Beyond K2tog/Ssk

By Tabetha Hedrick

Most of us are already familiar with the usual decreases: K2tog, that beautiful right-slanting decrease (and it really is the most beautiful decrease!) and Ssk (slip, slip, knit), the left-leaning opposite. These two workhorses have served us well when we’ve needed to work shaping into our projects. So, we should be pretty content with our decreasing situation, right? No!

In this post, you are going to learn the different decrease variations, as well as how to decrease 2, 3 and even 4 stitches in distinctive directions. Applicable to nearly all aspects of knitting, the decreasing tricks you are about to learn will encourage you to explore new combinations, both functional and decorative, when shaping your armholes, shawls, waistlines or even sock toes.

First, let’s clear something up about the Left-Leaning Decrease; there’s more than one way to decrease that 1 stitch and each variation produces the same result. For some, one method might look slightly tighter and more uniform, so I encourage you to try out each technique and choose the one that most suits you for your “go to.”

  • SSK Option 1 (my personal choice)—slip the next stitch as if to knit, the next as if to purl, then insert your LH needle into the front of those two stitches together and knit.

  • SSK Option 2—slip the next stitch as if to knit, the next as if to knit, then insert your LH needle into the front of those two stitches together and knit.
  • SSK Option 3—slip the next stitch as if to purl, the next as if to purl, then insert your LH needle into the front of those two stitches together and knit (this does tend to result in the most sloppy look).
  • S1-k1-psso—slip the next stitch as if to knit, knit 1 stitch and then pass the slipped stitch over.

Suppose you need to work double decreases, that is, to decrease 2 stitches in one swift move? You’ll often find this in herringbone lace patterns, but it is helpful when you need more rapid decreases while shaping a sweater armhole, sleeve, waistline or more. The S1-k2tog-psso is often the route I go.


The last two left-leaning decreases I’m about to show allow you to rapidly decrease 3 or 4 stitches at a time. While they aren’t the prettiest things to happen to knitting, they can provide interesting texture for raglan sleeve shaping or toe shaping, as well as get you ready for more advanced lacework.


We all know and love the k2tog decrease. Fast, efficient and smooth as a baby’s bum (well, almost).

Yet, by mimicking this stitch, we can decrease 2 or 3 stitches at a time in the same manner! If you need to decrease 2 stitches at once, insert your RH needle into the next 3 stitches and knit together. Got 3 stitches? Same thing, except grab 4 of those next stitches—essentially, you add 1 extra stitch to the total number of stitches you wish to decrease. Again, these are helpful when rapid decreases are needed and/or when a little visual interest is required.

The k5tog stitch is a little trickier because, well, that many stitches can be a lot to jam a knitting needle through. A crochet hook comes in handy at times like this (and once you master this, you will easily be ready to advance into the world of nupps!).

The last decrease I’d like to share with you is one of my personal favorites—the Central Decrease. This double decrease (2 stitches decreased) is perfect for raglan sleeves or circular yokes worked from the bottom up, for skirt shaping and even makes toe shaping just different enough for personal satisfaction. Border it with eyelets for a real eye-catching piece!

I hope the mini picture tutorials have opened your eyes to the world beyond K2tog and Ssk and that you are excited about the many shaping opportunities now at your disposal. Knitting is an art form, both functionally and decoratively, and so it is only natural that the realm of decreasing performs just as interestingly.


Tabetha lives by the belief that joy comes when fully participating in the present moment, especially when it comes to fiber. Surrounding herself with yarn through knitting, designing, spinning and teaching ensures that blissful continuity. Tabetha is a regular contributor to Creative Knitting magazine. For patterns and a class schedule, visit her website at


9 Responses to Beyond K2tog/Ssk

  1. Laurie says:

    This was so helpful. I thought I knew all there was to know about SSK , but the slip to knit then slip to purl is a new one for me! I actually read this entire post with my morning coffee instead of reading the paper and catching up on the Olympics! Great job!

  2. Johna Wrzosek says:

    I just read your post on k2tog/ssk. Do you have a book that has these instructions in them? I am just learning to knit and I am having a hard time finding explanations for stitches. Thanks

    • Kara says:

      Hi Johna,
      If you are a subscriber to Creative Knitting magazine, you’ll see these stitches in our Knitting School section, located in the back of every issue.

      Hope this helps!

  3. Shirley Pizziferri says:

    This was very helpful. I just finished something that required knitting 3 together and it was small yarn; very hard. Next time I’ll use a crochet hook!

  4. Linda Goldenberg says:

    I’m confounded by ‘knit even for 9 rows, then remove markers’. This comes after directions for Decrease row (k2tog before marker, k1, ssk). I thought ‘knit even’ meant NOT to decrease or increase, but when it says to remove marker AFTER 9th row, does this mean I continue to decrease for the 9? Then pattern begins the chart… Thank you for help on the KNIT EVEN bit.

    • Jaclyn says:

      Hi Linda,

      You are correct, knit even means to not decrease or increase. They may say to remove the marker if you are going to be starting the charted pattern on the next row.

      I hope this helps!

  5. Rugaya Jakoet says:

    Hi Kara

    Greetings from Cape Town, South Africa.

    Thank you soooo much for this note on DECREASES. Has come in very handy because I needed extra decreases than pattern pattern allows.


  6. I am doing double rib in a raglan sleeve and have been confronted by decreasing together a pearl and a knit also a knit and a pearl for ssk. Please, please can you help me.

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