How to Add Stitches in Knitting

Add Shape to Your Knitting

Shape a sock using increases and decreases
Shape a sock using increases and decreases | Source

A Comprehensive Guide to Knitting Basics

How to Work Increases in Knitting

Increases and decreases are used to shape knitted projects by changing the number of stitches on the needles. Like darts and seams in sewing, knitted increases and decreases turn a flat piece of knitting into a 3-dimensional object that can fit a foot, a leg, or an arm. Let's look at the common methods of increasing the number of stitches while knitting. Each method is preceded by its symbol as it is used in knitting patterns. Instructions are given for right-handed knitters.

k1fb: Knit in both front and back of a stitch. To execute this increase, knit into a stitch as usual but do not slip the old stitch off the left needle yet. Insert the right needle into the back loop of the same stitch, put yarn around needle, and pull through. When the old stitch is slipped off the left needle, there are 2 stitches in its place on the right needle.

p1fb: Purl in both front and back of a stitch. To execute this increase, purl into a stitch as usual but do not slip the old stitch off the left needle. Insert the right needle into the back loop of the same stitch, from left to right, put yarn over needle, and pull through. Slip the old stitch is slipped off the left needle. One stitch has been added. Check out a video of this technique.

m1: Make one is done by using the running thread, which is the horizontal thread between the two needle tips. This increase can be twisted to the left (m1left) or right (m1right):

  • m1left : Insert tip of left needle under running thread from front to back. Knit this loop through the back to twist the stitch and avoid creating a hole in the work.
  • m1right : Insert tip of left needle under running thread from back to front. Knit this loop through the front to twist it.

Make one increases can also be worked in purl stitch instead of knit stitch. Just substitute purl for knit in the instructions above.

YO: Yarn over increases are not invisible. They create intentional holes in the knitted fabric and are used extensively in lace knitting. To make a yarn over between two knit stitches: k1, bring yarn forward between needles, knit next stitch taking yarn back over right needle. For a yarn over increase between two purl stitches: p1, take yarn back over right needle and forward again between needles, p1.

Cast on at end of row: To suddenly increase a number of stitches at the end of a row, as in adding the stitches for a kimono sleeve to the body of a knitted piece, simply use the backward loop cast-on method after knitting the last stitch of a row. For a more elastic edge, use the knitted cast on in which you knit a stitch into the last stitch of a row, then place the new stitch back on the left needle. Another variation is the cable cast-on, in which a new stitch is made between the last two stitches of a row and that new stitch is slipped back onto the left needle.

Socks Require Shaping

Socks require increases and/or decreases
Socks require increases and/or decreases | Source

Incorporating Increases into Knitted Garments

Knitting patterns will indicate where to make increases, e.g. at the beginning or end of a row. If the type of increase is not specified, you may use any method you like. If a method is specified, assume the designer had a reason for that instruction.

Increase evenly across a row or round: Divide the number of stitches currently on the needles by the number of stitches to be increased. This number is the approximate number of stitches between increases. For example, if there are 50 stitches on the needles and you need to increase by 8, simply work an increase every 6 stitches. Don't worry about the remainder when you divide. Close is good enough in this case. Use the m1 increase for almost invisible increases.

Paired Increases: Paired increases create a symmetric pattern in the garment. These increases may be part of a decorative pattern. You want to pair a right and a left leaning increase. Here are some examples:

Paired increase on a knit row: m1right, k1, m1left,
Paired increase on a purl row: m1left, p1, m1right.


The Knitter's Bible by Claire Crompton, 2004, David & Charles, UK.

The Complete Encyclopecia of Needlework by Terese de Dillmont, 3rd edition, 1996, Running Press, Philadelphia.

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Comments 4 comments

BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

What gorgeous socks in your photo. Thanks for the instructions, too.

PWalker281 4 years ago

This is all good to know, Kimberly. I don't knit that often, but when I do, I sometimes have trouble figuring out how to make increases and decreases. This little guide makes it all seem so easy.

I do have one question, though. With the "p1fb" increase, when you're making the second stitch in the back loop, you say insert the needle from left to right. I'm having a hard time visualizing that. Are you inserting it front to back of the loop (knitwise) or back to front (purlwise)?

Voted up and shared!

kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA Author

To do the second step of p1fb, you insert the needle purlwise if you were looking from the back of the work. It is an awkward maneuver, so I try to do my increases on knit rows whenever possible.

PWalker281 4 years ago

Thanks, good to know.

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