Purl decreases – The ultimate list

The complete list of all knitting decreases for the wrong side. Left- and right-leaning purl decreases for every situation.

Are you wondering if you can decrease in a purl row? Of course, you can! In fact, there are just as many ways to decrease the stitch count on the wrong side as there are on the right side. And this is an overview of all your options.

No matter if you want to decrease an armhole edge in a purl row, or you are working garter stitch in the round, knowing how to decrease purl stitches will help you perfect your knitting patterns.

different purl decreases for the wrong side compared in one swatch - the different stitches all stacked upon each other in different tiers
From bottom to top: P2tog, p2tog tbl, ssp, cddp – all on the purl side; I always decreases 3 stitches away from the edge on both the left & and right side

This list features left-leaning and right-leaning purl decreases, and even some centered double decreases for purl rows. There are video tutorials and detailed step-by-step instructions available for all of these (just click on the respective links).

comparing different purl decreases on right right side with a swatch that shows all stitches side by side
From bottom to top: P2tog, p2tog tbl, SSP, CDDP – all on the knit side; again: I decreased 3 stitches away from the edge with the same stitch on the left and right side to show you the slant

So, let’s dive right into it.

Note: Here’s a list of the best left-leaning decreases you might want to check out as well.

1. P2tog – purl two together

This is the easiest and most common purl decrease. It has a slight left slant on the wrong side. Much like its counterpart, k2tog, you knit it almost exactly like a regular purl stitch. The only difference is that you insert your needle into two stitches at the same time. Here’s my purl two together tutorial

2. P2tog Tbl – purl two together through back loop

a knitted swatch showing the p2tog tbl purl decrease on the right and wrong side
Right side (left) and wrong side (right) of the purl two together through back loop decrease

Purling two stitches together through the back loop achieves the easiest right-leaning decrease for the wrong side. It doesn’t look all that neat on the right side though, almost a bit like a braided line, comparable to a standard SSK. Here’s how to p2tog tbl

Purl, slip, pass over

P2tog tbl is a bit harder to knit, to say the least. However, there is a very easy alternative called PSPSSO – purl, slip, pass over. Since it looks the same and it’s just a different way to knit it, I don’t think it deserves to be listed as a separate entry.

3. SSP – Slip, Slip, Purl

a split imagine showing the right and wrong side of a swatch knitted with the ssp purl decrease

If you ask me for the neatest way to achieve a left-leaning decrease on the right side then my answer would be hands down SSP. Slip, Slip, purl creates such a neat and lovely decrease line it’s really hard to beat. It’s maybe not the best option for the purl side itself (though still pretty good) but it truly shines on the knit side. Here’s my ssp knitting decrease tutorial.

4. P3tog – Purl three together

a swatch in stockinette stitch showing the right and wrong side of the p3tog knitting decrease
Right side (left) and wrong side (right) of purl three together

Of course, there are also double decreases available for the purl side. The easiest way to do that is by simply purling three stitches together – a left-leaning purl decrease. While it can look a bit crowded on the wrong side, it will look exactly like a regular k3tog on the right side. Here’s how to purl three together

5. P3tog tbl – Purl three together through back loop

a swatch with the p3tog tbl - the right-leaning double purl decrease
The purl three together through back loop decrease on the right side (left) and the wrong side (right)

If you want to knit a left-leaning double purl decrease, you basically are left with choosing between a couple of equally difficult choices. Purl three together through back loop is, however, the most difficult knitting stitch of them all and I’d avoid it as much as possible. Still, read my p3tog tbl tutorial here

6. CDDP – Centered double decrease purl

the center double decrease purl as it looks on the right and wrong side of a knitted swatch in stockinette stitch
Right and wrong side of the centered double decrease purl

When you are knitting a shawl top-down, and want a neat decrease line, you will need a centered decrease. And there is actually a way to achieve a centered double purl decrease. I do have to warn you, though. It’s pretty awkward to knit. That being said, the results are quite worth it. Here’s how to knit the centered double decrease purl

7. Purl, Slip, Pass over Twice

a knitted swatch seen from right and wrong side of the pspsso2 purl decrease
Right and wrong side of the PSPSSO2 decrease

I already mentioned that knitting P3tog tbl is sometimes quite impossible to knit and you might even risk breaking your needle trying. Instead, you can also slip the stitches creatively and create the almost exact same right-leaning double-purl decrease result. Maybe a bit more time-consuming but at least reliable. Here’s are the instructions for PSPSSO2

Other decreases for the purl side

This list of purl decreases is more or less complete. That doesn’t mean you won’t find a lot of other names floating around the internet. Mostly, that’s due to the fact that they are much rarer in knitting patterns and are not as canonized.

Sometimes, there are also different ways to get to the same decrease. For example, instead of knitting an SSP, you could also use a cable needle before purling two together. Nobody in their right mind would probably do this – still it’s a theoretical possibility.

Slip SLip Purl pass (s2pp)

This is an alternative way to achieve a centered double purl decrease. It goes like this: “Slip 1 purlwise, slip 1 knitwise, slip the 2 st back to left needle, slip the 2 st like you would p2tog tbl, purl 1, pass the two slipped stitches over”. Can you do it? Certainly! Is it easier to knit than CDDP? Probably not.

4 or 5 stitch purl decreases.

You can also decrease by more than 4 stitches. This is extremely rare, and has very few practical applications. If you know how to do a double brioche decrease, then this will be somewhat easy. Basically, it boils down to knitting the (most) central stitch of the group you want to decrease and then passing the outer stitches over one at a time. This involves a lot of slipping back and forth between the two needles.

Still, I guess it is an important reminder that a bind-off and a decrease are essentially the same things. And it’s quite easy to find your own alternative ways of knitting a decrease by slipping one stitch, purling one, and passing the remaining one over (instead of doing a p2tog)

And there is one important tidbit I wanted to share with you at the very end. A lot of people seem to focus on the right side a lot. In fact, even a lot of books will define the lean of a purl decrease the way it appears on the knit side. But sometimes your pattern is purl stitches all over on the right side.

In the swatch above, you will see a couple of different right-leaning decreases and I wanted to find out which one actually looks the best on the purl side. Interestingly enough, I think that a classic SSK looks the best!

This is insofar interesting because SSK is the most unsightly option on the knit side (at least among the 4 variants I tested). I guess it has to with the fact that you tend to stretch out the stitches towards the side you are currently knitting. At least that’s my theory why a purl decrease achieves the best left-leaning knit decrease (ssp) as well.

And that’s my list of purl decreases. Feel free to comment below in case you have any questions.

the ultimate list of purl decreases

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