If you’ve ventured beyond knitting a scarf or blanket since first picking up your needles, then you’ll most likely have encountered knitting decreases. Decreases reduce the total number of stitches in a row and narrow the shape of the knitting.
Each type of knitting decrease leans in a certain direction, affecting the column of stitches it sits within. When you decrease, you turn two (or more) old columns of stitches into one new column.
The k2tog and ssk knitting decreases are the two you’ll use most often so they’re the most important ones to master. In this guide on how to decrease in knitting, Jim Arnall-Culliford will also show you some variations and how to use them.
Learn how to decrease in knitting using the following stitches:
Right leaning decreases
Left leaning decreases
- Ssk (slip, slip, knit)
- Ssp (slip, slip, purl) (done on wrong side of work)
- Skpo (slip, knit, pass over)
Central double decrease
Left and right leaning decreases
Left and right leaning decreases are often used in pairs and referred to as ‘twins’. The way they lean is determined by which stitch passes over which. For example, a k2tog (knit two together) will lean to the right as the second stitch on the left-hand needle ends up sitting on top of the first stitch.
Stacked decreases, like those in raglan sweaters, create a visible line or pattern where the decreases sit on top of each other. K2tog’s twin, the ssk knitting decrease (slip, slip, knit), is the other one used in a raglan decrease, as it leans in the opposite direction, to the left – towards the k2tog decrease in this case.
Different patterns will call for different decreases, so it helps to have a library of them at the ready.
Lace knitting decreases
One of the key elements of lace fabric is the holes, commonly created by decreasing a stitch and replacing it with a yarn over.
Unlike in some patterns, the way in which you decrease in lace is important. Rather than using decreases for shaping you’re using them to create the lace texture. This means that which way the stitches lean is vital to how the pattern looks overall.
For every stitch decreased, a yarn over must replace it to keep the stitch count correct. Find out more about lace in our lace knitting tutorial.
K2tog – knit two together (right leaning decrease)
This is the most common and simplest way of decreasing in knitting. It reduces the stitch count by one and the stitches lean to the right.
Once you’ve mastered k2tog, you can use the same idea to decrease more than one stitch at a time. However, the more stitches you decrease at once, the more pronounced the decrease will appear.
How to K2tog – knit two together
You Will Need
- Knitting needles
Insert the right-hand needle through the first two stitches on the left-hand needle as if to knit.
Wrap the yarn as you would for a normal knit stitch and slide both loops off the left-hand needle.
P2tog – purl two together
P2tog is the purl equivalent of k2tog. A p2tog worked on the wrong side of stocking stitch fabric looks the same as a k2tog on the right side.
Like k2tog, you can use this stitch to decrease more than one stitch at once. Again, the more stitches you decrease at once, the more pronounced the decrease will appear.
Insert the right-hand needle through the first two stitches on the left-hand needle as if to purl.
Wrap the yarn as you would for a normal purl stitch and slide both loops off the left-hand needle.
Ssk – slip, slip, knit (left leaning decrease)
The ssk knitting stitch (slip, slip, knit) is another common way of decreasing the stitch count by one, but unlike k2tog it slants to the left. It’s often paired with k2tog to create a balanced or even decrease, as it gives a neater finish than other stitches.
In the same way as an ssk and a k2tog, an ssp worked on the wrong side is also paired with a p2tog and looks the same as an ssk on the right side.
Insert the right-hand needle through the first stitch on the left-hand needle as if to knit and slip it to the right-hand needle.
Repeat Step 1 for the second stitch on the left-hand needle.
Hold the two needles point to point and slide the left-hand needle through the two stitches you just slipped.
Wrap the yarn around the right-hand needle (knit through the back loops) and slide both loops off the left-hand needle.
Ssp – slip, slip, purl
Slip, slip, purl (ssp) is a purled decrease that leans to the left when viewed from the front of the knitting.
The ssp knitting decrease is a slightly more awkward decrease to work than ssk. It’s usually worked on the wrong side of the knitting and requires you to twist the stitches around to best position them for the decrease. It’s often paired with p2tog because that decrease leans to the right when viewed from the front of the knitting.
Slip the first stitch from the left-hand needle knitwise, in the same way as for ssk, followed by the second stitch, again knitwise. This twists the sts so they are well positioned.
Slip both stitches back to the left-hand needle without twisting.
Slide the right-hand needle purlwise through both stitches and purl them together.
Slide the loops off the left-hand needle.
Skpo – slip, knit, pass over
The skpo knitting decrease is worked by slipping a stitch, knitting the next stitch and then passing the slipped stitch over. Like ssk, it leans to the left.
Sk2po is a closely related double decrease. You work it in exactly the same way, except you perform a k2tog instead of knitting 1 stitch. It gives a more symmetrical decrease than k3tog, but has a slight lean to the left.
How to Skpo in knitting
Insert the right-hand needle into the front of the first stitch on the left-hand needle as if to knit.
Slip the stitch to the right-hand needle.
Knit the next stitch from the left-hand needle.
Pass the slipped stitch over the knit stitch and slide it off the end of the right-hand needle.
S2kpo – slip 2 together, knit 1, pass over slipped stitch
Slip 2 together, knit 1, pass over slipped stitch leans neither to the left or the right – it’s a central decrease and creates a straight line in your knitting.
You’ll sometimes see s2kpo called CDD, short for central double decrease. You’ll also sometimes see it written as a raised double decrease. It’s useful for the crown shaping in hats or the bottom of knitted bags. It creates a straight decrease, without leaning left or right, and keeps in line with the rest of the columns of stitches.
Insert the right-hand needle into the next two stitches on the left-hand needle as though to k2tog. Slide the left-hand needle out and leave the stitches slipped onto the right-hand needle.
Knit the next stitch on the left-hand needle.
Pass the two slipped stitches over the knit stitch and off the right-hand needle. You should now see a decrease in your work.
Now that you’ve learned how to decrease in knitting, discovering the k2tog and ssk knitting decreases, and many more, practice makes perfect! Try knitting a basic stocking stitch triangle using your newly learned decreases. Simply work a left-leaning decrease at the beginning of the right side rows, then work its right-leaning twin decrease at the end. Repeat this until you run out of stitches and then cast off.
Obviously, there are many more different ways of decreasing in knitting than the six methods shown here, but these are the ones you will probably encounter most often. You can find more knitting advice in our complete guide to knitting for beginners.
More knitting stitches
Mastered the k2tog and ssk knitting stitches and want more? Learn the basics and discover new stitch patterns with our handy beginner’s guides. We show you how to work garter stitch, stocking stitch, rib stitch and moss stitch, plus lots of stitch variations!