Last week’s Knit Tips Tuesday was dedicated to the subject of making things larger in your knitting. This week, we will look at making things smaller. Decreases, or making the number of stitches on your needle smaller, can be used in a number of common ways including making a shawl and shaping garments. It is the crucial “other half” in lace knitting; the vast majority of yarnovers to create the beautiful lacy holes in the fabric are then paired with a corresponding decrease.
The fun of decreases is that they not only change the number of stitches on your needle, but they are also a simple way to decorate your already pretty pattern. Decreases can actually lean to the left, lean to the right, or be centered, making them an ideal extra detail to consider in your knitting projects. While there are several more methods as well as what is highlighted in this article, here are some of the most common decreases:
K2tog (knit two together) and P2tog (purl two together): These decreases both are an extension of normal knitting and purling, except that you treat the next two stitches on the left needle as one stitch. Insert the point of your right needle into the first two stitches on the left, instead of just the first stitch on the left, and then knit or purl as you normally would. This will decrease your stitch count by one. An excellent tutorial can be found on the Lion Brand Yarn website.
SSK (slip, slip, knit) and SSP (slip, slip, purl): These decreases are slightly more complicated, but they are still super-easy and they slant to the left instead of the right. To do SSK, slip the first two stitches on the left needle knit-wise, one at a time. Then, insert the left needle into the back of those two stitches, and knit them through the back loops. Click here for a video and pictorial demonstration by Lion Brand. These decreases are often paired in the same row with K2tog and P2tog, causing symmetrical or “mirrored” decreases.
SKP (slip, knit, pass slipped stitch over): This is another left-leaning decrease, and it is used more often when some give is needed in the fabric. To do this decrease, simply slip the first stitch on the left needle knit-wise, knit the next stitch on the left needle, and then pass the slipped stitch over the stitch you just knitted. Passing the slipped stitch over is done in a similar manner to binding off. The stitch will look as though it is hanging off of the other stitch, but it only looks like that for one row. Knit Picks has an easy-to-understand tutorial for this technique on their website.
S2KP2 (slip two, knit one, pass two over): Otherwise known as the centered double decrease, this stitch technique actually reduces your stitch count by two instead of one. It is often used at the center of a lace pattern, or ot make a more defined point in between two yarnovers. To do this, slip the first two stitches on the left needle knit-wise at the same time, instead of one at a time. Then you knit the next stitch on the left needle, and pass the two slipped stitches over the knitted stitch at the same time. You decrease your stitch count by two stitches, and you decrease one stitch in each direction because one of the slipped stitches acts as an anchor for the other slipped stitch and the knitted stitch. Knit Picks also demonstrates this technique in a video on their website.
In the last two weeks, you have learned how to both increase and decrease the number of stitches on your needle, so you can shape almost anything. You can make a practice scarf by casting on ten stitches, and then experimenting with increases for twelve rows and then experimenting with decreases for the next twelve rows. At the end of your sampler, you will have a wavy scarf with various techniques learned about increasing and decreasing your stitch count. The possibilities are endless.