Knitting Increases

The ultimate list of knitting increases with step by step tutorials and videos for each of them.

Once a knitter finished their first garter stitch scarf or potholder, they will soon be confronted with knitting increases. Typically, Make one Left (M1L) and Make one Right (M1R) is where you start. It certainly is a nice and fast way to increase the stitch count. But is it also the best way to shape a garment?

In this tutorial, I’ll take a closer look at all the common (and some not so common) knitting increases out there. This list has two functions. First, I want to broaden your horizons and teach you new techniques. Some increases are easier to knit and others only work in certain circumstances, and I want to provide you with the perfect increase for each situation. You’ll find detailed tutorials and videos linked for each and every one of them.

a scarf with different knitting increases lined up one after another

My second goal is to show you the differences in the pattern they create. Some knitting increases are super visible, others almost invisible. Depending on the project and circumstances, one, or the other may be desirable. In a lace shawl, increases and decreases become a vital element of the design, while for a toy or the top of a hat, you might want to hide these increase lines as best as possible.

Reading tip: Check out my free knitting school in case you want to learn about other stitches and techniques.

Knitting increases: General things you need to know

A big swatch like a scarf with many, many different knitting increases
I always increased (or decreases) with the same decrease left and right with 2 knit stitches as selvage to show you the difference. From bottom to top: M1l, K2tog, M1R, SSK, KLL, K2tog tbl, KLL, SSPK, KRL

Knitting increases can be separated into three categories: Those that make use of the strand between two stitches, those that make use of a stitch or a stitch one row below, and those that are knit from the working yarn alone. Almost all increases are also a variation of a purl or a knit stitch and look like it. This is, however, not only academic knowledge for your next knitting trivia – it has some really important implications.

  1. Knitting increases that make use of the strand between two stitches (like M1R, etc) shorten the fabric a bit. If you have too many in one row or too many in consecutive rows, this will become a noticeable effect. They can also not be used at the end of a row, because there is no strand.
  2. Increases that make use of a stitch a row below, on the other hand, are, generally speaking, more invisible. But they do shorten that stitch as well, and this effect may look much more pronounced on the edge of a project. A KLL (see below) is almost invisible in the middle of a project, but quite a bit more visible on the edge.
  3. If you have an even number of stitches and want to increase in the middle, you can only use a strand-increase, while for an odd number of stitches, only an increase that is worked through a stitch can be used.
  4. With the exception of yarnovers and a very few double increases, all increases either lean towards the left or the right. This indicates the most harmonic way you can integrate them into a swatch of stockinette stitch.
  5. You can modify all increase by knitting them in a different way on the return row. A popular method is knitting yarn over through the back loop to close the eye on the wrong side.

All this, of course, doesn’t have to mean a thing. It’s part of your artistic freedom to decide which increase you favor. I am just presenting you with the facts. The decision is entirely yours! In most of the swatches below, I used the increases on both sides of a swatch so you can see the difference.

So, let’s take a look at all the different knitting increases and how they look like.

1. Yarn over knitwise and purlwise

a close up with a swatch increased with yarn overs

A yarn over is by far the easiest way to increase in knitting. By simply wrapping the working yarn around your needle before you knit, you can create beautiful eyelets that are the main staple of modern lace patterns. It’s fairly foolproof to knit, though a lot of beginners make the mistake of thinking the stitch following the yarnover is actually included. So, keep that in mind.

Here’s how to yarn over knit and purlwise

Note: There is also the reverse yarn over. Structurally, it will create the same increase as a M1R – just staggered across two rows instead of just one. And it will be a tiny bit looser.

2. Make one (m1)

a knitted swath increased with m1 - make one

The probably easiest standard increase is called Make One and creates a small eyelet. Structurally, the outcome will look exactly like a yarnover once you knitted a couple of rows – only a little bit tighter. Basically, make one is an “afterthought yarn over” and just as easy to knit.

Read my tutorial here

3. M1L and M1R

a knitted swatch increased with m1r and m1l on both sides

The second most popular knitting increase is probably Make one Left (M1L) and the corresponding Make one Right (M1R). Like many other knitting increases, these two form a left- and right-slanting pair you can use to increase a garment evenly on both sides.

a knitted swatch increased with m1r and m1l on both sides

They tend to create little eyelets/holes and are somewhat visible when placed next to each other. Both increases make use of the strand in between two stitches and therefore cannot be used at the end of a row.

Read my tutorial on how to knit M1l and M1R here

4. KFB & SKL & KFSB (bar increases)

a swatch with mirrored left and right leaning increases - kfb and skl
A swatch where I increased with SKL on the left and KFB on the right

Knit front and back, is another increase I feel is very popular with knitting beginners. Instead of using the strand between two stitches, you’ll increase by knitting in the same stitch twice. Because you end up with little bars, it is also known as bar increase.

To avoid that ornamental bar, you can knit the front loop and only slip the back. Then this increase is also known as Knit front, slip back (KFSB) and a lot more invisible. You can also Knit back and Front, for a twisted version with a slightly smaller bar.

Read my KFB tutorial (and all its variations) here

The right-leaning version of the bar increases is called SKL – slip, knit, lift.

5. Backward loop Increase (M1Bl) – left & Right

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

The backward loop increase is probably one of the most versatile knitting increases out there. Instead of making use of the strand between two stitches or the loop of a stitch, you are using the working yarn to cast on stitches in the middle of a project. The most interesting part – you can also use this technique to increase a project by multiple stitches at the very end of a row (to bridge a gap, etc). It’s, sadly, not the most invisible increase. There is also a left-leaning and a lesser-known right-leaning version available.

A swatch with the backward loop increase and cast on stitches on the left side
A swatch where I increased with the backward loop increase on both sides, and cast on further stitches at the end of a row with the same technique.

Here’s my full tutorial for the backward loop increase

6. KLL (LLI) & KRL (RL)

the kll knitting increase shown with a swatch in green yarn

My personal favorite increases? Definitely Knit Left loop (KLL) and Knit Right Loop (KRL). These lifted increases make use of the stitches two rows below the current row and are, by far, the most invisible increases I know.

I mean, if you line it up like in the swatch above, you can still see it (especially with cotton yarn), but distribute it evenly in the middle of a project knit in stockinette stitch, and it’s almost impossible to notice.

a sample swatch with two kll increases - one in red with a contrasting yarn and one almost invisible

I use this increase in almost all my decorative patterns. They are a truly great choice for toys and other items where you want an almost invisible increase. Find my KLL tutorial here and here’s my KRL tutorial

7. M2 Double Increase

a swatch with the make two double increase

The double increase (Make Two/M2) deserves much more attention in my opinion. Why? Because it can be a super beautiful option for the center of shawls and other garments where you want to put an emphasis on the increase line.

a swatch with the make two left and right increase

And the best part? There are some fun variants that are even more beautiful. Normally you do it by knitting two M1L in the same strand, but if you alternate between M1L and M1R into the same strand, you get the above result. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Here’s my double increase tutorial

8. Central Double Increase

different central double increase alternatives next to each other
Different central double increase variations

The central double increase is pretty similar to the M2 in terms of the result. However, it is knit into the same stitch instead of the strand between two stitches. So, it shapes a garment in a slightly different way and can be used in different positions as well. While there is an “official” version, you can also knit a couple of beautiful variations.

My favorite is the central double increase as a variation of the backward loop increase. I feel it does create the neatest structure with a truly centered increase line that looks very harmonic in stockinette stitch.

Find my full tutorial on the central double increase here

9. PFB – Purl front & back

close-up of a swatch decreases with the kfb knitting stitch on the right side

Do you want to increase stitches on the purl side? Well, then Pfb will be a very simple option. You knit it in a similar way as kfb and it’s thus a very versatile option for every circumstance. It does create a little bar on the right side as well. But there are ways to improve the standard technique (like with a purl-back-slip-front-twisted)

Here’s my full tutorial on the pfb knitting increase

10. PLL and PRL

the wrong side of a swatch increased with theleft lifted purl increase swatch on both sides

Purl left loop and PRL form a mirrored pair similar to KLL & KRL – only for the wrong side. In fact, these increases will look exactly the same on the right side. So, they can be a super-smart choice if you are working on the wrong side or you are knitting in the round and you need to increase purl stitches (like in twisted ribbings, etc)

11. M1PR & M1PL

wrong side of a swatch increased with m1pl on both sides to see in which direction it leans

Are you looking for an easy increase for the wrong side? Then Make One Purl Left and Make One Purl Right could be a lovely choice. Much like their corresponding M1R & M1L increases for the right side, you knit these purl increases into the strand between two stitches.

Here’s my M1PR tutorial & here’s how to knit M1PL

12. The Stacked Increase

A swatch with stacked increases in different heights - from high to low

The stacked increase is an awesome technique if you want to add a large number of stitches mid-row. This will create a kind of lobe-shape with a sheer endless number of applications. It’s basically nothing but knitting a triple increase into one stitch and then slipping back two stitches and working another triple increase into the new first stitch over and over again.

Read my stacked increase tutorial here.

13. Brioche stitch increases

The Brioche stitch is a fabulous knitting niche you could spend a lifetime exploring. When knitting in two colors, you can create patterns that look a lot like cables and will make everyone go “how did you create that?”. Those are really fascinating techniques that can be applied to many other double-knitting methods as well.

Read my brioche stitch increase tutorial here

Other knitting increase

I will strive to update this post throughout the next couple of weeks and months. But as I want to provide detailed instructional pictures and a video for each and every single one, it does take quite a lot of time. For now, I’ll just list the knitting increases that still need to be addressed:

  • Yarnover twisted
  • KBF untwisted and KBF untwisted right
  • Purl Double Increase and central purl double increase
  • KFSB right

So, I guess I have quite a lot of work stacked out for me. And, of course, you can also do your own tests. Knitting increases work on a couple of easy principles. It basically boils down to: Find something you can knit into once again. Toy around with slipping and twisting stitches, and you might discover a great new technique!

So, That’s my ultimate list of important knitting increases. Feel free to ask your questions in the comments below!

Ultimate list of knitting increases

43 thoughts on “Knitting Increases”

  1. Hi there
    I was wondering what increase you would recommend for garter stitch. Nothing that leaves a hole. Pattern recommends M1’s but I have awful trouble with M1R’s.
    Thank you

    Reply
    • Hey Becci,
      that’s actually quite an interesting question and I think I’ll write a little post about it (subscribe my newsletter and I’ll make sure to include it in the next missive).

      That being said, I’m afraid the M1R is in fact the most invisible increase for garter stitch. The other increases are, sadly, all quite visible. The only thing you could try is a backward loop increase – but that does leaves a little hole. so.

      Reply
      • I’ve seen 2 sources recommend the RLI, right lifted increase, done on the wrong side of the (flat) garter stitch fabric, whereby the bar that is lifted is the horizontal one of a purl stitch. To avoid holes, one has to to twist the bar when lifting (so a clockwise twist while slipping it onto the left needle).
        I’m looking for a solution to increase as invisibly as possible on garter IN THE ROUND, but can’t wrap my brain around how to do the twisted right liftes increase in garter in the round.
        I tried to work it out in a swatch in the round: on the purl row, lifting the bar twisted and knitting the lifted loop, but then I run into the following problem. As the round after this purled increase round was now an all knit, being ready to increase again on the following purl (wrong) round, I need to increase again in this manner when I encounter another a stockinette looking stitch (as this stitch originated from 2 previously knit rows in the round, due to the increase on the purl row). I’m sure I lost anyone reading this at this point : ) But I would still be very grateful to anyone who can ‘translate’ the twisted lifted purl loop on flat garter, to its equivalent on garter in the round.
        I am going to write it as a chart to see if I can come up with a solution…

        Reply
  2. Hi There,

    I am making mittens and the pattern is very old so I don’t quite understand the thumb increase directions. I would love to hear some thoughts. Here are the words in the pattern: work across 12 sts, k 2, inc. in the next stitch (by picking up the back thread of stitch and knit the st itself), k1…

    THANKS!

    Reply
    • Hey Erin,
      hm…that’s somewhat difficult to say. It sounds a bit like you have to bridge a gap. And if you take a close look at a cast-off edge then you will see that it has two bars, like a vertical V.
      The back thread is the bar further to the back. You have to pick that up.
      If that doesn’T make any sense (hard to tell by that line only) I’d simply roll with a KLL or a KFB (as they do not leave any holes).

      Reply
  3. Hi there,

    I was hoping to get some advice on how to inrease stitches for an adjusted hat pattern. I found all sorts of tips on decreasing when altering patterns but nothing on increasing. I am currently making a hat with a folded brim that requires a provisional cast on. Knitting instructions for the brim are as follows:

    • With scrap yarn, provisionally cast on 117 sts • PM and join in the round, being careful not to twist • K for a total of 28 rounds • Round 29(increase round): *K9, M1, repeat from * to end of round(130sts) • Round 30: K • Next: P one round • Next: K for 30 rounds

    If I plan to cast on more like 152 stiches (versus 117) how many do I knit prior to the MI in round 29? Would I keep it at 9 or is there a better way to adjust the increase?

    Thank you!
    Devon

    Reply
    • Hey Devon,
      I’m sorry but I generally don’t comment on other patterns. It just makes no sense as I have no clue about the intended fit, etc. Please contact the respective designer. Thank you for your understanding.

      PS: dividing those 152 stitches by 9 should be a good start

      Reply
  4. Is there a method of increasing with KRL into other KRL increases (or conversely KLL into KLL)? If I want to double the stitches each row (i.e. put increases into every stitch), I’m not really sure how you work the increase into another increase, since the increase already spans two rows.

    Reply
    • I mean, if you want to increase in every row, you have to increase with PLL or PRL on the return row into the first stitch of the two. But if you want to do that, that’s a different question because it’s probably not going to look very pretty in most circumstances (except for a twisted rib or so).
      If you want to increase in every row or round, increases that don’t make use of a stitch one row below are recommended. so KFB, Backwardloop increase, yo, these kind of things

      Reply
      • I think if I understand you correctly, the ‘not looking good’ quality of putting increases into other increases is that it just brings the loop up again and again, until the loop is stretched across multiple rows? That’s the main issue I’ve had with it myself.

        The reason notion first came to me was when I was trying to make a toe-up socks: I was starting with 4 stitches and doubling them every round for the first few rows so that I would have a very quick expansion around the toe. I wasn’t really so sure it would work and it was more experimentation than anything. I’m more familiar with crochet than knitting, and if I was crocheting a toe-up sock, that’s probably the method I would use.

        Do you have any suggestions for an alternative increase that has the same sort of invisibility as KLL and KRL? I know that a lot of these other increases can leave holes.

        Reply
        • Well, I doubt you need to increase in every row for toe-up socks. At least I don’t. Setting that aside, if you want to increase in every row, you absolutely cannot use lifted increases as it will shorten your fabric and that’s not what you want.
          KFB or backward loop will be what you are looking for. Neither of them will be invisible but that’s, quite frankly, nothing you can expect.

          Reply
          • Thank you Norman, this is very good to know. As I said before, I’m quite new to knitting, so adjusting to the differences from crochet is certainly something.

            I am curious as to what you mean by the lifted increases shorten the fabric. You’re still making the same number of rows/round, so I would think the length of the fabric wouldn’t be affected unless you use change your gauge, no?

          • No, a lifted increase draws a loop up one row. But that original stitch wasn’t bigger than the others. So, the base stitch below your Lifted increase is a bit shorter than the adjacent stitches. and if you repeat that often enough, you cinch your fabric.

  5. i just want to say *thank you!!* for this….i’m working on an afghan pattern and i like a ridge/spine on each point up and down…..the down point (the decrease) i am doing s2kp2 and it’s perfect….it’s the up point that’s had me stumped….then i found your page, and the central double increase variation #2 using the two backward loop increases….took me a bit to realize that it *did* make a difference which way i wrapped the yarn around the needle, but it’s coming out exactly what i was looking for!!! you’re a lifesaver!!!!

    Reply
      • Oh – Include me in on that post. I’m starting a sweater pattern and the directions are a bit vague. Not sure the best way to increase from the 1×1 rib on the cuff to the rest of the sleeve among other directions.

        Also it says increase 1 stitch at the end of the 5th and every following 10th row (in double moss stitch) … Does that mean rows 10, 20, and 30 from the beginning or 15, 25, and 35 (i.e. 10 rows from row 5) Thanks! Lauren

        Reply
        • Sorry lauren. I don’t comment on other designers’ patterns. It could be either and without seeing the pattern there’s no way I could tell. Some patterns word things very weirdly. Maybe it’s 5, 15, 25..but who knows.

          Reply
  6. Hi – love these instructions. My pattern – which is a toy monkey – calls for “increase one sts by reversed knitting of the thread between the 2 underlying sts”. I’m confused by this. Is this a M1?

    Reply
    • well…it could be. i mean..reverse knitting or mirror knitting is a different technique… But it sure sounds a bit like a M1L/M1R

      Reply
  7. Hi Norman,
    Thank you for this page on knitting increases, I really enjoyed it.
    What increase do you recommend for a striped cardigan in stocking stitch? There are two colours, with two rows per colour. The increase is on the first row of the colour change, every 4th row. I quite like the KLL, but that won’t work on this garment.
    Regards,
    Christine.

    Reply
  8. Hi, thank you for your suggestion. I tried a knit front slip back. It leaves one stitch of colour 1 on the row of colour 2. So that increase method isn’t suitable for my garment.

    Reply
    • Hm…yeah, I should have put more thought into that. I am currently moving and am a bit distracted. Well, that basically leaves the backward loop increase but other than that..I had to toy around a bit myself and I currently don’t have the time for that 🙁

      Reply
  9. Hi Norman
    i am knitting a sweater in the round, and doing the increases for the yoke with M1BL.
    The first try was awful. The 2nd time I knitted more loosely but it is the same result; bumps between the increases.
    Someone advised to use M1 but it will create holes?
    Thanks for sharing your wisdom!
    Agnes

    Reply
    • I am not sure how I can advise you here. I have no clue how the pattern looks nor about its intended fit. Theoretically speaking, you can use any of these increases for the yoke. Look at the swatches and pick the one you think is best in line with the design – or ask the respective designer of the pattern.

      Reply
      • Thank you!
        My issue is that I want the knit to be flat, but the increases create bumps between the increases. I would share a photo if I could.
        I have tried BL, KBSF, raised increases and M1R/M1L but nothing is 100% satisfying.
        I am going to try with larger needles to see if it helps.

        It looks like the bumps are eliminated during blocking but is it a sure thing? Besides I still don’t know how to block a sweater knit in the round, other than blocking one side flat then the other.

        Reply
        • well, if not even lifted increases satisfy you that will be problematic. Your best alternative would be knitting bottom-up. that way you can use k2tog and SSK.

          Reply
  10. Hi,
    Loved reading and learning this. Was wondering if you could help explain this line of a knitting pattern.
    Row 23: (WS); k to mark turn, inc 7 sts across row (96 sts)
    This pattern is to make a Basket Stitch Container and it is the step before you knit the side of the basket.
    Thank you,
    Merilliss

    Reply
    • If you have problems with a pattern, kindly contact the respective designer. I do not contact on patterns other than my own. Thank you for your understanding. But it just sounds like yu have to increase by 7 stitches in row 23.

      Reply
  11. I am trying to replicate this sample to learn the stitches. I am a beginner and I am struggling to figure out what you mean by

    “ I always increased (or decreases) with the same decrease left and right with 2 knit stitches as selvage to show you the difference.”

    Do you mean that you did one (for example) M1L and one M1R in the same row with two regular knit stitches at each end of the rows? Or is the first vertical chevron increasing by one M1L, followed by a chevron of K2tog decrease, followed by a chevron of M1R increases? That is what the picture with your labels suggest to me.

    I hope that made sense to you.

    Also how many stitches did you cast on?

    Thanks very much

    Reply
    • hm..i can’t remember how many stitches I cast-on but it doesn’t really matter. Probably 5 or 7.
      The repeat is always: [k2, m1l, *knit across*, m1r, k2]
      until you decide to stop and decrease with whatever you feel you want to: so [k2, ssk, *knit across*, k2tog, k2]

      Reply
  12. This is a great post! I’ve been knitting for about 5 years and I’ve never heard of most of these things. Thanks for the list!

    Reply
  13. Hi, I am becoming an advanced beginner! I am making a caplet in stockinette stitch. Would it work if I went up a few needle sizes to achieve the 4 rows of minimal shoulder increases spaced over 12 rows? I have completed the 9″ before the increases. I Would appreciate your in put.
    Sincerely,
    Deborah

    Reply
    • why would you go up a needle size mid fabric? that will be very visible and I don’t quite recommend it except you are changing the knitting stitch pattern.

      Reply
  14. Hi Norman,
    I’m curious about making the central double increase as a design feature in a panel of knitting, for a garment design I have in mind. If you only need to increase to a certain number of stitches you wouldn’t need to increase in every right side row of the complete length of the panel; so do you treat the centre stitch of each row differently to keep the design feature obvious when you aren’t working an increase row? I hope my question is clear and sorry if I missed it in the information you have so generously provided in this post. 💜

    Reply
    • i don’t quite understand your quesiton, no. But if you want to use a certain increase as a design feature, you can pair it with decreases left and right. Lots of lace patterns do exactly that.

      Reply

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