The fewer movements you have to make, the more efficient and faster your knitting will be. Here are three tips to make three decreases smoother both in execution and appearance.
SSK (Slip, Slip, Knit)
Let's start with a common left-leaning decrease: slip, slip, knit or SSK in short. The conventional way to knit an SSK decrease is to, one by one, slip two stitches knitwise, return them to the holding needle in their new orientation, and knit them together through the back loops.
Elizabeth Zimmermann and her daughter Meg Swansen are known for inventing an improved SSK, abbreviated SSKi. To knit an improved SSK you slip the first stitch knitwise, the second stitch purlwise, return both stitches to the holding needle, and then knit them together through the back loops. That one small change — slipping the second stitch purlwise — is said to make the SSKi lay flatter than a conventional SSK.
But that's still quite a few movements you have to make. Each time you manipulate a stitch you also risk stretching it. Here's a smoother SSK that's topographically the same as an SSKi but with fewer movements.
Slip the first stitch knitwise and immediately return it back to the holding needle. Don't move or touch that second stitch — just knit the next two stitches together through the back loops. Only the first stitch changes orientation and switches needles back and forth.
SSSK (Slip, Slip, Slip, Knit)
The same principle can be applied to the SSSK left-leaning double decrease. A conventional SSSK is done by slipping three stitches knitwise one at a time, returning them (now with stitch mounts reversed) onto the holding needle, and knitting all three stitches together through the back loops. That's quite a lot of manipulation!
A smoother SSSK is not only more efficient but also easier to do. To knit a smooth SSSK you slip only the first of the three stitches knitwise and return it back. Then just knit the next three stitches together through the back loops.
CDD (Centered Double Decrease)
SSSK and CDD are both double decreases but whereas an SSSK leans to the left, CDD shoots straight up. Conventionally, a CDD is done by first slipping two stitches as if to knit together, knitting the third stitch, and then passing the two slipped stitches over the one you just knit.
If you've ever done an SKP (slip one, knit one, pass slipped stitch over) decrease, you know how pulling that slipped stitch over stretches it out of proportion and makes the decrease stick out in stockinette like a sore thumb.
A smooth CDD starts the same way as a conventional CDD. First, slip two stitches as if to knit together. Then return them back on the holding needle in this new orientation: the stitches are both twisted and crossed over each other. Grab the next three stitches and knit them all together through the back loops.
Once you get familiar with knitting these three decreases, you can reduce your movements even further. Returning the stitch(es) to the holding needle and knitting them together can be combined into one smooth movement. It'll take a bit of needle wriggling but it'll make you an even more efficient — and faster — knitter.
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