Knitting patterns are full of sneaky phrases, innocent little instructions that turn out to be number puzzles. I want to tackle one of them:
Increase 8 stitches evenly across the next row
Decrease 5 stitches evenly across the next row
You often see this type of thing in patterns where there’s a transition from one pattern stitch to another. It’s common in garment sleeves, where you change between plain stockinette in the body and ribbing in the cuff.
When the designer writes the instruction this way, it’s actually a good thing. It means you can be pretty relaxed about it! If the pattern needed the increases or decreases to be worked in a particular way, or in a particular place, the designer would specify.
You can assume there’s no single right answer. Ultimately, as long as you end up with the right stitch count at the end, and as long as you don’t end up with holes or dropped stitches or weird visible mistakes, then you’ve done it right. It’s very liberating!
In the MDK Shop
You Got This
I know that there are apps and calculator tools online that can help you with this. But I promise you, it’s not hard, and it’s good to be able to do this yourself. (Plus getting confident with this type of thing is the first step towards learning how to alter garment patterns…)
Important note: There are a bunch of different ways to do this, but this is the technique I prefer. I do it this way because exactly the same method works for increases and decreases, and for knitting flat and in the round, and this technique can be used for other types of calculations in other contexts. Trust me, this is a good one to know.
Increase 6 stitches evenly across the 48 stitches of next row
Take the current number of stitches and divide it by the number you need to increase:
48 ÷ 6 = 8.
What this means is that you’ve got 6 groups of 8 stitches. And in each one of those groups, you need to do an increase.
If you’re working in the round, you tidily place the increase after each group: (K8, m1) 6 times.
If you’re working flat, in rows, you stick the increase in the middle of each group: (K4, m1, k4) 6 times.
Why treat the flat knitting increase placement differently? Many increases don’t work at the end of a row, and placing one there can throw the row off balance. To solve that, I put the increase in the middle of each group.
Where to place the increases
Nitty Gritty on Increases
I’ve written on increases here. I’m using “m1” for a generic make 1 increase. Any of the “make a stitch where there wasn’t one before” increases work here—a lift-the-bar, a backwards loop, or an LLI/RLI-mother/grandmother increase. The only one that doesn’t work here is kfb (or pfb if you’re a sucker for fiddly things). Those increases have to be worked into a stitch, so they’d make a mess of the numbers.
If you tried: (K8, kfb) 6 times, you’d run out of stitches, since the kfb uses up the next stitch.
If you do want to use kfb, then just subtract 1 from the number of stitches worked plain in each group, like this:
If you’re working in the round, this gives you: (K7, kfb) 6 times around.
If you’re working flat, in rows, you can do: (K3, kfb, k4) 6 times.
You can brush up on your decreases here. Decrease 6 stitches evenly across the 48 stitches of next row
Although it starts the same way, there’s a key difference here:
48 ÷ 6 = 8.
What this means is that you’ve got 6 groups of 8 stitches. And within each one of those groups, you need to do a decrease.
But just like kfb, there’s a trick here. The decrease uses two of the stitch in each group, so you need to reduce the number of stitches worked plain in each group, by 2.
So if you’re working in the round, it’s like this: (K6, k2tog) 6 times around.
If you’re working flat, in rows: (K3, k2tog, k3) 6 times.
The trick is remembering that the result of the division is the total number of stitches to be worked in each group, and when you’re doing a decrease, that decrease works two of those stitches.
X marks the k2tog
See? Not that hard. Now go forth and divide!
What happens if the math isn’t so tidy?
Tune in next time …