Creative Knitting Newsletter
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Decreasing in Pattern
Many knitting patterns that involve shaping, such as sweaters and vests that decrease gradually through the armhole, will include this or a similar phrase: Decrease at the beginning and end of every fourth row, maintaining pattern as established. This is easy enough to understand if you're working stockinette stitch -- simply decrease stitches as instructed and continue knitting all right-side rows and purling all wrong-side rows.
While it's easy to understand this in theory, it may not be obvious how to do this for complicated stitch patterns. If you're going to sew your seam with mattress stitch, you need to keep one edge stitch in stockinette stitch throughout and make your decreases after the beginning edge stitch and before the ending edge stitch. Let's look at a couple of examples.
Decreasing in 2x2 Rib Stitch
Our example is a 2x2 rib that begins with two knit stitches on each end. The first and last knit stitches are edge stitches, so the first decrease will be worked over the second knit stitch and the following purl stitch. If you work p2tog here, you'll end up with one edge stitch followed by p2, k2, etc. At the other end of the row you'll work the decrease over the third stitch from the end, which is a purl stitch, and the second-to-last stitch, which is a knit stitch. This would be worked as ssp (slip 1, slip 1, purl the two slipped stitches together).
Here's how you would work a series of decreases on 2x2 rib, decreasing every fourth row.
|Photo 1: Decreasing as described keeps all the rib columns orderly.|
Row 1: K1, p2tog, p1, k2, *p2, k2; rep from * to last 4 sts, p1, ssp, k1.
Rows 2-4: Knit the knits and purl the purls.
Row 5: K1, p2tog, k2, *p2, k2; rep from * to last 4 sts, ssp, k1.
Rows 6-8: Knit the knits and purl the purls.
Row 9: K1, k2tog, k1, *p2, k2; rep from * to last 6 sts, p2, k1, ssk, k1.
Rows 10-12: Knit the knits and purl the purls.
Row 13: K1, k2tog, *p2, k2; rep from * to last 5 sts, p2, ssk, k1.
Rows 14-16: Knit the knits and purl the purls.
Repeat these 16 decrease rows as necessary.
Photo 1 shows this series of decreases worked once.
Let's say you're working an allover 3x3 left-crossing cable with two purl stitches between. If you stop turning the cables as soon as you no longer have a full count of six stitches, you'll end up with rather large blocks of stockinette stitch above the outer cables (see Photo 2). This may not bother you, and that's fine.
However, you can continue working stitches into pattern when you are left with five or four. On the cable-turning row where you have only five stitches for the cable, place three stitches on a cable needle and hold in front, knit two, then knit three from the cable needle. To work the cable over four stitches, place three stitches on a cable needle and hold in front, knit one, then knit three from the cable needle. And if you want to maintain texture when you have only three stitches left for a cable, you could work a two-over-one cable (see Photo 3).
If your decrease row coincides with a cable-turning row, and you have a cable right at the edge (being sure you've left an edge stitch for seaming), you can place three stitches on a cable needle and hold in front, knit two together, knit one, then knit three from the cable needle.
|Photo 2: If you stop turning cables as soon as you begin decreasing, you'll have a long stretch of stockinette stitch.||Photo 3: If you continue turning cables on fewer than six stitches, you'll maintain the pattern longer.|
Things can become a bit more complicated when you're decreasing in a lace or other complex stitch pattern. These have to be figured out on a case-by-case basis. Here's an example of a lace pattern that's a multiple of 12 + 1 stitches with an edge stitch on both sides. The Chart 1 shows the pattern intact, and Chart 2 shows how you would work the decreases to get the correct number of stitches and stay in pattern as closely as possible.
|Chart 1: Here is the chart worked without decreases.|
|Chart 2: The decreases are worked so as to maintain pattern as closely as possible.|
|Photo 4: The pattern is maintained through the decrease rows.|
The first decrease is on Row 2, and it's worked by making a double decrease where a single decrease is called for in the pattern at the beginning and end of the row. The same technique is used on Row 6. When we get to Row 10 we've already eliminated two of the four pattern stitches at the beginning and end of the row. If we work the remaining decrease without the corresponding yarn over, we've accomplished the goal of reducing one more stitch.
Every scenario will be a little different, but with a little ingenuity, you can maintain your lovely patterns while decreasing (see Photo 4).