I recently got an interesting question on my pattern for knitting a flat circle that inspired me to explore the world of knitting increases. The reader asked if a different increase stitch could be used in the pattern. My knee jerk reaction was “Sure! Why not?” but after taking time to actually try some different increase options, I now know that not all increases are equivalent.
In my pattern, I used the increase stitch I know best: knit-front-back (kfb). It is also known as the bar increase, because it leaves a little horizontal line at the base of the new stitch. (Here are links to instructions and a tutorial video for the kfb increase.)
The reader wanted to use make-one (m1) increases instead, and I didn’t see the problem until I cast on and tried to do it. M1 increases require you to use the yarn between two stitches to pick up and make the new extra stitch. My pattern requires you to increase in every stitch on the very first row. Someone else might be able to get it to work, but I couldn’t. It mattered which strand I used from the cast on and I couldn’t figure out the rule.
When I looked up the instructions for m1 increases, I got interested in the other increases available. My knitting books are still in a box, so I got Debbie Stoller’s Superstar Knitting: Go Beyond the Basics from the library. Here are the five increases she describes in the book (pp. 104-5): make 1 (m1), bar increase (kfb), knit-and-purl increase, lifted increase, and row-below increase. (I couldn’t find online instructions for all of these. Look in books if you want knit-and-purl or row-below.)
One of the issues with increasing is how visible the extra stitch is in the finished fabric. I made a little sampler using all five of these increase methods to find out how they looked.
Here’s what I learned: there are definite differences in how visible the increases are. For my flat circle pattern, the least visible increase would be the best. I was shooting for a flat circle, so I want it to be smooth as well. This means the best increase for that pattern is the lifted increase (instructions here; video here).
Unfortunately, you can’t use the lifted increase on the first two rows of the circle; there’s nothing to lift from. This is true for three of the five increases listed; only the kfb/bar and the knit-and-purl increases work with the existing row, so one of these has to be used to start the circle. Given the lumpy bars that go with the knit-and-purl increase, I’m sticking with kfb for the first two roww of the circle, then using lifted increases for the rest of the pattern.
Summary of what I learned from the increase experiment: the increases are listed from least visible to most visible. L+R means that the increase has two versions, resulting in stitches that slant left or right. Increases that only use the stitch loops in the current row are marked with an asterisk (*).
Knitting increases from Least Visible to Most Visible
Lifted Increase (L+R)
Row-Below Increase (L+R)
Make 1 (L+R)
Knit-and-purl increase (L+R)*
Do you have a favorite increase? Which is it and why?