the mini-sleeve turns out. (Hint: Block the swatch for best viewing.)

2. Now, see if you can work the same chart, except that instead of using stockinette stitches as you increase, see if you can incorporate the lace pattern into the new stitches as you go. See how you do, and leave your questions, comments, suggestions, and discoveries below!

Next week: I'll present my version of incorporating increases, with a full-color chart and instructions. The week after that, we'll tackle decreases…unless some new fab knitting project catches my eye, in which case we could be talking about ANYTHING yarnly in two weeks!!.

Knit with joy,

– Sandi

P.S. I am proud to announce the birth of Savannah Marie Pengelly, who is my newest niece, born last Thursday afternoon while her Auntie was climbing in and out of a U-Haul. Savannah is as beautiful as can be…oh, the knitting I can do for these two new baby nieces in my family, first Delaney and now Savannah! Welcome, girls!

P.S. Let me know what you think! You can leave a comment below or even email me at

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