A detailed list with all decreases in knitting. Centered, right- and left-leaning options for every project.
In knitting, decreases are one of the most fundamental ways to shape fabric. No matter if you want to knit a hat, a shawl, or socks, at one point or another you probably want your project to get narrower. And that’s when you need a special technique to combine multiple stitches into one.
But there is not just one way to knit a decrease. In fact, there are probably more than fifty different techniques to reduce your stitch count. There are left-leaning decreases and right-slanting alternatives. Some of them look neater on the right side, while purl decreases might look better on the wrong side.
Then there are centered decreases without such a bias. These are often favored by lace patterns. And then there are, of course, special decreases you will need for knitting patterns like the brioche stitch or double-knitting.
So, it’s important to realize that there is not THE best way to decrease knitting. Depending on your project and what you want to achieve, you may want to use a different technique. When you learn how to knit, you can certainly stick to the simple decreases. But later on, you may want to experiment around a bit and I want you to view this list in that light.
Anyway, let’s dive right into it!
Reading tip: My ultimate list of knitting increases.
1. Knit two together (K2tog)
Knitting two stitches together is probably the easiest way to decrease in knitting. It creates a very balanced and neat right-leaning decrease. This means, most patterns will use it on the left side.
2. Slip, Slip, stitch (SSK)
The second most used decrease in knitting is probably SSK. It’s a left-leaning decrease and of all the choices available for beginners probably the neatest option – especially when you purl the resulting stitch through the back loop in the next row.
Since left-leaning decreases are quite easy to mess up (has to do with the knitting direction), there are quite a couple of variations of the standard SSK around.
A) Slip, Slip Purl, Knit (SSPK)
A very popular alternative among English knitters is SSPK. You knit it in the exact same way. The only difference is that you slip the second stitch of the two stitches you want to decrease purlwise instead of knitwise.
B) Slip, Knit, Pass over (SKP)
Slip, Knit, Pass Over is another very common variation of the SSK. Or rather, it’s just a different way to achieve the exact same result. So why bother? Well for some knitters it creates superior results as they don’t end up stretching out the stitches as much. It’s not a different stitch, just a possible neater way to knit it.
C) Knit two together left (k2tog-L)
And if you want to have it as neat as possible, then K2tog-left might be something you might want to look into. Through an ingenious little trick, you achieve what millions of knitters have been searching for all their life – a left-leaning increase that forms a tight & compact decrease line. Alas, it’s a bit more fiddly to knit.
3. Knit two together through back loop (K2tog tbl)
If neat is not what you are looking for but easy, then k2tog tbl could possibly be your new favorite left-leaning decrease. You skip all that slipping and twisting stitches before you combine them but the result will be a noticeable zig-zag decrease line. For the right kind of pattern, this can look stellar, though.
4. Knit three together (k3tog)
Double decreases, meaning a decrease that is worked to three stitches, are particularly popular in lace knitting. Quite a lot of knitting stitch patterns, like the star stitch, make use of it as well for some stunning effects. The easiest way to do this is simply knitting three stitches together. The result will be a right-leaning decrease
A) Ktog left
Some people might look for a left-leaning alternative and it’s actually a bit more difficult to find. It’s not exactly the most common stitch and very few patterns make use of it. Still, it’s definitely something to keep in mind!
B) K3tog centered / Centered Double Decrease
The truly amazing part about double decreases is that some of them are centered. The most popular way to achieve this is by knitting a centered double decrease (CDD). It creates a very neat decrease line and is used in some mitered square patterns.
Purl two together (p2tog)
Typically knitting as two sides. And as a knitter, it’s very important to remember that you can also decrease on the wrong side to achieve a certain effect on the right side. And then, of course, there are patterns full of purl stitches. And a simple way to decrease these is by using purl two together – the easiest right-leaning (as seen from the right side) purl decrease.
Purl two together through back loop (p2tog tbl)
Far from easy is the right-leaning counter-part for the purl side. Purl two together through back loop is notorious for being one of the most complicated decreases. It’s just so awkward to knit and requires quite a lot of dexterity and sharp knitting needles.
There is a very common variation of this decrease called PSPSSO – purl, slip, pass over. It results in the exact same decrease but quite a bit easier to knit! The tutorial linked above shows you how to knit this alternative as well.
Purl three together (p3tog)
Of course there are also double purl decreases and you can knit them in the more or less exact same way. In fact, I’d say that purl three together is much easier to knit than the corresponding k2tog as you don’t have to go against the grain.
A) P3tog Tbl
If you want to achieve a left-leaning double decrease for the purl side, then your only option is purling three stitches through the back loop. You will find it quite impossible to knit and that’s why there is a smarter alternative called PSPSSO2 – purl, slip, pass over twice with the exact same result.
B) Centered double decrease purl
A last variation of p3tog is the Centered Double Decrease Purl. It’s actually not especially difficult, if a bit unusual, to knit and will form a very attractive centered decrease line on the right side. Very pretty.
K1tog RL & LL
Knit one together right loop and knit one together left loop are very unusual candidates for this list of knitting decreases but I want to mention them nevertheless. They do not decrease two stitches in the same row into one. Instead, they gather two stitches from consecutive rows into one. And this can be used for a whole host of amazing results – especially avoiding jogs and gaps
Bavarian twisted stitches are a fun way to create stunning designs. But when you want to decrease two columns of twisted stitches, the typical right-leaning decreases don’t look all that pretty and balanced. And that’s why I typically twist the stitches in a special way to create a neater look.
As an alternative, you can also knit the traveling twisted decrease to the right. It’s technically the same stitch but often a bit neater.
Centered single decrease
All single decreases have a visible lean – with one exception. The centered single decrease (CSD) will allow you to decrease 3 stitches into two without slanting to the left or the right. It’s quite an ingenious method that works best when used sparingly. Due to the unique mechanics of the technique, you cannot stack them.
Brioche knitting is a very interesting field I really urge you to explore. It’s often misunderstood but once you understand it’s actually a form of double knitting, then decreasing these complicated patterns will be a breeze.
I wrote a very detailed tutorial on how to decrease the brioche stitch.
You can use the same kind of increases for all other forms of double knitting with slight modifications.
a) Brioche centered double decrease (Br4st dec)
A very important variation is the brioche double decrease. While it’s indeed a pain to knit (with 7 stitches on the needles) these rare stitches are a true marvel and will teach you a lot about how knitting works once you truly understood them
And this brings me to my last topic: Stacked decreases. It’s a very unique technique that allows you to decrease a theoretically infinite number of stitches into one. It’s a fascinating topic I yet have to explore here on my blog. For now, I have only mentioned stacked increases.
Other knitting decreases
At its core, a decrease is a simple way to gather two stitches into one. And since there are only a limited number of ways to pull a loop through another loop that also limits the number of possible combinations. 16 to be quite precise.
Not all of them make sense or have any common practical applications. And of course, you could go really crazy and twist both stitches by slipping them knitwise and THEN rearranging their order using a cable needle and knitting them through the back loop on top of that. The result would be a double-twisted left-leaning decrease (and this would add 6 more possibilities to the list above or even more when you hold the cable needle in back).
Don’t ask me why you would need that but it’s certainly a mathematical possibility – just as twisting the stitches the other way before you knit them together. And I am specifically mentioning it here because in knitting, beauty is created through repeats. 4 rows of brioche stitch look arguably not very pleasing. Continue the same pattern for 20 more rows and suddenly it looks wow.
Also, you should be aware of one other fact. There are many different ways to achieve the same result. You can purl two stitches together the continental way, using a Norwegian purl, or the English throwing method. You can re-arrange the order of the stitches by purling them through the back loop or by using a cable needle.
So, if you look around the internet or your well-stocked library, you will find tons of different names and ways to knit the same decrease. I know it can be confusing but I urge you to look closely at the results and understand what they are doing to solve the mystery.