A step-by-step tutorial on the SSK knitting stitch – a left-slanting decrease.
Your pattern tells you to knit an SSK and you don’t know what it means? Then you came to the right place. In this tutorial, I’m going to show you exactly how to decrease stitches with this technique – even if you are an absolute beginner.
With a bit of practice, this stitch is not hard all that hard to knit. Besides, I made sure to include big pictures and a slow-motion video in this tutorial so you can easily follow along and learn this knitting technique.
So, let’s dive right into it, eh?
Reading tip: Feel free to check out my free knitting school for more tutorials.
What does SSK mean in knitting?
ⓘ In knitting, the abbreviation “SSK” stands for “slip, slip, knit” and it creates a left-leaning decrease. The term describes the counterpart to the right-leaning k2tog. If a pattern requires you to “SSK (3 times)” then this means you have to perform this stitch three times. If you are on the left side of a garment and your pattern simply tells you to decrease one stitch, then the SSK will be a good bet.
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- Insert your right needle into the first stitch on your left needle as if to knit.
- And then simply slip that stitch onto your right needle WITHOUT knitting (you will only twist the stitch that way).
A lot of patterns will simply write "slip a stitch knitwise" to describe steps 1+2
- Insert your right needle into the next stitch as if to knit, and then slip it as well.
You should now have two slipped stitches on your right needle that are twisted.
- Re-insert your left needle into those two stitches and slip those two stitches back to the left needle again.
- And now, insert your right needle into the back loop of these two stitches
- And knit them together through back loop (k2tog tbl). And there is the finished SSK knitting stitch on your right needle. As you can see the loop leans a bit to the left.
Try to knit this decrease as gently as possible and DON'T stretch out the loops as you slip them. The more you pull and wiggle around, the more visible this decrease will become and you'll end up with an oversize and quite noticeable stitch in your project. So, try to knit to work at the very tip of your needles.
Also, you don't actually have to pull your right needle out when you slip them on the left needle. It's already in the right position to knit through the back loop. So you can actually skip step 5!
Difference between K2tog and SSK
SSK creates a left-slanting decrease, while knitting two together (k2tog) creates a right-slanting decrease. Together they form a pair you can use to decrease a project evenly on both sides. SSK is typically used on the right side of your work, while K2tog is used on the left side. This might be a bit counter-intuitive, but you want the stitches to lean left into the fabric, and if you were to use it on the left side, then they would lean outwards.
If you take a close look at the swatch above, you can see how both stitches look like in a piece of fabric. I knitted SSK and K2tog on BOTH sides of the swatch so you can see how the respective decrease looks like on either side of the work. And on the left side at the very top of the swatch, you can clearly see what happens if you use a left-leaning decrease on the left side.
Personally speaking, I have to say that both sides have their charm. But typically, you create the most harmonic look when you use k2tog on the left side and SSK on the right side of a project.
How to let your SSK knitting decreases look a bit neater
SSK decreases can often look quite wonky – especially if you don’t knit at the very tip of your needles and accidentally pulled out the loops too much. There are three ways to improve the classic method.:
- Purl the remaining stitch through the back loop on the return row. This untwists the stitches a bit and lets them appear a bit more like stockinette stitch (Note: If you are knitting in the round, then you obviously would have to knit them through back loop).
- Slip the first stitch knitwise and then slip the second stitch as if to purl. This is also known as Slip, Slip purl, knit (SSPK) and will lay quite a bit flatter this way. But you will also be able to see both stitches layered on top of each other.
- Knit k2tog left instead – complicated but super neat.
- Knit SKP instead – easy and quite clean.
- The neatest option, in my opinion, is knitting an SSP from the wrong side.
Reading tip: The ultimate list of knitting decreases – centered, right-, and left-leaning alternatives for every project.