As soon as you move on from knitting basic squares and rectangles, and want to start knitting garments, you will need to know how to decrease knitting in order to shape your knitted fabric to make up the garment.
How to Decrease Knitting Tutorial
Whenever you wish to make a piece of knitting narrower, you will need to decrease. Decreases are most often used for things like tops of sleeves, shaping the crown of a hat, shaping the neckline, or, if you want a beautifully fitted sweater, to bring in and shape the waistline. When you decrease, you will be turning two stitches into one.
All my examples are worked in stockinette stitch, and all have a border of garter stitch to show where the decreases are, and to stop the swatches from curling up completely!
It is usual to work decreases on the knit side of the fabric, and then just purl on the other side without any decrease.
What is the Easiest Way to Decrease Knitting?
The simplest and most often used decrease is to knit two stitches together. This creates a decrease that leans to the right.
How to Decrease Knitting Symmetrically
If you are decreasing on both sides of a piece, you will need to mirror the decreases to give a symmetrical effect. So you will also need to learn to do the decrease which leans to the left, which is known as slip, slip knit, or slip one, knit one, pass slip stitch over.
Both of these methods combine two stitches into one stitch.
How to Decrease Knitting Step by Step Tutorial
Method 1 - Knit Two Together (k2tog)
This is the simplest method, but as mentioned, it will cause your decrease to lean to the right, so is best used at the end of a row.
Insert the right needle into the front of the second stitch on your needle, then through the first stitch, from left to right.
(Note that I am working my decrease at the end of the row, before the 3 stitch garter stitch border.)
Knit these two stitches together, as though you are just knitting one stitch. Pull the yarn through both stitches at the same time.
Drop both loops off the needle. You will end up with just one stitch on the right needle, and one decrease is made.
You can see how this decrease leans to the right.
Tip: Work close to the tips of the needles to make this easier.
Method 2 - Knit Two Together To Back Of Loop (k2tog TBL)
This method slants the decrease to the left, so is good for the beginning of a row. Insert the right-hand needle into the back of the next 2 stitches, from right to left.
(Note that for this decrease, I am working at the beginning of the row, after my 3 stitch garter stitch border.)
Knit these two stitches together as if you are knitting just one stitch. Pull the yarn through both stitches at the same time.
Drop both loops off the needle. You will end up with just one stitch on the right needle, (after the border) and one decrease is made.
You can see how this one slopes to the left.
Method 3 - Slip One, Knit One, Pass Slip Stitch Over (SKP, or SSK, or PSSO)
This knitting decrease looks neater than k2 tog TBL, but is slightly more difficult. Although this has different names, according to your pattern, the method is the same. This decrease slants to the left, so is also good for the beginning of a row.
Slip one stitch from the left-hand needle onto the right, as if you were going to knit it.
Knit the next stitch in the usual way.
Insert the point of the left-hand needle into the front of the slipped stitch, from left to right.
Lift this slipped stitch over the top of the knit stitch, and then off both needles.
One stitch remains, and one decrease is made.
Decrease Knitting for Different Patterns
These methods will work for most patterns. Generally, you will decrease on either side of a knit row, so you will decrease two stitches per row, and then purl the next row without any decreasing.
However, if you wish to decrease on a purl row, you can work the decreases in exactly the same way, but using purl instead of knit stitch. So you can purl 2 together, or purl 1, slip one (purl wise) pass the slip stitch over.
Decrease Knitting with Multiple Stitches
You may find that there are times when you need to decrease more than one stitch at a time. For example, if you want your edges to have a steep ‘slope’ or if you are making something with mitered corners.
In this case, you will work the decreases as follows:
Method 1 - Knit 3 Together (k3tog)
Here you will simply work a normal knit stitch into 3 loops at the same time. It is worked in exactly the same way as k2 tog, but decreases more stitches at a time, and gives a steeper slant.
It will give you a right slanting decrease.
Method 2 - Decrease Knitting 2 stitches With Left Slant
- Slip one, knit wise. That is, slip it onto the right needle as though you were going to knit it.
- Knit 2 together.
- Pass the slipped stitch over the 2 stitches and knit them together.
You have 1 stitch left on the needle (after the border) and have decreased 2 stitches.
Decrease Knitting in The Middle of Rows
On occasion, you may need to decrease in the middle of a row, rather than on each end of a row. In this case, you will be working your decreases around a center stitch.
An example of this would be when making a shawl from the bottom up. Or for raglan sleeves, or in lace knitting.
Center Double Decrease (CDD) Knit 3 Together Centered
- When you get to the center of your stitches, slip 2 stitches knit wise at the same time. This is important! Do not slip them separately!
- Knit 1 stitch.
- Pass both slipped stitches over the knit stitch. Pass them over together, don’t separate them!
This works well if you don’t want your decreases in the middle of the knitting to lean to the left or right. You will be left with a nice central column formed by the knit 1 stitch in the middle of the decrease.
How To Make Triangular Shawl with Decrease Knitting
Now that you are an expert at decreasing knitting, how about creating a triangular shawl using all that knowledge? This is a really easy way to get yourself or a new baby a lovely garment!
This is just a basic ‘recipe’ using stockinette stitch. It is the exact opposite of the shawl I mentioned in the how to increase knitting article.
When you are completely confident with decreasing, you can adapt it to use fancier stitch patterns, such as lace or cable stitches.
When making this shawl you will be starting at the top, or widest part of the shawl, then decreasing every knit row until you have only one stitch left. While it seems intimidating starting with so many stitches, each row will go quicker and quicker, so you will be more and more encouraged as you go along!
- You will need to work out your knitting gauge for the yarn and needles you are using.
- Then cast on the number of stitches you need for the top of the shawl. You work this out by using the number of stitches per inch multiplied by the width you require for your shawl.
- An example would be if your gauge is 8 stitches per inch, and you want the top of the shawl to measure 55”, 8 x 55 = 440 stitches. (you will start with very cramped stitches! And you will need long needles!)
- Knit 1 row, purl 1 row.
- I would recommend doing a garter stitch border on each side of your triangle to prevent curling, but it’s not essential.
- Then decrease at each end of every knit row until you have nothing left.
- OR work a CDD (see above) on every knit row, until you have nothing left.
- That's it!
Decrease Knitting - In Conclusion
As always with knitting, you should choose the method which suits you the best. Which decrease knitting is the simplest for you to work with, and which one has the nicest appearance for your taste? I have not yet been able to find a completely invisible method of decreasing which is manageable enough to work easily!
So just embrace those left and right slants and see them as part of the design of your garment! You are now well on your way to creating beautifully shaped garments instead of being limited to things that can be made with squares and rectangles!
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