I’ve talked to you in the past about how to increase and decrease, but how do you know when to increase or decrease? Often a pattern will tell you very explicitly how to place your increases or decreases, for example:
Next Row (Increase Row – RS): K1 (4, 1, 4, 1), kfb, k4, p1, k5, p1, k4, kfb, (k5, p1) 1 (1, 2, 2, 3) times, k3, kfb; (p1, k1) 3 times – 37 (40, 43, 46, 49) sts.
As you can see, this pattern is telling you to work a certain number of stitches for the size you’re making, then make an increase, then work some more stitches, and so on across the row. However, sometimes what you will see instead is “Increase 3 stitches evenly spaced.” How do you figure out where to put (or take away, if you’re decreasing) the stitches then? Well, you do a little quick math.
Let’s think for a minute about why you want to space out these stitches: if you don’t, you end up with a big clump of extra fabric in one spot and a tight spot in another. What you want is a nicely balanced piece of fabric that shrinks or expands evenly, not a lopsided lump. To make this happen, you want to place these shaping stitches about the same number of stitches apart. To determine the number of stitches between your shaping stitches, divide the current number of stitches by the number to be increased or decreased.
Here are a couple of examples:
One final tip: You may find that when you are working on flat pieces you prefer to offset your beginning and ending stitches to preserve a selvage. This is a really great idea — just make your first increase or decrease in the middle of the first set of stitches, and then the final shaping will occur in the middle of what would have been the final set of stitches. To go back to our first example, you would work your first increase at stitch 3 (because half of 6 is 3) and your final increase would be worked three stitches from the end of the row.
When in doubt, remember to think about the big picture: your end goal is a balanced piece of fabric. Don’t be afraid to do a little math to get there!