Decreasing on a Knit Row
Ever wonder how you start knitting a hat at the bottom, but end up with fewer stitches at the top? Or what do to when a pattern says "dec 1 st at each end of the next 5 alt rows"?
The answer typically lies in the reserved word "decrease."
Although there are often a billion ways to do anything, I tend to use 1 of a couple different decrease methods on a knit row: K2tog & SSK. Why have 2 different methods, you ask? Because each of the methods causes the fabric to slant in a different direction; the K2tog slants to the right, while the SSK (and other decreases) cause the fabric to slant left.
So, if you're working on the toe of sock, or on armholes of a tank top, you'll want to use the K2tog decrease on the left hand side of the work (so that it slants to the right - towards the middle of the work). And the SSK on the right hand side of the work (so that it slants to the left - towards the middle of the work).
K2Tog - Knit 2 together (slants to the right)
Just like it sounds, the idea behind this decrease is to simply knit 2 stitches together, as if they were one. I use this decrease most often. Insert your right needle into both stitches on the left & knit them, imagining that these 2 stitches are really just one.
SSK - Slip, Slip, Knit (slants to the left)
Slip 1 stitch as if it knit, Slip 1 stitch as if to purl. Using the left needle, knit those 2 slipped stitches.
Let's break this down into its 3 parts:
1. Slip 1 stitch as if it knit. When you slip a stitch, you are literally slipping the stitch off of one needle and transferring it to the other needle. If you are "slipping as if to knit", you insert your right needle into the stitch like you are about to knit it. Instead of then wrapping the yarn around and knitting it, you just slide the stitch off of the needle - and onto that right needle.
2. Slip 1 stitch as if it purl. Same idea here: you are literally slipping the stitch off of one needle and transferring it to the other needle. If you are "slipping as if to purl", you insert your right needle into the stitch like you are about to purl it. Instead of then wrapping the yarn around and purling it, you just slide the stitch off of the needle - and onto that right needle.
3. Knit those 2 slipped stitches. Insert the left needle into the front of the 2 stitches you just slipped and throw the yarn around your right needle, then just knit those stitches as usual.
Decreasing on a Purl Row
P2Tog (slants to the right)
Just like it sounds (and similar to the K2tog), the idea behind this decrease is to simply purl 2 stitches together, as if they were one.
P2Tog TBL - Purl 2 together through the back of the loops. (slants to the left)
This decrease can be a bit of a pain, but creates a nice slant. Keeping the working yarn in front, bring the tip of your right needle to the back of the 2 sts to be purled. Insert the tip into those 2 stitches from the left to the right (i.e., you're entering the stitch farthest from the tip of the left needle first). Throw the yarn over the right needle and pull through those 2 stitches, just like a normal purl stitch.
Tip: Sometimes it helps me to write out how many stitches will remain at the end of each row. By writing this all out, you can start to see the pattern that is forming. You'll notice that every 4th row really means every other RS row (if the dec is on the RS, obviously). Once you realize this, you can stop counting 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. & just look at the previous RS row to see if you decreased there.
Tip: If the above tip doesn't work for you (and it won't work for everyone), try placing a split ring marker (or a locking stitch marker) on your work each time you finish a row. When you get 4 of them on there, it's time to do a decrease row (assuming that you put a marker on for the decrease row also).
Posted by Jimmy (Laura) of Jimmy Beans Wool