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.

Knitting increases: General things you need to know

A big swatch like a scarf with many, many different knitting increases
I always increases (or decreases) with the same decrease left and right with 2 knit stitches as selvedge 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, 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, 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 swatch with a yarnover knitwise on the right side and a yarnover purlwise on the left side
I increased this swatch with a yarnover knitwise on the right side, and a yarnover purlwise on the left side.

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

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.

Read my tutorial on how to knit M1l and M1R here

3. KFB & KFSB & KBF

A swatch with kbf knitting increases
A swatch with KFB increases on the left side, and the KFSB variation on the left side

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

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

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

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 it 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 a left-leaning and a lesser-known right-leaning version.

Here’s my full tutorial for the backward loop increase

5. KLL (LLI) & KRL (RL)

A sample swatch with kll and krl knitting increases
A swatch where I increased with KRL on the left and KLL on the right

My personal favorite increases? Definitely Knit Left loop (KLL) and Knit RIght Loop (KRL). This increase makes use of the stitches two rows below the current row and is, by far, the most invisible increase 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 almost invisible increase. Find my KLL tutorial here and here’s my KRL tutorial

6. 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. The best part?

a swatch with the make two left and right increase

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

7. 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

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. I also didn’t touch the topic of purl knitting increases yet. Basically, there is a purl version for all the increases in this list, so, it’s going to take quite a while.

  • Yarnover twisted
  • PFB (Purl front and back) & PBF (Purl back and front)
  • KBF untwisted and KBF untwisted right
  • PLL (Purl left loop) and PRL (Purl right loop)
  • M1PL & M1PR
  • Purl Double Increase and central purl double increase
  • KFSB right
  • and stacked increases

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 it. That’s my ultimate list of important knitting increases. I hope I was able to inspire you. Feel free to ask your questions in the comments below!

Ultimate list of knitting increases

2 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

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