Knitting is a series of knit and purl stitches and within these series of stitches, we make changes to create a pattern. We add stitches with increases and we remove stitches with decreases. For fun, we make changes to our pattern by twisting stitches and creating cables. All of these techniques are a must to learn if you wish to grow as a knitter.
Increases, decreases & cable stitches create the most beautiful of all the knits out there. Whether they are lace shawls or thick Irish cable sweaters. This weeks square in our 52-Week Sampler Afghan is this nice heart cable panel. It is worked on a reverse stockinette background and has a seed stitch interior with cables wrapping around to create this lovely heart panel.
When working a cable, it’s important to not allow it to intimidate you. If you get anxious about it you will pull your stitches too tight. This will cause the twist to be difficult and your gauge to fluctuate. Remember to stay relaxed and try to maintain your gauge throughout.
It helps to try out different types of cable needles to see what feels the most comfortable for you. Try to use a cable needle about the same size as your knitting needles to maintain consistency in your gauge. Also, be careful to not drop stitches when changing needles. Just have fun with it.
Front Cross Cable (left cross)
Slip the first set of stitches purlwise onto a cable needle and hold them in front. Keeping the cable needle in front of the work, knit the next set of stitches on the left-hand needles. Knit the set of stitches that is waiting on the cable needle.
Back Cross Cable (right cross)
Slip the first set of stitches purlwise onto a cable needle and hold them in back. Keeping the cable needle in back of the work, knit the next set of stitches on the left-hand needle. Knit the 2 stitches that are waiting on the cable needle
When knitting the hearts square we made a few increases by making a simple yarn over (yo) stitch. This creates a hole and is used in lace patterns. For many patterns we want to increase without the holes there are a few ways we can do this.
Our first increase is the make 1 (M1) increase which we used in the heart motif square. This increase can be made with a right or left slant as well as on the knit or purl side. We also used the right and left lifted increase along with the central double increase. These are just 3 types of increases that you can add to your repertoire.
- M1- Make 1 can be done left or right; knit or purl
- Right & Left Lifted Increase
- Central Double Increase
How to knit the make 1 (M1) increase This is a raised M1 increase method that adds stitches using the horizontal strand of yarn that hangs between the knitting needles. You will work into the strand twisting it to prevent a hole.
For the M1-L to slant to the left use the left-hand needle to lift up the horizontal strand that hangs between the needles, from front to back, and knit the strand through its back loop, twisting it to prevent a hole in your fabric.
For the M1-R slanting to the right use the left-hand needle to lift up the horizontal strand that is hanging between the needles from back to front, and knit the strand through its front loop, twisting it to prevent a hole in the work.
*Note that if no direction is specified, you should use the M1-L increase. Also, at times, the raised increases are worked as purl stitches.
For a raised purl increase that slants to the right on the right side of the fabric use the left-hand needle to lift up the horizontal strand between the needles from back to front, then purl the strand through its front loop, twisting it to prevent a hole.
For a raised purl increase that slants to the left on the right side of the fabric use the left-hand needle to lift up the horizontal strand between the needles from front to back, then purl the strand through its back loop, twisting it to prevent a hole in your fabric.
M1 purlwise increases are usually worked on the right side rows whenever a purl stitch is needed and in theses cases, the difference between left and right slanting stitches is hardly visible; no directional raised purl increases are necessary. Just use whichever version is easier for you.
This type of increase is made by working into a stitch in the row below the stitch that is currently on the needle, and also working into the stitch on the needle in the regular way. It is hand to be able to perform the lifted increase slanting to either the left or to the right depending on the desired effect.
To do a lifted increase slanting to the left; Insert the left-hand needle into the back of the first stitch on the right-hand needle, just below the stitch just knit, and then knit it.
For a lifted increase slanting to the right: Knit into the back of the stitch in the row directly below the first stitch on the left-hand needle. It’s the purl bump you are actually knitting into.
Central Double Increase
Use this type of increase to create three stitches out of a single stitch without a hole or bump. It is especially perfect for the dramatic increasing in cabled Celtic knots.
Knit into the back and then into the front of the indicated stitch, in that order, and then slip the original stitch off the left-hand needle. 2 Stitches have been made out of one stitch.
For the 3rd stitch of this increase, insert the left-hand needle from back to front into the little vertical strand that’s beneath the two stitches just made. Just pull up on it a little to create enough space for your needle to fit.
Bring your right-hand needle around and knit into this vertical strand through its front loop. This maneuver might seem awkward because of how tight it feels, but that’s normal. The goal here is to add new stitches without creating holes below them.
Whenever, you are making anything with increases, decreases, & cable stitches you have to be careful not to let holes creep into spaces you do not want them in. Decreases are usually not too complicated, however, there are a few that make you go hmmm?
There is more than one way to make a decrease depending on what effect you are going for. We are all familiar with knitting 2 together (k2tog) and a slip, slip, knit (SSK) but how about a 5-to-1 decrease or a 7-to-1 decrease or maybe a central double decrease. With the raised heart motif we had to do a 5-1 decrease at the top of the heart.
How to knit a 5-to-1 decrease
This decrease technique involves manipulating stitches without knitting them, by passing each stitch over a center stitch, one by one in alternating directions, until only the middle stitch remains. It is often used for Celtic cables.
Drop the working yarn to the back and slip 3 stitches from the left-hand needle onto the right-hand needle.
*Pass the second stitch on the right-hand needle over the first stitch as if you’re binding it off.
Slip this stitch from the right-hand needle back onto the left-hand needle, and pass the second stitch on the left-hand needle over the first stitch. As if you are binding it off except it will be in the opposite direction.**
Now, slip this stitch off the left-hand needle back onto the right-hand needle, and repeat the steps between the * and the** once more.
Finally, knit this remaining stitch. Five stitches have been combined into one stitch.
I have only touched a small portion of increases, decreases & cable stitches. There are many ways to include cables into your patterns. I encourage each of you to embrace patterns that may have new stitches you may not have tried before. There’s no better way to grow as a knitter.
February Squares for the 52-Week Sampler Afghan
Well, we have reached the end of February and completed 8 squares in our 52-Week Sampler Afghan. I hope everyone is having fun and learning a lot of new stitches and techniques. March we will do a little brioche knitting and of course, it’ll be St. Patrick’s Day so that should be fun. Let me know if you have any ideas for squares you’d like to try. Post them in the comments below and I will try to do my best to add them in.