Decreasing: How-to mirror in Knit & Purl


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Decreases are used in shaping, to create buttonholes and in the texture of lace knits (where they are usually paired with yarn-overs). As such they are a staple of the beginner knitter’s arsenal. It is important to consider the visual effect you are trying to achieve when choosing a decrease. They can slope left over right, right over left or both sides in front or behind a middle stitch (double decrease). This tutorial covers K2tog, SSK, SKPO and their purled equivalents as well as demonstrating some of the varied effects that can be produced by working before or after a yarn-over (yo). Double decreases and greater are covered in another tutorial.

Knit two together – K2tog

– decreases row by one stitch, slopes to the right

With yarn at the back, pass over 1st left hand (LH) stitch (st) and place right hand (RH) needle through both 2nd and 1st st together (from left-to-right and front-to-back as with a single knit st). Wrap yarn clockwise around RH needle tip as usual. Pull new loop from back to front through both st together and slip them off the LH needle.

K2tog every alternate row 2st from LH edge

Slip Slip Knit – SSK

– decreases row by one stitch, slopes to left

With yarn at the back, place RH needle in 1st st on LH needle from left-to-right and front-to-back as if to knit. Slip 1st st off LH needle and onto right-hand. Repeat with the 2nd st. Slip LH needle back through 2nd and then 1st st (now on RH needle) from left-to-right and front-to-back. Wrap yarn clockwise around RH needle tip as usual. Pull new loop from back to front through both st together and slip them off the LH needle.

SSK every alternate row 2st from RH edge

Slip 1, Knit 1, Pass Slipped Stitch Over (psso) – SKPO

– decreases row by one stitch and slopes to left as with SSK but with an appearance more as of a cast-off stitch

Slip the first st knitwise as above. Knit the 2nd st from the LH needle. Using the tip of the LH needle pass over the st just knit and place into slipped st from left-to-right and front-to-back as if to knit. Pick up the slipped st (2nd on the RH needle) with the LH needle (through from the front as if to knit it) and cast it off over the st just knit.

SKPO every alternate row 2st in from RH edge

NB. If your front stitch is twisted go back and check – did you slip the first st purl-wise instead of knit-wise?

Purl two together – P2tog

– decreases row by one stitch, no visible difference on the purl-side, slopes to the right on the knit-side

With yarn at the front, place right hand needle through both the 1st and 2nd st on the LH needle from right-to-left and back-to-front (as with a single purl). Wrap yarn anti-clockwise around RH needle tip as usual. Pull loop from back to front through both st together and drop them off the LH needle.

P2tog every alternate WS row 2st from RH edge as seen on the RS

Slip Slip Purl through the back loop – SSP

– decreases row by one stitch, no visible difference on the purl-side, slopes to the left on the knit-side (a straight P2togtbl would result in a twisted st on the knit side and is used when such an effect is desired)

With yarn at the back, place RH needle in 1st st on LH needle from left-to-right and front-to-back as if to knit. Slip 1st st off LH needle and onto right-hand. Repeat steps 1-2 on 2nd st. Slip LH needle back through 2nd and then 1st st (now on RH needle) from left-to-right and front-to-back. Remove RH needle and pass behind the 1st st. Place RH needle through both the 2nd and 1st st in that order from back-to-front and left-to-right (as with purl through the back loop). Wrap yarn clockwise around RH needle tip as usual. Pull new loop from front to back through both st together and slip them off the LH needle.

SSP on every alternate WS row 2st from LH edge as seen from the RS

Purl 1, slip back, pass next stitch over

– decreases row by one stitch, no visible difference on the purl-side, slopes to the left with similar cast-off appearance as the SKPO on the knit-side (a straight SPPO results in a right sloping single decrease but with a twisted front st and can be used if this effect is desired).

Purl the 1st st as usual. Pass the st just worked back onto the LH needle ensuring the legs remain positioned left at the back and right at the front. Pick up the 2nd st on the LH needle with the RH needle by placing it into the st purl-wise (from back-to-front and right-to-left). Pass the 2nd st over the 1st st as if casting it off. Slip the 1st st onto the RH needle again ensuring the legs remain positioned correctly.

SPPO on every alternate WS row as seen from the RS

Using decreases to produce a lace pattern

The range of lace patterns that can be produced by combining a decrease either immediately or remotely with a yarn over (yo) is limitless. Here are just a few examples with charts and instructions;

SSK YO

Click to view chart

Odd rows: SSK yo K1
Even rows: Purl all stitches

YO K2tog

Click to view chart

Odd rows: K1 yo K2tog

Even rows: Purl all stitches

K2TOG YO K1 YO SSK

Click to view chart

Odd rows: K1 K2tog yo K1 yo SSK K1

Even rows: Purl all stitches

Diagonals

Click to view chart

/ = K2tog

O= YO

\ = SSK

All else knit on the RS/ Purl on the WS

Fancy Lace

Click to view chart

/ = K2tog

\ = SSK

O = YO

^\ = Sl st K2tog PSSO (covered in Double Decreases and Beyond)

I = Purl on the RS/ Knit on the WS

All else knit on the RS/ purl on the RS

Photo’s and text copyright © onehandknits (Anna Richardson) 2011. Not for redistribution.

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About Onehandknits

I am a former doctor now designing knitwear and teaching in SE London.

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