Shaping Knitted Fabric using Visible Decreases

When it comes to shaping knitted fabric, it’s sometimes easy to focus on the big picture (the measurements of the individual pieces) and see the increases and decreases that are used to accomplish the shaping as merely a means to an end. But many knitwear designers actually highlight the particular characteristics of these shaping elements in order to enhance their designs.

Case in point: two designers in the Winter 2017 issue of Interweave Knits, Mary Anne Benedetto and Sarah Solomon, used “full-fashioned” decreases to shape the raglan armholes and sleeve caps of their sweaters.

Mary Anne: “I sought out this way of doing decreases because I wanted a decrease that looked more like full-fashioned decreases found in designer ready-to-wear.”

Learn how to knit visible decreases to give your handknit sweaters a designer look.

Both of these sweaters feature visible decreases. Get both patterns in Interweave Knits Winter 2017!

Sarah: “In such a simple design I wanted to use the decreases as a design element. Ksp and skp are more prominent on a stockinette background than k2tog and ssk, and when stacked along the armhole with the slant of the decrease in opposition to the shape of the raglan they make a refined accent that leads the eye up toward the neckline.”

Because both designers wanted the decreases to be very visible, they placed them two stitches in from the edge (or, in the case of the Killarney Tunic, two stitches in from the slip-stitch rib border). In addition, they switched the “usual” order of the decreases so that, instead of having them slant in the same direction as the edges, they slant in the opposite direction. Finally, they chose decreases that would result in a more pronounced appearance than either “k2tog” or “ssk”; instead, they used “ksp” for the right-slanting decrease and “skp” for the left-slanting decrease.

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Sleeve cap of the Limerick Henley

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L: Ksp decreases worked at the beginning of right-side rows on the Limerick Henley
R: Skp decreases worked at the end of right-side rows on the Limerick Henley

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Back armhole shaping of the Killarney Tunic

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L: Ksp decreases worked at the beginning of right-side rows on the Killarney Tunic
R: Skp decreases worked at the end of right-side rows on the Killarney Tunic

I’d always assumed that the two right-slanting decreases and two left-slanting decreases were interchangeable because the path the new stitch takes through the two stitches in the row below is the same. So why did the designers choose one type of right- or left-slanting decrease over another? I decided to knit a couple of swatches to see if I’d be able to see a difference, and I was surprised at the results. In the first swatch (on the left), I used k2tog on the right side and ssk on the left side, and in the second swatch (on the right), I used ksp on the right side and skp on the left side. All the decreases were worked three stitches in from the edge.

Learn the difference between two popular kinds of knitting decreases here.

The k2tog and ssk do seem to lie a bit flatter than the ksp and skp. With the ksp, the right leg of the stitch is actually more prominent than the left leg; with the skp, the left leg of the stitch is more prominent than the right leg. It could be that, in the process of pulling one stitch over another (see Figure 2 for each decrease below), the stitch gets pulled more on one side than the other. If this is the case, it’s probably something that could be compensated for if that wasn’t the desired effect.

In any case, I actually like both results. And even though I’ll probably still use k2tog and ssk more often because I like the more subtle effect they produce, it’s nice to know that if I do want a more decorative effect, there are options.

Learn how to knit a KSP decrease.How to knit a KSP

To work the ksp, knit one stitch, then slip this knit stitch from the right needle back to the left needle without twisting it (Figure 1). Use the point of the right needle to pass the second stitch on the left needle over the first stitch and off the left needle (Figure 2). The completed decrease produces a fairly pronounced right-slanting decrease (Figure 3).

Learn how to knit a SKP decrease here.How to knit a SKP

To work the skp, slip a stitch knitwise to the right needle (Figure 1), knit the next stitch, then use the tip of the left needle to pass the slip stitch over the knit stitch (Figure 2). The completed decrease produces a fairly pronounced left-slanting decrease (Figure 3). Note: Slipping the first stitch knitwise reverses the orientation of the stitch on the needle so that the right leg is in back of the needle and the left leg is in front. That way, the stitch won’t be twisted when it’s passed over the knit stitch.

—Joni