How To Do M1R and M1L Increases in Knitting

There are so many ways to increase stitches in knitting — you can knit twice into the same stitch (often notated as KFB — knit into the front and back), you can do a yarn over and treat it as a real stitch on the next row (which leaves a hole in your work — this can sometimes be a beautiful design element!), or you may run into the terms “M1R” and “M1L,” which stand for “Make 1 Right” and “Make 1 Left.”

The M1R and M1L is coming up a lot as I work through the Color Affection Shawl, which uses 1-2 of these increases on every single row.

Often, if a pattern uses M1R or M1L in its instructions, it will include a short explanation in the stitch definitions at the beginning. Typically it will look something like this:

Pick up the bar between the last stitch you knit and the one you’re about to knit, bringing the needle from the back to the front.

M1R and M1L increases

Now, the crucial thing here is knowing what is meant by “the bar,” and here’s how to find it. When you’re at the point where you’re about to make your increase, pull your needles apart a little bit to stretch out your work. This bar right here, the flat one, is the bar we’re talking about. Don’t confuse it with the nubs and stitches that are lying behind it — in this photo you can see those are a slightly different shade of green; we are going to be working with the grey bar that is the same color as the stitches on the needle.

There are two big differences between a M1R increase and a M1L increase — whether you pick up that bar from front to back (or back to front), and whether you knit into the back of that stitch (or the front of that stitch).

For a M1L increase, you’re going to pick up the bar with the left needle, from front to back.

m1l knitting increase

And then, you’re going to knit into that “stitch” through the front loop.

m1l knitting increase steps

The wonderful thing about the M1R / M1L method of increasing is that, while it creates angled increases (in the same way that K2tog / SSK decreasing creates angled decreases), it is nearly invisible in your work, creating gently sloping lines like these without any noticeable holes or horizontal bars.

m1l knitting increase steps