I have heard many knitters exclaim – “I can only knit a scarf – I don’t know how to go in and out in knitting!” Going “in” and “out” I’ve always taken to mean how to increase stitches and perhaps also decrease them. This is what turns your two-dimensional knitted fabric into a contoured item of clothing so it’s definitely worth the effort to learn.
It is not complicated but there are a number of ways to increase stitches or add to the size of your project and the real skill is knowing which method to choose.
The easiest way to increase stitches in knitting is to increase needle size. Many fashion knitters use this method to achieve eye-catching fabric.
OK so the photo is over-stating things a bit, but I’m sure you understand what I mean. A larger needle will create larger stitches and a looser, wider fabric using the same number of stitches. However if you don’t want to change the size of your stitches i.e. the gauge, you need to increase the number of stitches you are actually knitting with per row. Over the centuries, knitters have devised a number of ways to accomplish this goal. Some methods create decorative holes, others are nearly invisible; some create stitches that slant to the right, others to the left.
Knitting patterns don’t always say which particular type of increase to use but instead leave it up to the knitter to decide. We then revert to type and just increase the stitches using a method we first learned – remember my casting on problem? Or maybe do a mix of increases depending on how we feel at the time (especially the case on projects which get left in the WIP pile quite a lot).
To get a polished hand-crafted rather than hand-made look, it’s best to choose a method of increase which best suits the project.
Step 1 – Which Increase?
If you’re working on lace or the increase is immediately followed by a decrease, the chances are that you are creating the increase stitch for decorative purposes only. Best increase for this is the Yarn Over.
If you’re wanting to add width to a project e.g. at the chest or top of cuff, it is best to work increases evenly across a single row – usually on the right side, using your favourite increase (not a Yarn Over unless the pattern specifies).
If the purpose of the increase is to form an angled edge e.g. along the edge of the sleeve, you should choose an increase that follows the slant (right or left). That would mean choosing a Bar Increase.
If the purpose of the increase is to add a pattern/texture as well as to increase the number of your stitches, work a right and then a left slanting increase on either sides of a centre stitch.
Step 2 – How to Increase
Yarn-over Increase (YO) – simplest form of increase producing a hole where you have added the extra stitch. Make sure you wrap the yarn from front to back to produce same size holes. On the following row treat the stitch normally i.e. knit or purl it as the pattern requires.
Yarn-over on a knit row – bring the yarn forward from back to front between the needles, take it around the RH needle to the back ready for the next knit stitch.
Yarn-over on a purl row – with yarn at the front (which is where it is already), take the yarn around the RH needle from left to right and bring round to the front. In effect you’re wrapping the yarn around the RH needle.
Pros: The effect is very pretty. The increase can be placed exactly where you need it.
Cons: Since it leaves a hole, not appropriate to use in all projects. Must wrap the yarn uniformly from front to back as otherwise the holes created are of different sizes.
Bar Increase (KFB) – so called as when knitted it forms a visible horizontal bar similar to a purl stitch just left of the increased stitch. Use in increasing when ribbing as it is virtually invisible – in knit stitch just before purl stitch.
Knitted bar increase (Knit Front and Back/KFB) – knit into the stitch normally but do not let it run off your LH needle. Lift RH needle from front to back and knit into back leg of the stitch. Now let the two stitches run off your LH needle.
Purled bar increase (Purl Front and Back/PFB) – purl into the back leg of the next stitch. Do not let it run off the LH needle. Keep yarn to the front and purl into front leg of the stitch normally. Allow the stitches to run off the LH needle.
Pros: Can use the visible bar to count stitches.
Cons: Cannot be used in colourwork where colours change at place of increase.
Raised Increase (M1) – Make 1 increase is an invisible increase as long as you remember to twist the horizontal strand you are knitting into.
Right-slanting raised increase (Make 1/M1) – insert RH needle into horizontal connecting bar of yarn between the stitches on the left and right needle. Twist and put on LH needle and knit into the front leg of the loop.
Left-slanting raised increase (Make 1/M1) – insert RH needle into horizontal connecting bar of yarn between the stitches on the left and right needle. Twist and put on LH needle and knit into the back leg of the loop.
You can also use this increase when purling.
Pros: this increase does not affect the stitches already on the needle as it is invible. It is ideal for colourwork increases and gloves/mittens.
Cons: twisting the loop you are putting on the LH needle is important to remember otherwise this increase can look like a YO.
Lifted Increase – another type of invisible increase worked into the stitch in the row below the needle.
Knitted Right-Slant increase – knit as normal into the front of the stitch below the one you want to increase.
Knitted Left-Slant increase – with the LH needle knit into the back of the stitch immediately below the stitch you’ve just knitted.
You can also use this increase when purling.
Pros: ideal for working an increase into the middle of the row where you want this to be as inconspicuous as possible.
Cons: must space increases at least three rows apart if stacked on top of each other otherwise the increase will pull the work and distort the fabric.
Step 3 – Tips to Help Increases
- Work increases two to three stitches in from the edge of a knitted piece to make seaming easier.
- To get the least conspicuous result, choose an increase that twists the stitch to avoid holes.
- When increasing within a ribbed pattern, work double increases to maintain the continuity of the pattern (increase on either side of a purl stitch and work the purl stitch as a knit stitch) or position bar increases in knit stitches that are immediately followed by purl stitches.
- When working increases along the edge to shape a piece, work the new stitches into the pattern as they become available—when there are enough stitches to work in the pattern repeat, do so. Otherwise, simply knit or purl the new stitches until there are enough.
Try these and stripy blankets and curvy jumpers are yours for the making – I’ll be writing about decreases soon!