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.
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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
2. M1L and M1R (also M1)
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.
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.
3. KFB & KFSB & KBF
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.
4. Backward loop Increase (M1Bl) – left & Right
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.
5. KLL (LLI) & KRL (RL)
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.
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
6. M2 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.
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?
7. Central Double Increase
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
8. PFB – Purl front & back
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)
9. PLL and PRL
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)
10. M1PR & M1PL
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.
11. The Stacked Increase
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.
12. 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.
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!