Saturday, March 13, 2021

Knitted increases based on a twisted tail: Backwards loop, Yanked Increase, & Twisted Yarn-Over

Knitted increases form the foundation for a new column of knitting to appear.  Where two columns lay, side-by-side, there are now three: the two originals with a third between.  

The most simple type of foundation for the new column is a twist of yarn--a loop twisted shut, and that's (mostly) what this post is about. 

an increase in stockinette fabric
Stockinette fabric with an increase--the base of the increase column (pink) is a twisted loop of yarn. The red highlighting picks out where the actual twist of the loop occurs, and that twisted loop is considered the first stitch in the increase column.

In the above illustration, the twisted loop (red) is the foundational stitch for the new column (pink). 

Depending which way the twist is made, the top arm of the twist can "sweep up" either to the left or the right. This makes little difference structurally, but being consistent and selective about this sort of decorative detail adds to a finished appearance--handmade rather than home-made.

Top arm sweeps left
Top arm sweeps right

All the foundational twists illustrated here, regardless of which way they sweep, could have been made by one of three different methods: 

    * Backwards loop
    * Yanked increase
    * Twisted YO (yarn-over)

Although the final path of the yarn in the fabric is identical between all three methods, the result in the fabric is not: each method leaves a different amount of slack in the fabric. In my experience, it's a three-bears story: one is a bit loose (backwards loop); one, a bit tight (yanked increase); and one just right (the twisted YO--the one I usually use).

Because tastes differ and YMMV, and because in certain situations, one increase has an unexpected advantage over another, below is the illustrated how-to for all three methods.

Each of these methods share many (but not all!) operational steps, so it's mix and match on the illustrations. A blog isn't a book, where flipping back a page is easy, and with a blog, there's no printing charge for extra illustrations. Therefore, each method is fully illustrated, sometimes by recycling the same illustration, just in a different colorway. Repetitious, yes, but hopefully, easier to follow on a screen.

Backwards loop

Like all 3 twisted-loop increases, this increase can be called an M1 (for Make-1). Another name for this type of M1 increase is "e-loop." To avoid confusion, I'll call it a backwards loop increase.
A backwards loop is worked in a two-round (or -row) operation. First, a loop of yarn is twisted up and laid over the needle. On the following round, when you encounter the loop, you work into it while keeping it twisted shut.  This two-round operation is illustrated in four steps. 
Step 1: in the first round, work to where the increase column should start

backwards loop increase in knitting-2
Step 2: Pinch up a loop of the running yarn, twist it shut, and place it on the right needle.  As shown, you can mount the twist either left- or right-arm forward, and this determines which way the increase appears to slant in the work.  Mounting right arm in front translates to a left sweep in the fabric; whereas mounting left arm in front translates to a right sweep. As you see, the little loop looks like a lower-case "e" which gives this the alternative name of e-loop. If using the M1 designation for this increase, the sweep distinguishes whether this is called M1L (make-one-left) or M1R (make-one-right).

backwards loop increase in knitting-3
Steps 3 and 4: In the following round, when you come to the spot where the loop was parked (left illustration) then knit into the loop (right illustration) making sure that the loop remains twisted shut

The above illustrations assume you're working stockinette in the round.  If working stockinette flat (back-and-forth) the instructions for steps 1 and 2 remain the same.  Step 3 is almost the same, except you'd purl to the spot where the increase was made in the previous row.  In step 4, you'd purl into the twisted loop, again taking care that the loop does not untwist, then purl the rest of the row.  

Although this is a two-round (or -row) operation, the actual base of the column--the twist which is considered the first stitch of the increase column-- is created in the first go-round, and that is the round in which the increase appears.  The second round (or row) is actually the second stitch of the column.

Yanked Increase

As far as I know, this increase made from the tail of an existing stitch has no common name which distinguishes the fact that it is made in 1 row from a yanked tail, although this increase also can be called "make one" (M1).  To avoid confusion let's call this variation "yanked increase." 

To make the yanked increase, yank the tail of the stitch below out of the fabric with the right needle, lay that tail over the left needle, and then knit into it so as to twist it shut.  Unlike the backwards-loop method, the yanked increase is done all in one row: the tail yanked up, then parked on the left needle, then twisted shut in the knitting process.  Which way you place the tail yarn on the left needle, and which way you knit into it determines the sweep of the top arm.

yanked increase in knitting-1
Step 1: knit to where the increase column should start.  With your right needle, fish up the underlying tail (red) and place it on the left needle (blue arrow)
Step 2 (left sweep): Again, which arm you mount forward determines which way the twisted increase "sweeps."  Here, the right arm of the yanked tail has been placed forward on the left needle, making what looks like a mini-yarn-over.  When this mini YO is "knit shut" (twisted) by following the path of the blue arrow, what was a loop mounted right arm forward becomes an increase with the left arm on top, and this now-top arm of the increase appears to sweep left (per close-up). The working needle passes over the running yarn, then catches around the back leg of the loop (knit through the back loop); and then catches around the standing yarn as for an ordinary knit stitch. The running yarn is then pulled through, twisting the loop shut. If using this M1 designation for this increase, this sweep is called M1L (make-one-left).
yanked increase in knitting-3
Step 2: (right sweep): Here, the mini YO is mounted on the holding (left) needle with left arm forward.  When it is "knit shut" (path of blue arrow) what was the left arm becomes the right arm, and this arm now will appear on top, sweeping upwards and to the right (per close-up).  The needle passes over the running yarn, catches around the front arm of the stitch, and then catches around the standing yarn as for a knit stitch. If using this M1 designation for this increase, this sweep is called M1R (make-one-right).
Although the yanked increase is created in a one-row operation, it actually spans two rows, with the beginning of the column "exported" down a row. See, even though you're doing the work in this row, you're operating on the tail of a stitch in the row below. Specifically, the stitch you knit into that twisted tail is in this row, but the twist you made in the tail is located below the new stitch, therefore, in the row below.
Generally I avoid this increase as being tight. Yet, in some situations, it really shines.  
--First, if you forgot to plant the base for your increase column in the row below, this trick plants the base and knits the first stitch all at once (one operation).  Big-picture-wise, the yanked increase is a one-stitch analog of the long-tail cast on: each stitch of a LTCO is formed at the same time as its twisted-loop base.  
--In flat knitting (back-and-forth), the two-rows-in-one-operation means you can do the entire increase on the stockinette side where it's quite obvious.  No need to scan all those loopy purl-heads on the lookout for your previously parked strand. This is the only increase of the three in this post with this advantage. 
--Because this is a nice, obvious increase which requires no advance planning, it's perfect for TV-knitting. Bonus: you get a mindless row or round to catch up with the on-screen action.

Yanked increases and forgotten Yarn-Overs

A bit off-topic, but, you can knit into a yanked increase WITHOUT twisting it shut. This forms a tight sort of a yarn over--a hole in the fabric. You can knit into this hole as into any YO. Therefore, this is an excellent trick when you've forgotten to make a YO in the row below. Which arm lays forward on the left needle dictates whether the YO slants one way or another. ( Edited to add : per reader request, there is now an illustrated post on forgotten yarn-overs.)

To make an "I forgot" YO look as big as a planned YO, then, once you've gotten a few rows or rounds past the spot, pick some slack yarn from the neighboring stitches into the YO. It may look a little smaller to you, but no one else will ever see the difference.

Twisted Yarn-over

The twisted YO (also sometimes called M1) combines elements (and illustrations!) from the first two methods. Like the backwards loop method, the twisted YO increase is a two-row operation: first row = yarn parked, second row = yarn worked. The difference is that in the first row, instead of parking a twisted loop on the left needle, you park a YO.   

The twisted YO increase row 1: form a YO over the right needle.  The YO can have its LEFT arm forward (upper left close-up) or its RIGHT arm forward (upper right close-up). Depending which way the YO was formed, for the rest of the first row, it sits in the fabric with that arm forward (lower close-ups).
When you encounter the YO on the second round, it now looks an awful lot like the yanked-up tail from the yanked increase, and you treat it the same way. Like the yanked-up tail, the YO is put on the needles open, then twisted shut in the knitting process. For this reason, other than the color-coding, the illustrations below are identical between both. In each illustration, the little round close-up shows what the increase should look like on your right needle, once you've knit shut the YO on the left needle, following the direction of the blue arrow. Note again that, because you twist the stitch shut, what was the back arm becomes the top arm, dictating the direction of sweep.  If using the M1 designation, these two variants are sometimes called M1L (make-one-left) and M1R (make-one-right).

These illustrations of the twisted YO increase assume you're knitting stockinette circularly, so that you're operating from the front fabric face on both rounds.  If you are working flat (back and forth) the second step (working into the yarn over) is done via a purl.  The close-up illos are your friends for comparison purposes--take a look from the front and make sure, before you move on. 

"After-knitting" and twisted-loop increases

 The concept of "after-knitting" (intro'ed in the last post on the structure of ribbing) is the idea of acting on a parked strand by knitting it after it is off the needles, hence, the name "after-knitting." Of the three increases in this post, two--the yanked increase and the twisted YO--are actually forms of after-knitting.  This is because the twisted loop which forms the base of all these increases is not fully formed at the time of creation.  Instead, some, but not all, of the yarn for the increase is parked in the fabric, to be operated on in the following row.  

Specifically, for the yanked increase, the tail was parked (although all tails are parked if you think about it) and then the parked tail was operated on in the next row.  That operation occurred when the yarn was not on the needles, but lay loose in the fabric.  The tail of a knitted stitch is small.  It is capable of making up only a small percentage of the final twist. This is why this increase is rather tight: all the rest of the yarn in the twist has to be yanked out of the arms of the neighbor stitches. (This is similar to the transformation in fabric caused by slipped-strand after-knitting.)

Similarly, in twisted YO, some yarn was parked--that being the YO--but not enough to create an entire loop.  So, when the YO is twisted up in the following row, some of the yarn in the resulting loop also comes from the adjoining stitches.  However, a YO is longer than a stitch-tail. So, not as much of the neighbors' arm-yarn winds up in the finished twist as with the yanked increase, and that's why the twisted YO is looser. 

Now compare both of these "after-knit" increases to the backwards loop.  In backwards loop, the entire loop is formed over the barrel of the needle just as an ordinary stitch is formed.  When this stitch-sized loop is worked on the following row, the yarn of the adjoining stitches is not pulled into the loop, or at least, no more so than would occur with an ordinary stitch: no "after-knitting" occurs. Putting enough yarn for a whole stitch into a column-bottom (not anchored to anything below) well, that's a lot of unsecured yarn.  Looking at the big picture, this increase is the one-stitch version of the looped cast on (also called the e-cast on) and shares its "loose yarn" problems.

Short rows and "short columns:" anchoring to the neighbor stitches

Another way to think about tight vs. loose increases: if you're familiar with short rows, you can think of an increase as giving rise to a "short column."  So just as with short rows, we'd like to avoid holes. Making a twisted increase as the base of a column is like working a short-row without doing any connecting tricks (wrap and turn, lifted increase, etc.) This is because, like an unconnected short row, the column is not anchored.  Tightening the twisted increase by after-knitting doesn't actually anchor the increase column at the bottom, but the tightening does anchor the base-twist sideways into the adjoining columns more snugly, making less slack available to get up to hole-forming tricks.

Other increases. anchored at the bottom of the column

If you do want to actually physically connect the bottom of the increase column to your knitted fabric, here are two options.

First, the nearly invisible increase (also a species of after-knitting).  The only reason the nearly-invisible isn't more used is that it doesn't work well in a line of increases, like on a top-down raglan.  This is because, like the yanked increase, it tightens the fabric significantly, and even more so. However, for non-linear increases, like on a top-down yoked sweater, the nearly-invisible is a great choice. Full directions are at the linked post.

The second anchored-at-the-bottom increase is a KFB (knit front and back). KFB is also a kind of a twisted-stitch increase, but the twist is made in the head of the stitch, instead of its tail.  First, the stitch is knit into in the perfectly ordinary way. Then, that same stitch is knit into again through the back leg, with a twist separating the first- and second-knitting, as shown at the above linked post. (Like the nearly invisible, the yanked increase and the twisted YO, KFB is also a species of after-knitting. There's a trend here...)