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June 21, 2006

Left Slanting Woes

This morning my friend "no-sleeves" -- she's determined to get through 2006 without knitting a single sleeve -- and I were bemoaning the fact that the left slanting ssk decreases on our Picovoli Ts were not nearly as nice as the beautiful -- yes, beautiful -- right slanting k2togs.  Now, you know you're a knitter when 1.  you have these kinds of conversations with your friends and 2. you find them highly interesting and entertaining, but I digress -- back to my left slanting woes.  I've tried all the major players in the left slanting world -- ssk, k2tog tbl, and sl1, k1, psso -- and none come close to the clean line created by the right slanting k2tog.  Am I the only one having this problem!?

nona thinks this calls for some out of the box thinking.  Care to join in?  You have 24 hours -- okay, 48 hours -- to put your thinking cap on and invent a new left slanting decrease.  And there will be prizes!

I know, I know, it's hard to see.  You'll have to trust me. 
The right slanting decreases are nice and smooth,
while the left slanting decreases are jagged.

June 21, 2006 in Project - Top Down , Tips and Techniques | Permalink


I found this left slanting decrease on the internet some time ago so I can't claim it as my own. I've forgotten the link, but I' sure it was from was a very clever knitter, this left slanting always looks smooth and even.

1. Slip the first stitch onto the right needle as if to knit.
2. Slip the second stitch onto the needle as if to purl.
3. Move the left needle to the right front of the two stitches resting on the right needle and knit them together through the front of the stitches.

Sounds more confusing than it is! Good luck. If anyone knows where to find the link that posts this left slanting decrease, please post it to give credit where it is deserved!

Posted by: Carrie | Jun 21, 2006 7:06:28 PM

I think it might be the same as the one Carrie mentioned ... SSK "improved" from http://www.knittinghelp.com/knitting/basic_techniques/decrease.php

Posted by: Marina | Jun 21, 2006 7:23:10 PM

Nona, while I know exactly what you're talking about, even **I** don't worry about it. Yes, I do the modified SSK that the folks mention above (all the time, in all my projects, that's just the way I SSK), but it's still not the same. Do you think... maybe it's not that important? :)

Posted by: grumperina | Jun 21, 2006 7:51:19 PM

Oh I soooo hear you! I have no idea what a good alternative would be. But I sure can't wait to see what others come up with :)

Posted by: Vicki | Jun 21, 2006 7:54:28 PM

I dare say that this is THE knitting dilemma of all time. Nancy Bush told me that she finds the slip one knitwise, knit one, psso to be the nicest. We actually discussed it at some length, so this backs up my theory that this is THE knitting dilemma.

(not that I'm trying to name drop or anything, I just thought you might want to know what she thinks.)

Posted by: Purly Whites | Jun 21, 2006 11:48:51 PM

I am so glad you are tackling this issue! I am really looking forward to some ideas.

Posted by: Esther | Jun 22, 2006 1:20:19 AM

i'm with the other commenters.

the slip 1 knitwise, slip 1 purlwise version of ssk is supposed to be better because keeping the back knit stitch twisted is supposed to help tighten up the looser knit stitch on top.

the only other advice (but i'm sure you've tried it) is to treat that top stitch gingerly so you stretch the least amount possible while manipulating it.

if someone posts something better i would *love* it because i agree -- those left slanting decreases just can't hold a candle to those right slanting ones!

Posted by: jody | Jun 22, 2006 3:28:17 AM

Let's say you're doing a stockinette piece. On the wrong side row, figure out which 2 stitches are involved in the decrease. Purl those stitches "backwards" - ie, with the left leg in front of the needle and the right leg behind (wrap yarn in the opposite direction around the needle). Essentially, this obviates the need to do the "slip-slip" part of SSK. When you get to it on the front side, all you have to do is knit the 2 st through the back as normal. (I learned this trick via a mailing list, but I think it is taught by the Tiny Diva as part of a tips and tricks class.)

The other thing is that the regular SSK, after a few washings to even out slight variations in tension, looks fine. :)

Posted by: June | Jun 22, 2006 3:39:59 AM

I have the same issue, and I too find the "slip first as if to knit, slip second as if to purl, knit together through back loops" to be the best-looking solution. I don't know why, but it looks WAY better than the slip both as if to purl method. Still not nearly as nice as the K2tog, though!

Posted by: Judy | Jun 22, 2006 5:50:49 AM

I'm so with you on this! I hate left slanting decreases to no end.
I'm just getting started as a knitter, so I don't think I'll be unventing decreases, but I can't wait to see what people come up with.

Posted by: Jes | Jun 22, 2006 6:16:44 AM

I don't have any useful suggestions (although I prefer SSK to SKP). I have found that my left leaning decreases on Picovoli have looked better as I wear and wash it. But, they are NOT mirror images of the right ones. Can't wait to see what you find.

Posted by: silvia | Jun 22, 2006 6:26:57 AM

This has bugged me forever, too, and I though it was just my obsessive-compulsive knitting. Glad to hear it's not.

It's not the most elegant solution, but I've had some small success with the following:
1) In the row/round before the decrease, identify what will be the first slipped stitch of the decrease in the following row -- after decreasing, this stitch will lay on top of the other.
2) Purl (WS)/knit (RS) this stitch with significantly more tension than usual, to tighten it up.
3) In the next row/round, work the decrease as preferred.
4) After decreasing, fiddle with the top stitch a bit to get it to lay on top of its partner in a more k2tog kind-of way.

Like I said, inelegant, but it seems to make them look a little more symmetrical to me.

Posted by: Lynn | Jun 22, 2006 6:45:25 AM

I know your pain. Seriously. I am a perfectionist, and my ssk really bother me. I have tried different decreases, but all produce the same result for me. What I end up doing is playing with the knit stitches. I pull a bit on the left leg of the stitch and try to even it out as best as possible. Then a block and it seems to be acceptable. I will be watching for what others come up with!

Posted by: Carolyn | Jun 22, 2006 7:08:53 AM

hmmm.... i remember knitting something and the left decreases were really good. i think i just used my funny way of doing ssk. i never understood the insturctions so this is how i do it
1. slip two stitches as if to knit
2. slip them at the same ime back to the left hadn needle
3. knit them together through the back loops
it works for me pretty well, how about you?

Posted by: callie | Jun 22, 2006 7:32:02 AM

i forgot! another way i used to do ssk was to slip them to the right needle, stick the left hand needle through them and knit them on the left hand needle, then slip the stitch to the right hand needle. it's a little hard to get the hand of but i think it works...

Posted by: callie | Jun 22, 2006 7:33:51 AM

i also hate ssk's. they are never as pretty as k2tog. but i like the modified version linked to above at knitting help. i've used it on several projects and liked it.

Posted by: gleek | Jun 22, 2006 7:50:21 AM

I like to put the rt needle through first st on left needle as if to purl and then knit the next st. It seems to stretch the first st less. But it really varies depending on the yarn and I usually try all the ssk's you listed and the sl 1kw,sl 1pw, too. I think all the passing the sts back and forth on the needles just keeps stretching them.


Posted by: Beth | Jun 22, 2006 7:58:18 AM

I forgot, my comment above is a variation on skp and I meant that I usually try all the left leaning dec not just all the ssk.

Posted by: Beth | Jun 22, 2006 8:04:06 AM

hey nona, i swatched both of my decreases and a normal ssk and the ssk-tbl combo works really well. it's not dramatic and ugly and it turned out really smooth

Posted by: callie | Jun 22, 2006 8:39:23 AM

I too have struggled with this one! After being really unhappy with my ssk's I tried all the above mentioned decreases on various projects. In the end, I decided that the best was the ssk. It sounds trite, but I found it made a big difference to do the ssk gingerly. Slip the stitches very gently, leave them near the tip of the needle. When inserting the left needle into the loops, just use the tip and be careful. And follow all this with a good wet blocking. I had to slow down my ssk's for a while to do all this careful knitting, but after a while it became second nature. They're still not exact mirror images -- but you have to look really hard to see the difference. (I just hate it when the solution is to do the same thing more carefully! I would've much rather to have found the perfect decrease!)

Good luck with the hunt for the perfect decrease!

Posted by: Jessie | Jun 22, 2006 8:43:36 AM

It's too bad that you're not offering prizes for the worst left leaning decreases. I'd win hands down. I'm waiting with bated breath to see what solutions are offered.

Posted by: Samina | Jun 22, 2006 8:49:29 AM

I've also been frustrated by the frankenstein-ness of my left-leaning decreases. Haven't tried *all* of the alternatives mentioned in the comments, though, so I suppose there's still hope?

This is what expanding your knitting knowledge will get you. I grew up doing "combined" knitting (although I didn't know I was doing this) and for the longest time I couldn't figure how a k2tog could lean "right" -- because my "k2tog" was actually an ssk without all the ss'ing. Was always perfectly fine with them (although to be fair, I couldn't actually decrease "right") until I figured out the k2tog. Side by side . . . was never happy with the ssks again.

I'll try the new-to-me alternatives, but if they fail I guess can comfort myself with the notion that MAYBE Grumperina is right (she so often is . . .)

Posted by: Anonyknits | Jun 22, 2006 10:21:02 AM

i am definetly using the ssk-tbl combo in my tivoli-t. i am very surprised that it actually WORKS!

Posted by: callie | Jun 22, 2006 5:56:08 PM

Evening out your lefties is a two-step process.
1. Do the SSK as slip 1 as if to knit, slip 1 as if to purl, insert left needle into front of stitches and knit them together.
2. This is the important part. On the non-decrease rows/rounds, knit the stitch in line with that decrease through the back loop.
This will smooth out the jag by "lessening" the decreasing stitch and "pronouncing" the non-decreaseing stitch.

Posted by: Dave | Jun 22, 2006 8:08:13 PM

In decreasing 2 sts to 1, the leading stitch becomes looser than the 2nd stitch. In K2tog, that leading stitch is behind the 2nd, but in SSK or SKP, the leading stitch is in front.

The easiest left-dec is K2togTBL. Unlike the SSK, you just knit together through the back loop, hence, twisting both stitches. It's fast, easy, and though it looks a wee different, it's tight like the K2tog.

Now if you want to get technical, the true perfect match to the K2tog is the SSP. (Slip 2 sts 1 at a time as if to knit, return them to the left needle, then purl them together thru the back loop.) Yes, it must be done on the purl side, but on the flip side, it's a left decrease with that loose leading stitch in the back.

If you must keep decs on the knit side, try the right-leaning dec that matches the SSK: Knit 1, slip that new stitch back to the left needle, then pass the stitch to its left over. Slip the stitch back to the right needle. Voila, a loose right dec that matches the loose SSK.

I didn't make this stuff up. I owe it all to June Hemmons Hiatt who wrote Principles of Knitting (bows).

Posted by: Mei | Jun 22, 2006 9:22:11 PM

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