Increasing Discovery

Working at the knitting store has given me the opportunity to help people every day with their knitting projects. Often the problem is dropped stitches or “something seems wrong.” My favorite problems are pattern confusion. I enjoy puzzling out what the pattern instructions are trying to tell us. I read through the pattern and imagine what shape the garment is taking. Good pattern directions should give plenty of information about what is happening during every phase of garment construction. Unfortunately, many well-known knitting yarns produce pattern books with shortened and often hard-to-follow directions. A schematic always helps, as does more than one photo of the finished garment.

Yesterday, one of my knitters was following directions to make an increase by knitting into the front and the back of the stitch. This produced a purl bump on the right side. This didn’t look right so we tried making a stitch by lifting the bar in between stitches and knitting it through the back loop. What ended up happening, though, was because the stitch that would have been knitted into wasn’t used, it was counted by the customer as she was following her pattern and at the end of the row, her stitch count was off by two. Thinking this through, the solution must be to make one stitch, then immediately knit the next stitch, THEN begin counting from that point. The stitch that would have been used in the k1f1b would have to be knitted as Part Two of the lifted increase. Another alternative would be to knit the stitch, then do the make one AFTER that stitch, then begin counting. Also, if she had counted from the end of row back towards the center and located the spot to make her second increase, I think this problem would have been avoided. This is a good example of thinking of your garment as a whole and not just working row by row, stitch by stitch, with sort of tunnel vision.

The point is, designers make choices when they increase or decrease. They decide which method to use and should have a valid reason about that decision. When we make changes to a pattern, we must understand how our changes affect the outcome, therefore, we should arm ourselves with as much knowledge as possible.

I believe that knitting into the front and back of the stitch to increase was the wrong choice by the designer, as the finished look was a glaring purl bump on the right side of the work. In the end, the customer chose to increase with a purl into the front and back, which created a stocking stitch on the right side of the work and blended right in.

All of this puzzling and testing took at least an hour for the knitter – for a simple increase on one row! I feel that my customer and I learned quite a bit about how increases affect patterns, and for that, I am grateful.