With our feature on how to increase stitches in knitting last month, it only seems fitting to talk about the various ways to decrease stitches as well. Knitters usually feel a little more love for decreases than increases as it can often mean that the end of the project is near. And to be honest, they’re a lot easier to work than increases as well!
Decreasing is how we reduce the number of stitches to narrow a piece of knitting. They can be done individually or paired and worked directionally. Just like increases, there is a variety of different ways to work decreases, and they can be worked to slant to the right or left or be vertical.
The most common decrease in knitting is simply to knit two stitches together, abbreviated in patterns as K2tog. This decrease slants to the right and is by far the easiest to work. Insert the right needle into the next two stitches on the left needle, treat them as though they were just one stitch, wrap the yarn as you would to knit and pull it through. Presto! Two stitches have now become one.
The simplest left slanting decrease is K2togtbl or knit two stitches together through the back loops. Insert the right needle, from right to left, into the back loops of the next two stitches on the left needle and knit these two stitches together.
Also left slanting and used frequently in knitting patterns is SSK, or slip one, slip one, knit two together. For this decrease you will slip two stitches knit-wise, one at a time, from the left needle to the right. Insert the left needle into the fronts of the two slipped stitches and knit them together.
K2tog and K2togtbl or SSK are often paired to emphasize shaping. When decreasing at the neck edges on a sweater for example, you often work a left-slanting decrease on the right side of the neck and a right-slanting decrease on the left side thus highlighting the grade of the shaping.
Another set of paired decreases are the right-slanting KRPR and left-slanting SKP. To work a KRPR decrease, knit one stitch, slip one stitch knit-wise, return the slipped stitch to the left needle, keeping it twisted, and return the knit stitch to the left needle. Using the right needle, pass the slipped stitch over the knit stitch and off the left needle. Slip the knit stich purl-wise to the right needle and then carry on across the row. Trust me, it sounds like a lot more work than it is, and it produces a clean and tidy decrease.
To work the left slanting SKP decrease, slip one stich as if to knit and then knit the next stitch. Using the left needle, insert the tip into the slipped stitch and pass it over the knit stitch and off the right needle.
Paired decreases are used in garment construction at neck edges, armholes, sleeves and waist shaping, shawl edges and spines, and so much more. Decreasing one or two stitches in from an edge is referred to as full-fashion knitting and has several benefits. The decreases create an attractive decorative detail and seaming is much easier when decreases are not along the edge.
For double decreases, K3tog and SSSK are quite straightforward and are worked in the same manner as the single decreases. The central double decrease, or CDD, often used in shawl construction decreases two stitches and creates an attractive vertical stitch. To work a CDD insert the right needle into the next two stitches as if to knit them together and slip them to the right needle. Knit the next stitch and with the left needle, pull the two slipped stitches over the knit stitch and off. It’s no wonder this easy, clean, decorative decrease is popping up in patterns everywhere!
Of course, there are decreases that can be worked on purl stitches but where they aren’t as common as knitted decreases, we thought we’d focus on the ones seen most often in patterns today.
Do you have a favourite decrease that we didn’t cover? Leave us a comment below, we’re always looking for new ideas!
Stay safe, be well and knit on!