How to Increase in Knitting:  4 Methods to Try

How to Increase in Knitting  by Janice Jones |Published 05-12-2021

What do you do when you have a pattern that tells you to increase but doesn't tell you how to do it.  Which increase should you use?  This article will look at several different increases and determine which increase works best in the designs we want to knit.

New stitches are created in knitting when you use one of many different increase methods. Increasing and decreasing are necessary for shaping knitted fabric, such as widening a sleeve or forming necklines. Increases and decreases, however, are not entirely evident for the beginner knitter.

It can be done in a few different ways. Depending on your purpose for increasing, some of the increases will slant towards the left, others will slant to the right, and still, others will not slant at all.

How Visible are the Increases

Some increases are almost invisible, where others are meant to add a decorative touch. Most increases used in garments are worked on the right side, and there is a good reason for this.

First, it's just easier to keep track of your increased rows, especially if you make them at regular intervals, say every other row.

Second, it's just easier to see the finished look on the right side. Do follow the pattern's recommendations, though, as the designer may have a reason for deviating from the norm.

knitting with blue yarn

Important Note. Videos presented on this page show you different methods of making increases in a rows of knitting.  While two videos  demonstrate English style of knitting, they are still the same for the Continental Style if you just watch the way needles and yarn interact and do not pay attention at fingers. 

A word about Mirroring

When you are making increases in a garment, the increases on the left side should mirror those on the right.  This makes the garment look symmetrical and is easy on the human eye as we instinctively look for symmetry.

There are four methods used when you want to increase stitches while you are knitting. 

Where To Place Increases in Knitting

Usually, the pattern will give you directions as to where and when to place on increases.  If it does not, the rule of thumb is to never place increases in the first or last stitch of the row.

It's much neater to knit two stitches, then increase, work to the end of the row, where there are two stitches left, make your increase, and then knit the last two stitches.

Here is a little formula that I learned from Arenda Holladay.  Don't worry, you don't need a degree in advanced mathematics to make this work:

  1. Subtract 1 from the number of stitches to increase across the row.  So, if the design calls for increasing 10 stitches, 10-1=9
  2. Divide this number by the number of stitches on the needle.  For example if you have 72 stitches on the needle, divide 72 divided by 9 = 8.
  3. You should plan on 8 stitches between each increase.

If it does not come out even, round up the next whole number.

How to Increase in Knitting:  4 Methods

1. Yarn Over Increase

The traditional yarnover method is the easiest of all to implement. A stitch can be added either on a knit or a purl row. Take the yarn over the right-hand needle and knit the next stitch while on the knit row. If purling, take the yarn over the right needle in the same direction as you usually do when purling. Then purl the next stitch.

This method produces little holes in that place where a yarn-over was made. It works well for the lace patterns, and in case you need to make some decorative elements. It is usually not a good choice if you want a solid piece of fabric.

Advantages

  • It creates little holes which can be a decorative touch when making lace.

Disadvantages

  • It creates holes

2. Working into the front and back loop:  Bar Increase

This type of increase is likely the first and the easiest way to make increases. It is different from the ones that follow in that it does not slant either to the right or to the left. It is called a bar increase because you can see a bar that looks like a purl bump after where the increase was made.

You may see this increase done on sweater patterns where the ribbing ends, and the first row of the pattern stitch begins. The knitting pattern may not indicate exactly how to do this stitch but may say something such as "increase 5 stitches evenly across the row."

This stitch is usually made on the knit side of the fabric, but it can also be done on the purl side.

Bar Increase Tutorial:  On the Right Side

Insert your right-hand needle into the front of the stitch as normal. Wrap the yarn counterclockwise as if to knit, but do not remove the stitch from the left-hand needle.

Next, insert the right-hand needle into the back of the stitch and wrap the yarn, but this time you will slide the stitch off the needle. Then knit the same stitch through the back loop and slip the stitch off. The following row is worked normally.

On the purl row: do the same, but use a purl stitch.

You can repeat this process for the number of stitches you need to increase.

Advantages:

  • it is easy to make
  • It blends in nice if done in a ribbing row

Disadvantages:

  • The bar or purl bump is visible
  • Leaves a hole at the base of the purl bump
  • Stitch below the increase is smaller
  • Requires planning especially if the pattern calls for a certain number of increases evenly spaced along the row.

Planning Your Bar Increases

Unless a pattern specifies it, do not increase in the first and last stitches.  Since most patterns don't tell you where to place the increases, this is a very common mistake.

Rather, knit or purl a couple of stitches and then place your first increase.  Why?  Increases in the first or last stitch can be unsightly.  It also makes finishing harder to do. Seaming is much easier if you have a straight salvage on which to work. 

3. Increase a stitch. Make 1 (M1) method

This method of increasing a stitch can be used if a hole is not desirable for your design (For example, you wouldn't want holes in a warm winter sweater).  They are worked using the horizontal bar or strand of yarn between two stitches.

There are three ways you can do a Mi: open, right slanting, or left-slanting.

This increase is made between two stitches on the row below that which you are working.

Look at the horizontal strand of yarn between the stitches below the loops on the needles. Lift this bar onto the left needle, then knit (or purl) into the back of this loop.

Video below demonstrates how to increase a stitch in a knit row using Make 1 (M1) methods.

TIP:

4. Lifted Increases

Lifted increases can either be left-slanting or right-slanting. These increases are worked in the "V" of the stitch just below those stitches on the needles.

Right Slanting Increase

This is similar to the M1 increase above, but instead, you are working in the "V" below the stitch on the needle, rather than the little bar between the stitches. These are usually worked on the right side of your work, but follow the pattern if it differs from this rule.

  • Locate the "V" below the stitch where you want to make the increase.
  • Lift the right leg of that V onto the needle.  
  • Insert the right needle into the stitch and knit the stitch.
  • Knit the stitch, which is still on the needle. You've made your right slanting increase.

Left Slanting Increase: 

  • Locate the V just below the stitch in the location where you want to make the increase.
  • Knit that stitch.
  • Now, locate the V below that stitch. (Do not pick up the "V" of the stitch you just made. Rather, pick up the left side of the "V" in the row just below the one you just made"
  • Lift the left leg of that "V" onto your needle 
  • Knit that stitch. You just created a left-slanting increase.

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