Thursday, May 15, 2008


If you have been playing Sock Wars this week, you may have been one of the many who were confused by the increase directions. So I thought that it would be a great idea if we talked about increases and their variations and particular uses.

Many beginning knitters are frustrated by the fact that a lot of pattern writers take for granted that the knitter has a certain knowledge base. And indeed, the average pattern would have to turn into a book in order to accommodate all the skills that any knitter would have to have under their belt in order to complete the project. As a new knitter - or even a more experienced one - this is where a good knitting reference is worth its weight in gold. Vogue Knitting produces an excellent big, hardcover knitting reference, and Interweave Knits has a small pocket guide that is handy to keep with you in your knitting bag. Another of my favorites is published by Reader's Digest and is called the Knitter's Handbook, by Montse Stanley. There is also June Hiatt's Principals of Knitting, which, if you can find one, is nearly literally worth it's weight in gold bars. Any one of these will serve the average knitter very well.

So, let's play a little with some basic increases. Get out some yarn and needles, and cast on 20 sts. Work in stockinette stitch for about an inch.

To begin with, when a pattern tells you to increase a stitch at the beginning of a row, or at the end of a row, you almost never, ever increase right at the beginning or end, unless you are specifically told in the pattern to do so. I always work one or two stitches in the established pattern before increasing at the beginning of a row, and do the increase at the end of the row one or two stitches before the end. Here in the demo sample, I am working 3 sts at the beginning of the row before working the increase. This is done to make a cleaner edge and a nicer finished piece, and also makes seaming easier and neater.

Probably the most basic increase of all is the K1f&b. This is also called a bar increase. K1f&b (knit 1 front and back) tells you how it is done, and is usually the way you will see this written in a pattern. Bar increase tells you what the result looks like. Remember that the terms are interchangeable.

To work this increase, you first knit into the next stitch on your left needle as usual, but do not remove the original stitch from the left needle in the normal manner - leave it on the left needle. Now, take your right needle that is still holding onto the new stitch, and swoop the right needle around behind the point of the left needle. Knit the stitch on the left needle - that you have already knit into from the front - through the back leg of the stitch. The result is two stitches knitted from one stitch. Now slide the original stitch off of the left needle as you would normally do. Viola! A k1f&b increase has been worked. The result will be a little bar where the stitch was worked. This can be very obvious in stockinette stitch, but a lot less obvious in ribbing.

The second basic increase is a yarn-over, or yo. This is used quite a bit in lace for two reasons - One- to increase in order to compensate for a decrease worked elsewhere. Two- to create a hole. Work to where you want to place the increase, bring the yarn to the front of your work between the needles, and then up and over the top of the right needle. Knit the next stitch as usual. You will hear of knit yo's and purl yo's, but the basic idea is the same, just bring the yarn forward, over the top of the right needle, and then back to the proper position for the next stitch to be worked.

Notice that as you look at the yo on the needles, before it is worked into on the next row, the yo looks like a diagonal stitch on the needle, with a hole below it.

You then work the yarn-over on the next row as a knit or as a purl, depending on the stitch pattern. Note that the lower hole in the picture is a single yo worked as a purl on the WS row, and that the large hole just above it is a double yo (loop the yarn over the needle one extra time) with the first part of the yo worked as a purl, the second part of the yo worked as a knit.

Some lace patterns may ask you to do a yo at the beginning of a row. This is to create a stretchy side edge on the lace. In a similar way, a lace cast-off includes a yo in between each stitch cast off for the same reason. You would K2, pass 1st st over, *yo, pass st over the yo, K1, pass yo over the stitch* to the end of your CO row. Also, a short-row sock heel may have you do a yo at the beginning of a row after a turn. The yo is later worked along with the next st to be worked in order to avoid holes.

You can also work a yo so that it doesn't leave a hole. On the WS, work the yo through the back of the loop.

This leaves a twisted stitch on the RS, but no holes.

Next time we'll talk about paired increases...

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