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An Easy Trick to Remembering M1R and M1L Increases

I've written about mirrored or paired increases before. Today I want to revisit a topic I've seen popping up very frequently: how to tell M1R (make one right) from M1L (make one left) and remember which is which?


In this blog post I'll present an easy way for doing M1R and M1L increases. Once you've learnt this, M1 increases will no longer baffle you. I'll also discuss the problems that directional increases pose to left-handed knitters and propose handedness-neutral terms for M1 increases.


Read on!

Point the Way

You might have heard these little mnemonic phrases like "I left through the front door" for M1L and "I'll be right back" for M1R. As a directionally-challenged person I find these phrases wordy and frankly quite confusing. I'm sure Jackie would agree.


Confused Jackie Chan is confused.

Instead of relying on memory, here's my trick: always pick up the strand from the back with the needle tip pointing towards the direction you want the increase to lean to. For a M1L increase that's the right needle; for M1R it's the left needle.


Should you knit into the front of the back loop of the strand? You don't have to remember that either. Always knit through the leg that's the trickiest to work into because that closes the hole made by lifting the strand on your needle.


M1R = With the left needle, pick up the strand between the last stitch knit and the next stitch from back to front and knit into the front of this stitch.


M1L = With the right needle, pick up the strand between the last stitch knit and the next stitch from back to front and knit into the back of this stitch.



By now you've probably realized that's not really a trick; it's just reading your work.


Handedness-neutral M1 Increases

In my latest patterns I've tried to adopt a handedness-neutral writing style. For example, instead using terms like right-hand and left-hand needle, as is usually done in knitting patterns, I've re-defined the needles as follows:


working needle the needle used to create stitches

holding needle the needle from which stitches are worked


If you're right handed working from right to left, the right-hand needle is your working needle. If you're left handed working from left to right (but most left-handed knitters aren't), the left-hand needle is your working needle.


That takes care of needle terminology but directional increases (and decreases) still pose a problem. When a knitting pattern says to do a M1L, for example, what it actually means is to increase towards the next stitch on the needle. The absolute direction of the increase doesn't matter but instead the relative direction compared to the direction you're working. For the majority of knitters this just happens to be to the left.


As most knitting patterns are written for and by right-handed people working in the right-to-left direction, a left-handed or left-to-right knitter has to flip directional instructions in their head. For example, a K2tog becomes an SSK and a M1R becomes a M1L.


Instead of forcing left-to-right knitters to do these on-the-fly mental gymnastics, I propose handedness-neutral M1 increases: M1F and M1B.


Make 1 Forward (M1F)

M1F = With the working needle, pick up the strand between the last stitch knit and the next stitch from back to front and knit into the leg that closes the hole.


The increase leans towards the next stitch that's about to be knit, going forward in the direction of the work. For right-to-left knitters the increase leans to the left; for left-to-right knitters it leans to the right.


Make 1 Backward (M1B)

M1B = With the holding needle, pick up the strand between the last stitch knit and the next stitch from back to front and knit into the leg that closes the hole.


The increase leans towards the previous stitch that was just knit, going backward against the direction of the work. For right-to-left knitters the increase leans to the right; for left-to-right knitters it leans to the left.


Any takers?

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Susanna Winter is a knitwear designer, creating timeless and elegant pieces with clean lines. She has been knitting for over 20 years, knit blogging since 2007, and designing knitting patterns professionally since 2016.

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