Lion Brand Notebook

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How to Evenly Space Your Increases/Decreases

July 3rd, 2011

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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:

  • You have 60 stitches and you are told to increase 6 stitches evenly across. 60 ÷ 6 = increase at every 10th stitch. This one’s easy, because it works out evenly, but what if…
  • You have 99 stitches and you are told to increase 8 stitches evenly across. 99 ÷ 8 = 12.375. You obviously can’t increase every 12.375 stitches, so you need to increase mostly at every 12th stitch and add a couple of 13s in there. The math and distribution frequency starts to get a little complicated at this point, but when you see unbalanced stitch counts like this it’s usually something that’s not going to be very visible (like at the transition from ribbing to stockinette). This means you can fudge it a little and not be too terrifically concerned if you end up with a couple of extra stitches at the end of the row or have two 13st sets in a row. Focus on getting the right number of increases and relatively even spacing.
  • You have 80 stitches and you are told to decrease 10 stitches evenly across. Now we’re back to easy, right? 80 ÷ 10 = every 8th stitch decreased. Ah, but decreases are a little trickier…you actually have to think about which stitches you are using for the decrease…you are decreasing the 8th stitch, so your next stitch in the count is going to be “1”. If you use that stitch in your decrease, your count becomes unnecessarily complicated, so instead, use the stitch before the decrease stitch. This means that you would, in this case, work six and then use stitches 7 and 8 to work the decrease.

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!

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  • http://twitter.com/CrochetBlogger CrochetConcupiscence

    Super helpful topic. Thanks for sharing!

  • Cwcabl

    Hi!  Love the article, and also the tank that you have pictured.  I would love the pattern.  Where do I find it?

    • Anonymous

      Hi Cwcabl, it’s the Tiger Lily Tank. Just type the name of it into the search box at LionBrand.com to pull up this free pattern.

      • Cwcabl

        Thanks!!

  • Handmade Heritage

    Any tips for people designing crochet patterns rather than just knit?

    • Anonymous

      Hi Handmade Heritage, while Laura’s example above is for a knit pattern, the math applies for both knit and crochet patterns, since both will have situations where you are told to increase or decrease evenly over a set number of stitches. The tip on selvedge stitches also applies for both crochet and knitting, since it will be easier to sew up seams if the increases are not right at the edge of the fabric. Hope that helps!

  • Asiverson

    I have just started knitting this top, in the same color which I love. So far so good. Interesting and helpful article. Thank you!

  • jclogan

    Another tip about increasing/decreasing when you’re crocheting in spirals without connecting rows (as you would when making amigurumi figures, many types of hats and else anything round)—if you place the increases/decreases in the center of the stitch group on every other round, you won’t end up with something that isn’t quite circular. For example, the most often used pattern for crocheting a circle involves increasing by 6 stitches in each round. Round 1 = 6 sts in a beginning chain or Magic Ring, Round 2 = 2 sts in each round 1 stitch (this increases the number of stitches to 12, an increase of 6 stitches), Round 3 = increase by 1 st in every other round 2 stitch (again, this is an evenly distributed increase of 6 stitches and increases the total number of stitches in round 3 to 18 stitches). And so on.

    As those of you who’ve worked with this pattern know, if you always make the first increase in the first stitch of the new round what you’re actually forming is a hexagon rather than a circle—and the larger the piece you’re crocheting, the more obvious the hexagonal shape is. If you’re crocheting a hat/cap, the flat circle part on the top doesn’t get large enough for this to matter before you begin working in even rounds to form the sides. But if you’re trying to crochet a round bath rug, for example, it will won’t end up round if you follow that pattern.

    The solution is to vary the placement of the increases on each round. So, following the above example, to work Round 3 you increased in every second stitch (stitches 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11). Round 3 now has 18 stitches in it and to increase that row by 6 stitches means adding an extra stitch in every group of three stitches. Rather than following the usual pattern of increasing in every third stitch on this round (which would have you increasing in stitches 1, 4, 7, 10, 13 and 16), make your increases in the *middle* of each group of three. In other words, increase in stitches 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, and 17.

    Round 4 now has 24 stitches; 24 divided by 6 = 4 so you need to increase 1 stitch in each group of 4 stitches. Go back to the standard pattern on this and all future even rounds by working your first increase in the first stitch of the round; increases should be worked in stitches 1, 5, 9, 13, 17 and 21.

    Round 5 now has 30 stitches; 30 divided by 6 = 5 so you need to increase 1 stitch in each group of 5 stitches. On this and all future odd rounds, work your increases in the middle of these groups of 5. On this particular round, your increases will be worked in stitches 3, 8, 13, 18, 23 and 28.

    This is really much easier to do than it is to explain, LOL. And voila—a round rug that really is round!

  • Pingback: Math + Yarn = Great Results (or 7 Articles to Read About Adjusting Your Pattern) | Lion Brand Notebook()

  • Alison

    Great tips! I was having a lot of trouble decreasing in the round and I couldn’t figure out why I kept ending up with the wrong number of stitches! This was really helpful and now I think I know what I’m doing wrong!

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