Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Increasing in seed stitch (and decreasing in seed stitch, too!)

Seed stitch (sometimes called moss stitch) is a stitch pattern which arranges knits and purls checkerboard-fashion so that every purl is surrounded by 4 knits, and every knit by 4 purls.

seed stitch arranges knits and purls checkerboard-fashion

Increasing and decreasing in a very regular stitch pattern like this is disruptive, and several recent e-mails to TECHknitting blog have asked how to do this smoothly.

No doubt there are several different methods, but my own little trick is to run a single column of knits, and increase or decrease along that line.  Stated otherwise, pushing the stitch pattern discontinuity up against a continuous column of knit stitches smooths and hides the irregularity.

Increasing seed stitch in circular knitting
Here is a schematic of what this would look like when knitting circularly, with the increase running along a single increase line, as it might be for a sleeve knit in the round.

circular knit seed stitch: increasing
along the center line, schematic

In the above schematic, the work is laid flat so you can see it, but in the real world, this sleeve will have been knit into a continuous spiral--a cone-shape, open at the bottom.  You have to use your imagination to "zip it shut" into a circle, along the red dotted lines.  In other words, for a circularly-knit sleeve, you would actually have knit this around and around, connected at the dotted lines.  The continuous column of knits running down the schematic center is actually the sleeve underarm "seam."

Below is a photo of what an increase along a center line for an underarm looks like "in the wool."

circular knit seed stitch: increasing
along the center line, "in the wool"

How to make the increases
The little red loops stand for the increases, and you can use any kind of increases you like. I personally use backwards loops slanting in different directions, as detailed here, but many kinds of increases will give a perfectly lovely result, such as kfb (knit front and back) or the nearly invisible increase.  Using a yo (yarn over) will result in holes, however, so yo's are not a great choice.

This all sounds very simple, and ultimately it is, but a lot of confusion typically surrounds increasing in pattern, so let's run through increasing one more time, in more detail, OK?

The surprising fact is that when you come to make the increases, you can just make whatever kinds of increases you prefer, not worrying about whether the stitch to which the increase gives rise is ultimately going to be a knit or a purl.  That's right--when you make the increases, you just make them however you like. Only on the FOLLOWING row do you have to worry about working that increased stitch as a knit or a purl, according to the checkerboard pattern established by the surrounding stitches.

Stated otherwise, a loop added to the fabric in the form of an added stitch does not take on the character of a knit or a purl until it is worked on the FOLLOWING row.  (If you are curious why this should be, a fuller explanation about this particular mystery of knitting is found in this post.) So the bottom line is, just make a pair of increases, and on the row or round after the increase, then work those new stitches as whatever they ought to be (whether knit or purl) as required to keep the checkerboard pattern going.

Increasing seed stitch in flat (back-and-forth) knitting
So far, we've shown the trick of increasing along a center line, such as would occur in circular knitting of a sleeve.  However, many patterns call for seed stitch to be worked flat (back-and-forth).  Here is what the trick looks like when knitting flat (back-and-forth) and the increase is along the outer edges, instead of down the middle.

flat knit seed stitch: increasing
along the edges, schematic

Above is the schematic, and below is the final result "in the wool." The seam (red dotted lines) has not yet been sewn shut, and the sleeve is laying flat.

flat knit seed stitch: increasing
along the edges, "in the wool"

Rate of increase
In both situations illustrated in this post, I tried to cram lots of increases into a small sample, so the increases are worked every fourth row.  However, an increase every 6th or 8th row might be more common for a sleeve, for example.  Nevertheless, although the RATE may differ, the METHOD remains the same.  Just work your increases on either side of a center line (if working circular) or one stitch in from the edge line (if working back-and-forth), at the rate required.  Then, on the NEXT row, worry about whether the increased stitch should be worked as a knit or a purl, according to the seed stitch pattern established by the surrounding stitches.

Variation--more than one knit column separating increases
I have chosen to have a single center column of knits, or a single column of knits along the fabric edge.  There is nothing to stop you from running two or three or more columns of knits, instead.  In fact, for a situation where there will be seaming, remember that the edge stitches might be completely consumed in the seaming process, so an extra knit column along each outer edge might come in very handy. Consider all this ahead of time, and adjust the stitch count, if necessary, so as to allow for the all-knit column(s) as well as to provide an odd or even number of stitches, as circumstances dictate, so that the stitch pattern is uninterrupted.

DEcreasing in seed stitch
All of the above relates to INCREASING in seed stitch, as might occur in a sleeve started at the bottom increasing from wrist diameter to shoulder diameter.  Sometimes, however, you might be working the other way around, such as a sleeve started at the shoulder, and required to DECREASE to the wrist diameter as the sleeve is worked.

Luckily, DEcreasing in seed stitch is exactly the same theory, except that you simply work two stitches TOGETHER at the required rate, rather than form an increase. It is a nice touch to employ symmetrical decreases such as the right leaning k2tog and the left leaning SSK (or the left-leaning SYTK).

Once the excess stitch has been removed on either side of the center line, or on either edge of the row, continue to work the remaining stitches in checkerboard pattern as required by the surrounding stitches. Stated otherwise, the LOCATION of the decreases is the same as the location of the increases: if working circularly, one on either side of a center line of knits; if working back and forth, one decrease on each end of the indicated decrease row, one stitch in from the knit column(s) along each edge.

Does this look familiar?
When you get right down to it, this trick of shaping on either side of a column of knits is really just an adaptation of a method widely used in circular-knit raglan sweaters: if you have ever knit a raglan sweater in the round, this is the shaping which is done on either side of the 4 raglan seams, keeping the center column(s) in all-knits.  The difference here is that the shaping (increasing or decreasing) is done in pattern of seed stitch, instead of stockinette, and the column of knits is used to disguise the stitch pattern discontinuity resulting from shaping.

You have been reading TECHknitting blog on increasing in seed stitch, and decreasing in seed stitch, too!