Knitting Decreases (and Increases) for Lace

Once you’ve been bitten by the lace knitting bug, there’s no way back. Knitted lace shawls are among the most challenging and satisfying knitting projects. Lace knitting boils down to knitting decreases (and increases), especially yarn overs to form holes.

Increases For Knitting Lace: The Yarn Over

Increases can be done in both visible and (almost) invisible ways.Invisible increases include kfb (knit into front and back of stitch) and “make one” stitches (m1, m1L, m1R).

In lace knitting, one usually wants to achieve a visible increase – a hole, basically. Holes are created by yarn over (YO) stitches.

To work a yarn over, wrap the working yarn front to back around your working needle: don’t wrap the yarn around the working needle completely, it’s more a half circle. On the following row, work the yarn over stitch by purling it.

Make sure you wrap from front to back and purl like a normal purl on the following row, otherwise your yarn over might not appear as a hole but a rather invisible increase.

Knitting Decreases in Knitting Lace

Usually, one wants the total stitch count to stay constant. When working increases, your stitch count changes, obviously – the solution is to work accompanying decreases with your yarn overs.

The most common decreases are the ssk (slip, slip, knit) and k2tog (knit two stitches together) stitches. But when to use which one?

If you want to make sure your holes are opening up nicely, use either the combination “YO, ssk” or “k2tog, YO”. The decrease should lean away from the yarn over stitch!

Knitting decreases (and increases) for lace

Please let me know if this article helped you in knitting decreases (and all other lace elements) – I’d love to read your comments below!

5 thoughts on “Knitting Decreases (and Increases) for Lace

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  • Bonnie Cameron

    The comment on yarn overs (yo) hit on purl yo, but not on knit yo. When on the knit side the yarn would be brought to the front, thus automatically creating a yo. I have found that many of my new knitters find their test work getting bigger and bigger and don’t know why. It makes sense to show the other knitters , too, the reason why. It was because on one side or the other she had her working yarn on the wrong side of her work…thus creating a yo. Knitting is SO MUCH FUN!

  • Laura Gabriel

    Not sure if this is the right place to ask this. I found a shawl pattern on line (Ravelry) but the person who posted is reluctant to explain in detail. So, can you explain this instruction to me….Increase one in each side every other row. It’s a simple lace pattern:

    Row 1: yarn over needle, knit 2 together
    Row 2: knit.

    Start with 4 stitches, increase one in each side every other row. Continue until the shawl is desired size. Bind off loosely.
    Finish off with one row of double crochet around the whole shawl.

    I might be thinking too hard about it. Does it mean increase at the beginning and end of every other row or maybe just the knit row? Thanx for any help. It’s my first attempt at shawl knitting 🙂


    • I’m not the designer and not a support desk, but for me it sounds like increasing every other row. Chose freely which one, the knit or the lace one, it doesn’t affect the overall shape. All that matters is the increase rate.

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