Backward loop increase tutorial (M1Bl)

Step-by-step tutorial for making 1 stitch with a backward loop – a simple right-leaning knitting increase that can also be used at the end of a row.

There are many ways to increase knitting. It starts with a simple yarn over and ends with the quite complicated KLL. One technique that is often overlooked is the backward loop increase. I find this strange because it is actually quite a versatile increase.

A swatch with the backward loop increase on both sides
A swatch where I increased with the backward loop increase on both sides

You can use it in the middle of a row/round, but it’s one of the very few increases you can also use at the very end of a row. You can even cast on stitches with it. Then it’s known as the single cast on, though it results in a rather tight edge not suitable for a lot of patterns.

The major difference compared to almost all other knitting increases is the fact that you do not use any strands from the rows below or previous stitches. This puts less stress on the fabric. On the negative side, this may result in little gaps in the fabric – especially if you are a very loose knitter.

The “Make 1 with backward loop” is a directional increase. The standard stitch leans somewhat to the right. If you scroll down a bit, I’ll show you the corresponding left-leaning version of the backward loop increase.

explaining the lean of m1bl backward loop increase with a swatch increased on both side of the middle line
A swatch where I increased with M1BL to the left and right of a central stitch. See how the right side is a bit prettier?

ⓘ In knitting patterns, the backward loop is often abbreviated with M1BL. Sometimes it’s also just M1. Some advanced patterns may differentiate between M1 right loop and M1 left loop. Be careful to not confuse this with M1R and M1R.

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Instructions: How to knit the backward loop increase

close-up of a swatch increased with the backward loop increase

Typically, you knit the M1Bl between two stitches. So, once you reach the point where you want to increase by one stitch, follow these steps.

Active Time 1 minute
Total Time 1 minute

Instructions

  1. Wrap the working yarn around your left thumb clockwise with your right hand.

    Creating a left loop around the thumb by wraping the working yarn around it clockwise
  2. Insert your right needle through the loop you created from below.

    Inserting the right needle into the loop around the thumb from below for the backward loop increase
  3. Remove your thumb and pull tight. Then, continue knitting as normal.

    removing the thumb for the left loop increase
  4. (optional) To cast on another stitch, especially at the end of the row, wrap the working yarn around your thumb clockwise again, and continue repeating steps 1-3 until you increased the desired number of stitches.

    casting on stitches with the backward loop increase on the left side of a knitting project

Notes

As a continental knitter, you can also try to insert the needle directly into the yarn around your index finger (so, skipping step 1) from below.

Backward loop increase to the right / M1 Right loop

A lesser-known alternative to the standard M1BL is the left-leaning variation. You will knit it almost in the exact same way, the only difference is the way you wrap the working yarn around the thumb.

Step 1: Wrap the working yarn around your thumb counter-clockwise using your right hand.

Creating a right loop around the thumb

Step 2: Insert the right needle into the loop you created from above/behind.

Inserting the needle from behind/above for the right loop increase

Step 3: Remove your thumb and pull tight.

Removing the thumb from the loop for the right loop increase

Step 4: Repeat as you see fit or continue knitting according to your pattern.

Tip: As a continental knitter, the yarn around your index finger is most probably already wound up correctly for step 2. So, you can also insert the right needle directly from there.

How to keep the two m1 increases apart?

For the left-slanted version, the tail of the working yarn should lead towards the front after you finished the increase. For the right-slanted version, the working yarn should lead towards the back.

How to knit the backward loop increase

9 thoughts on “Backward loop increase tutorial (M1Bl)”

  1. I’m confused as to why the one they don’t echo the leg orientation of M1R and M1L, i.e. a M1L looks quite similar to what you are describing here as a ‘right leaning’ looped cast on. They feel opposite to what my eye sees. Thoughts?

    Reply
    • Quite honestly, I feel the whole right- and left-leaning business overrated. Sure, most increases and decreases will look different depending on where and how you use them. At the same time, you are the arbiter of what and how you want to use them.
      So, if you feel a certain increase looks better on the left side, then go ahead and use it the way your want. That’s why I provide swatches

      Reply
  2. Hi Norman…. First of all. Love your tutorials. Your insight has significantly advanced my knitting, which I picked during the first COVID lockdown, over the last 2 years.

    Question: For the M1BR, when knitting in the round, I am assuming you knit into the back of the M1BR increase on the next round as knitting into the front seems to untwist the increase stitch. Is this correct in your experience?

    Danke schoen. fröhliches Stricken!

    Reply
    • There is no right answer here, Tim. Really, do whatever you feel looks best for you. Increases are a lot about personal preferences. Test it on a little swatch and do whatever feels looks better for you.
      Quite honestly, that’s what I do with every project. I learned to not trust knitting books etc. Or well..I trust them, but I don’t let them tell me which result I like. If that makes sense.

      Reply
  3. Thanks Norman, no more holes! Your tutorials are GREAT.
    I am using worsted weight, it’s totally invisible.
    And you’ve convinced me to use M1BL for both left and right increases.
    You’ve changed my life.

    Reply

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