How to do the SSK knitting stitch – Slip-Slip-Knit

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.

closeup of the ssk knitting decrease
A swatch decreased with SSK on the right side

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.

a knitted swatch decreased with ssk on the right side

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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Instructions: How to knit SSK

Two knit stitches on the left needle

To knit this left-leaning decrease you have to slip two stitches back and forth in order to twist them, and only then will you knit them together through the back loop. This way, you achieve a very neat decrease line.

Note: I am using a red contrasting yarn in the following tutorial for demonstration purposes only.

Active Time 1 minute
Total Time 1 minute

Instructions

  1. Insert your right needle into the first stitch on your left needle as if to knit.

    insert the needle into the first stitch as to knit
  2. And then simply slip that stitch onto your right needle WITHOUT knitting (you will only twist the stitch that way).

    First stitch slipped on the the right needle
    A lot of patterns will simply write "slip a stitch knitwise" to describe steps 1+2
  3. Insert your right needle into the next stitch as if to knit, and then slip it as well.

    Slipping the second stitch on the right needle as if to knit
    You should now have two slipped stitches on your right needle that are twisted.
  4. Insert your right needle into those two stitches and slip those two stitches back to the left needle again.

    insert the left needle into both stitches on the right needle again
  5. And now, insert your right needle into the back loop of these two stitches
    Knitting two slipped stitches through the back loop for the ssk
  6. 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.

    the finished ssk stitch on the right needle

Notes

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 increase 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

A swatch to show the difference between SSK and Ktog
A swatch where I decreased stitches on BOTH sides with various decreases (and increases) to show you the difference.

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.

a swatch decreased with k2tog on the left and ssk on the right side to show the lean
A swatch decreased with k2tog on the left and SSK on the right side for a balanced look.

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

A swatch with a couple of different left-leaning alternatives side by side

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.

So, This is how to knit ssk. Feel free to comment with your questions!

SSK knitting stitch - how to slip slip knit

5 thoughts on “How to do the SSK knitting stitch – Slip-Slip-Knit”

  1. I’m missing something?! I can’t see the difference between k2tog and ssk? (I am an absolute beginner and this is like a minefield of foreign language that I’ll never understand!) What is the point of slipping the 2 stitches to move them back to knit? It seems pointless to move two stitches over then back again just to knit them? What am I missing? Sorry, I’m really dumb at this!!

    Reply
    • I don’t quite understand your question – there’s a whole paragraph about the difference?
      By slipping the stitches you change their orientation. So when you knit them together through the backloop, there resulting stitches appear balanced (and not twisted) in your finished work. If you don’T slip them, the result will be a twisted stitch.

      Reply
    • The ‘slip’ is a slight misconception. When I think of ‘slip’ I imagine a shower curtain slipping and sliding from one side to another, so then to slip a stitch back and forth doesn’t seem like it’s doing anything BUT, what is actually happening is the stitch is twisted BEFORE it is slipped. Have a look at step 1 again, see the stitch is facing you on the left needle, when you ‘slip’ it to the right in step 2 the stitch part facing you at the front on the left needle is now at the back of the right needle, so it has actually twisted, very different from the shower curtain idea! 🙂 Best thing you can do is knit a few rows and then try it out [it’s what I did 😉 ] Hope that helps!

      Reply
  2. I loved the video, very clear and easy to understand, the only problem I have is that I knit through the back loop. It ends up being k2tog. Would you recommend doing the same thing through the front loop then? Thanks

    Reply

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