Step-by-step instructions for sl1. What it means, how to do it, and important things to be aware of
So, you just started out knitting, maybe you even finished your first little potholder or scarf, and now your next pattern asks you to knit “sl1”. Well, as you will see in a second, the technique is remarkably simple. Still, this tutorial will put an emphasis on variations, applications, and things to be aware of.
The knitting term sl1 stands for “slip one”. It means passing a stitch from the left needle over to the right needle without knitting it. This can be done without twisting the stitch or adding a twist. Also, the working yarn can be either in the front or in the back.
It is often used in selvage stitches, in special knitting stitch patterns (like double stockinette stitch or brioche stitch), to reinforce the heels of a sock, but also in certain colorwork techniques (like mosaic knitting or the bobble stitch).
Let’s take a closer look and show you how to knit it.
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- Bring the working yarn to the back.
- Insert your right needle into the first stitch on the left needle from right to left (so as if to purl).
- Slip the stitch to the right needle by lifting it over (or pulling out the left needle).
- Continue knitting as normal/according to your pattern.
Depending on your pattern you may want to pull tight after you've knitted the next stitch. You will create a little float on the backside. By pulling tight you will ensure that this float is as short as possible (like for the heel of a sock or double knitting).
Please take note that for some patterns and techniques, you may have to do the exact opposite and stretch out the stitches on your right needle so the little float doesn't constrict your fabric (as in mosaic knitting).
How to sl1 knitwise
Now, some patterns will also ask you to slip one stitch knitwise. Typically, when nothing else is mentioned, then the designer wants you to slip one purlwise. Only if it specifically says knitwise, will you have to do it like this.
Step 1: Bring the yarn to the back.
Step 2: Insert the right needle into the first stitch on the left needle as if to knit. So from left to right.
Step 3: Pull out the left needle and slip the stitch to the right needle (or lift it over).
This will twist the stitch. See how it’s mounted the wrong way? Knitting decreases like SSK make use of this effect but also a couple of selvage techniques.
How to Sl1 wyif
Now, to my personal great annoyance, a lot of patterns don’t tell you where you should hold the yarn. As a rule of thumb, it’s a safe bet to carry the yarn the way you did for the previous stitches. So, if it’s a knit row, then you hold it in back and if it’s a purl row, you hold it in front.
But that is not true for all patterns. In some forms of double knitting for example, and for a lot of selvage stitches you have to carry the yarn in front regardless of where you are. Either way, here’s how to do a sl1 wiyf (with yarn in front) purlwise.
Step 1: Bring the yarn to the front (some tutorials will also call this ‘yarn forward’).
Step 2: Enter the right needle into the first stitch on the left needle from left to right.
Step 3: Lift the stitch over to the right needle and continue according to your pattern.
Very rarely will you read the instructions sl1 wyib. Most designers assume this as your default. Sadly, it can be a bit confusing and if you are unsure, don’t hesitate to ask someone in the knitting community or google the knitting stitch pattern and see if you find instructions where it’s a bit more clear or there is a video available.
Slip one twisted / through back loop
Very rarely, patterns or techniques will tell you to slip one stitch twisted or through the back loop. I am personally only aware of a couple of interesting purl decreases that do it that way. But I guess it will be reasonably easy to handle for any experienced knitter.
So, with yarn held in back (or front), you simply insert your right needle into the back loop of the first stitch on the left needle.
This will twist the loop around the other way. If you slip knitwise, it will add a counter-clockwise twist, and if you slip through the back loop, it will add a clockwise twist. If you knit an SSK, you actually use this very effect to balance out the final stitch.