4 ways to decrease
Decreasing is one of the easiest ways to shape knitting, and there are several ways to go about it. Last week we looked at four ways to increase, so this week we asked Elizabeth to show you four ways to increase.
For many projects, you can decrease however you like and it won’t affect the outcome. However, decreases typically have a direction, and some are more visible than others.
When you’re working lace, textured stitches or garments, this becomes particularly important. Using a decrease that leans left instead of right can throw the look of the whole piece off.
The four ways to decrease below are all straightforward and suitable for most projects, but if you know and love another method, do tell us in the comments!
Knit two together
Usually written as ‘k2tog’ in patterns. Many beginner knitters discover how to k2tog without meaning to. Simply slip the needle through two loops on the left-hand needle instead of one. Knit as normal and where you had two, you now have one.
You can knit more than two stitches together in this way by slipping the needle through more loops. The fabric will tend to bunch up if you do more than a k3tog, although this maybe the effect you’re going for.
K2tog is a right leaning decrease. To make a left leaning decrease using the same technique, knit through the back of the loop. This is usually written as ‘k2tog tbl’.
If you find this fiddly, a simple alternative left leaning decrease is SSK (slip, slip, knit). Slip the first stitch as though to knit, twisting it, and then do the second. Slide them back to the left hand needle and knit together.
Pass one over
Passing the loop of one stitch over another is another easy way to decrease. Typically, you’ll need to have both stitches on the same needle, either left or right.
Slip the other needle through the second stitch from the tip and pass it over the one at the tip of the needle. You can repeat this to decrease more stitches at once, although again it’s liable to bunch up.
Slip one, knit one, pass slipped stitch over is a left leaning decrease usually abbreviated as SKP or Sl1, K1, PSSO. Slip the first stitch from the left needle to the right without working it (insert the right hand needle as though to purl and just move it across).
Knit the next stitch normally, and when it’s on the right hand needle, pass the stitch you just slipped over it, as described above. You can also Sl1, k2tog, PSSO, which is a left leaning double decrease.
Decreasing in purl
Patterns based on stocking stitch (stockinette) typically use purl as the ‘wrong’ side (the inside of a hat, for example) and designers tend to decrease on knit rows.
It’s important to remember that any decrease on the ‘wrong’ side will be mirrored on the ‘right’ side. So a right leaning k2tog on the wrong side will lean left on the right side.
When purling, p2tog (purl two together) is a left leaning decrease (right leaning on the knit side in stocking stitch) and p2tog tbl (purl two together through the back loop) is right leaning (left leaning on the knit side).
They’re done as you would expect: Simply slip the needle through two loops instead of one, and work as usual.
We discussed four ways to cast off in a previous post, and any of those ways can be used to decrease. A cast off decrease will leave a line of finished stitches, and is often used where part of the garment has finished but the rest continues, such as the thumb on fingerless mitts.
It can also be used to create a big button hole, pocket opening or other gap, if you cast on again on the next row.
Last updated: March 6th, 2015.