Left Leaning Decreases

(or A Descent Into Knitting Madness)

I’m currently working on the knitting pattern for the Sheep. The head of the sheep is shaped with traditional decreasing methods, but this is not good news for me. You see, I can’t knit a tidy SSK. Of course there are dozens of variations on the left leaning decrease, so I decided to square up to the problem and find a solution.

When a knitter decreases the number of stitches on their needles it makes the fabric less wide, so adding shape to the knitting. A right leaning decrease is worked by knitting two stitches together, the stitch on the right is tucked under the stitch on the left, so the left stitch leans over to the right. A left leaning decrease tries to create the conditions where the left stitch is tucked under the right stitch and leans over to the left (are you still reading or has your brain glazed over?), bearing in mind that you are usually working the stitches in the same direction, this is easier said than done.

I spent TWO DAYS working on this with the help of contributors to the Techniques forum on Ravelry and I knitted FOURTEEN swatches.

Here’s what I discovered:

Well Known Methods

SSK or slip two stitches knitwise and then knit them together through the back loop. As you can see, it’s not very straight. There is another variation of this where you slip the second stitch purlwise, but this wasn’t a success either:

Sl1, K1, Psso or slip one knitwise, knit one and then pull the slipped stitch over the top of the stitch just knitted, as though you were casting off. As you can see below this got even wonkier results.

Traditional Fixes

Some people think that uneven stitches on a left leaning decrease are just the way of the world and that the solution is to stretch, pull, block, wash and otherwise generally bully the stitches into line. I’m sure this works for them, but it’s not what I’m trying to achieve, I want a left leaning decrease that looks as nice as the right leaning one from the start.

I did try to knit an SSK “on the tips of the needles”, but it actually came out messier than the first SSK attempt:

Unusual Methods

SYTK or Slip, Yank, Twist, Knit. TECHknitting has suggested a common sense solution to having loose stitches would be to twist one of them. The instructions for how to do this are on her blog here

As you can see, this method still didn’t work for me:

I also tried Cat Bordhi’s “hungry stitch” tutorial . It’s mindblowing  and I couldn’t get to work because the tutorial is for knitting in the round and I couldn’t translate the actions to knitting a purl stitch. That being said, I will try it at some point and if you have the time, you should check it out because it’s very cool.

And the Winner Is…

I tried SSP as one of my original test swatches, this involves making the decrease on the alternate purl row or the back side of the fabric. You slip two stitches knitwise, then return the stitches to the left needle and purl them together through the back loop. the first time I tried it, it looked like this:

It’s nice and tight, but there are some funky looking long stitches. Then one of the eagle eyed Ravelers spotted that I was doing the stitch wrong. I was actually knitting the two stitches together, which is not the same as purling through the back loop. I tried again and this time I struck gold:

So finally I have a winner! From now on, whenever I can I’ll be using an SSP when I need a left leaning decrease.

As for the Sheep pattern, I think I’ll just use the SSK abbreviation and knitters can choose their own method.

If you want to know more about Left Leaning Decreases try the Knitting Help website which has lots of great videos or nonaknits



Filed under Knitting Technique

2 responses to “Left Leaning Decreases

  1. Pingback: Round Sheep Pattern – Hints and Tips «

  2. Pingback: Left Leaning Decrease Redux «

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