Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Knitting into the stitch below

CAUTION: There are TWO DIFFERENT METHODS SOMETIMES CALLED "KNIT INTO THE STITCH BELOW".  The trick shown here makes a thick, cushy fabric, but is NOT an increase--it does NOT ADD any stitches to the fabric.  The OTHER kind of "knit into the stitch below" is what I call the "nearly invisible increase."  The nearly invisible increase DOES ADD a stitch to the fabric.

It is true that both of of these techniques involve the stitch below, but they are NOT the same thing.  Confusing one for the other will cause no end of problems in trying to follow a pattern!

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4 illustrations, click any illustration to enlarge.
Instructions for various fabric patterns instruct you to "knit into the stitch below." Sometimes, the instructions are a bit more elaborate, stating something like this: "stab the right needle into the stitch below the next stitch on your left needle, knit that stitch, then drop it and the stitch above it off the left needle at the same time."

If this confuses you, you are not alone. Here it is, illustrated:

Step 1: Normally, you would insert the right needle into the blue stitch, because the blue stitch is the next stitch coming up on the left needle. However, to knit into the stitch below, you must locate the stitch BELOW the blue stitch, which is the green stitch in this diagram. Note that it is going to be easier to knit into the green stitch if you get a good grasp of the fabric and stretch it out, which will open the green stitch so that the right needle can be easily inserted along the red arrow path. (If you click on this diagram, it will become much larger, and it will be easier to see all the details.)

Diagram 1 (above) shows a continental knitter (yarn fed on off the left hand) but it matters not which hand feeds the yarn: in this stitch (like every knitting stitch) the path of the yarn through the stitch is the same for continental (left handed feed) and English/throwing style (right handed feed).

Step 2: The right needle has been inserted into the green stitch along the red arrow path of diagram 1, the standing yarn (pink) has been caught on the right needle and the loop of pink yarn, shown pulled through the green stitch, is about to become the newest stitch on the right needle. As you can see, the blue stitch (stitch above) has not yet been released from the left needle. Releasing the blue stitch is the last step in the process, because, by tensioning the blue stitch (stitch above) between the right and left needles while stretching the fabric downward with one or two hands, it is much easier to pull the running yarn (pink) through the green stitch (stitch below).

Diagram 2 (above) above features an English style (throwing) knitter, and the yarn is being fed off the knitter's right hand. Again, the path of the yarn through the stitch is not altered by the hand doing the yarn feed. (If you want to read more about left-handed feed vs. right-handed feed, click here.)

Step 3: The blue stitch (stitch above) has been released and the pink loop is now officially a stitch, sitting on the right hand needle. Note the path of the pink yarn through BOTH the blue AND the green stitches. This is because the blue stitch, which has not been knitted, "runs down" one row until the pink yarn through the green stitch catches it and prevents it from running further.

There are two general uses of this trick. First, it is sometimes used to get rid of a stitch--to park a stitch in the row below and get it out of the way. As an example, in the post of March 3, 2009, TECHknitting applies this technique of "a stitch in the row below" to improve binding off in the round (click here, scroll to third method). 

Another, more common use, is to make fancy, lofty stitch patterns similar to brioche stitches. These sorts of "waffle knits" are cushier than ordinary knits: the technique of knitting into the row below draws up the fabric, making it shorter and thicker, as shown in Illustration 4, below.

This particular stitch pattern is called embossed rib by some and fisherman rib by others, and is made by working back and forth (flat knitting) on an uneven number of stitches, as follows:
  • Purl every other row (that is, rows 1, 3, 5 and so on)
  • On the knit side (rows 2, 4, 6 and so on) *knit 1, then knit into the row below, repeating from * all the way across the row, ending with a knit 1.

You have been reading TECHknitting on: "Knit into the row below," also called "knit into the stitch below."