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In this blog post, we will teach you how to do the SSK decrease and give you a few tips and tricks to make your SSKs look even neater. So, grab your needles, and let’s get started!
In knitting, there are a few different ways to decrease stitches. One of the most common knitting decreases is the SSK, which stands for “slip, slip, knit.”
What is an SSK?
SSK, or “Slip Slip Knit,” is a left-leaning decrease that reduces two stitches to one. It is worked by slipping two stitches from the left needle to the right needle, then knitting them together through the back loops.
Abbreviations in Knitting Patterns
In knitting patterns, you’ll see the “slip slip knit” technique abbreviated as SSK.
Terms to know: Knitwise and Purlwise
You’ll also see the term knitwise and purlwise. Knitwise means “as if to knit.” So if the instructions say to slip a stitch knitwise, they mean to insert your right-hand needle into the stitch from left to right, as if you were going to knit it. Likewise, purlwise means “as if to purl”. So if the instructions say to slip a stitch purlwise, they mean to insert your right-hand needle into the stitch from right to left, as if you were going to purl it.
When to Use the SSK Technique
You can use the SSK technique whenever you want to decrease the number of stitches by one. Since SSKs lean to the left, they are often used on the right-hand side of a garment. That way, the SSK will lean in toward the center of the garment.
For the same reason, SSKs are often paired with K2tog decreases, which lean to the right. You’ll find these pairs of mirrored decreases in sock toes, raglan sleeve sweaters, and the tops of mittens.
How to SSK
Here’s how to make an SSK:
Step 1: Slip the first stitch knitwise (knitwise means “as if to knit”). Then, slip the second stitch knitwise. (Slip these stitches, but don’t actually knit them. Instead, just slide them knitwise over to the right needle.)
Step 2: Insert the left-hand needle through the front of both slipped stitches from left to right. (Notice how it looks like you’re about to knit the two slipped stitches together through the back loop.)
Step 3: Knit the two slipped stitches together through the back loop. To do this, wrap the working yarn counter-clockwise around the right needle tip, and pull the yarn through both stitches. Let them fall off the needle.
There you go! The SSK is complete. You will now have a new left-leaning stitch on the right needle and one less stitch overall in your stitch count.
Let’s look at the result: The right stitch lies on top, and the left stitch is underneath. The decrease looks as if it’s leaning up and to the left.
The ‘Why’ of the SSK technique
At this point, you may be asking yourself, “What is the point of slipping the two stitches if I’m just going to knit them?”
Great question – let’s talk it through. If you skip the “slip, slip” and just knit the two stitches through the back loop, the finished decrease will have two twisted stitches. (Remember, working through the back loop twists stitches.)
You might like how the twisted stitches look, or you might think they stand out too much against the background of plain stockinette.
So, if you want the SSK decrease to match the rest of your fabric, you’ll want the stitches to be untwisted. And that’s where the “slip, slip” comes in.
Slipping the two stitches knitwise changes their stitch mount, or twists them. Then, the next step of knitting them together through the back loops untwists them, returning the stitches to their original, untwisted orientation.
So by working an SSK this way, you can get a left-leaning decrease with untwisted stitches.
Tips for Working SSKs
SSKs can sometimes look a little loose, especially against a solid stockinette stitch background. But don’t worry; here are a few tips to make your SSKs look neat and tidy.
- Work the decrease at the tips of your needles to avoid stretching out the loops of the stitches. You don’t want to create any extra slack that will show up in the finished decrease.
- Make sure that you knit the two stitches together through the back loops. If you knit them together through the front loops, it will create a right-leaning decrease instead of a left-leaning decrease.
- If you’re still unhappy with the look of your SSK, try one of the modified versions in the next section.
2 Tricks for Neater SSKs
The problem with left-leaning decreases like the SSK is that they often look a little sloppy. Knitters have come up with several tricks to improve the appearance of the traditional SSK. Here are two of the most common modifications.
Modified SSK, sometimes called an “Improved SSK.” This technique helps the SSK lie a little flatter. To work it, you’ll slip the first stitch as if to knit, then slip the second stitch as if to purl. Then, you’ll knit the two stitches together through the back loop.
The result of this technique is that the top stitch will remain untwisted, while the stitch underneath will become twisted. The idea here, is that the twisted stitch will take up some of the slack and make the decrease look tidier.
K-tbl/p-tbl on the next row. In this modification, you won’t be making any changes to how you knit the SSK, but you will change how you work the following row. To work this technique, knit an SSK as usual. Then, on the next row/round, work the decrease stitch through the back loop.
The result of this technique is that the stitch above the SSK will become twisted, and lean slightly to the left. This can reduce the zig-zag appearance that a line of stacked SSKs often has.
Other Left-Leaning Decreases
Here are a few more left-leaning knitting decreases you may encounter your next knitting project.
SKP, or SKPO, or “Sl1-K1-PSSO
All three of these abbreviations refer to the same decrease, which is to slip 1, knit 1, and pass the slipped stitch over. SKP is often found in older knitting patterns, while newer patterns call for SSKs.
The SKP and the SSK decreases are basically identical – they’re just worked in a different way.
To make an SKP: Slip one stitch as if to purl. Knit the next stitch as usual. Then, using your left-hand needle, lift the slipped stitch up and over the stitch you just knit, and drop it from the right-hand needle.
The SKP decrease might be easier to work in some situations, since you’re only manipulating one stitch at a time. However, the motion of “passing the slipped stitch over” can really stretch out the stitch, resulting in a loose-looking decrease.
If your knitting pattern calls for an SKP, you can substitute an SSK.
Knit two together through the back loop. This is a very simple decrease that’s easy to work. However, it’s pretty noticeable against a background of plain knitting.
To make it: Insert the right needle into the first two stitches through the back loop. Then, knit the two stitches together.
SSP from the wrong side
SSP stands for Slip, Slip, Purl. If you work an SSP on the wrong side of your work, it creates a very tidy left-leaning decrease when viewed from the right side of your work.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some commonly asked questions about the SSK knitting technique.
Is SSK the same as k2tog?
Nope, an SSK and a k2tog are two different knitting decrease techniques. K2tog is a right-leaning decrease, while SSK is a left-leaning decrease. For more information about K2tog, read this tutorial: How to K2tog.
Is SSK knitwise or purlwise?
A great question. The traditional way to work an SSK is to slip both stitches knitwise – in other words, “as if to knit.”
But, many people prefer to knit an improved version of the SSK, in which the first stitch is slipped knitwise, but the second stitch is slipped purlwise. Slipping the second stitch purlwise has the effect of twisting the bottom stitch, so that the overall SSK decrease looks a little neater.
How do I SSK in the round?
Working an SSK in the round is the same as working it in flat rows.
When working an SSK in the round, you’ll slip the two stitches knitwise and then knit them together through their back loops.
How do I make an SSK look neater?
There are a few things you can do to make your SSKs look neater. Check out the “2 Tricks for Neater SSKs” section above for more information.
Can I substitute a different decrease for an SSK?
Yes, there are several other decreases that can be used in place of an SSK, like SKP, K2tog-tbl, or SSP from the wrong side. Check out the “Other Left-Leaning Decreases” section above for more information.
Have any other questions about SSKs? Leave a comment below, and we’ll do our best to answer them.
More Beginner Knitting Tutorials
To learn more about how to knit, check out these related articles.
- How to Knit: Complete Guide for Beginners
- How to Knit the Knit Stitch (k) for Beginners
- How to Knit the Purl Stitch (p) for Beginners
- How to Knit Stockinette Stitch for Beginners
- How to Knit Garter Stitch for Beginners
- How to K2Tog (Knit Two Together) in Knitting
- How to Kitchener Stitch (Grafting) in Knitting
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How to Knit an SSK
How to knit the SSK decrease, also called Slip Slip Knit
- knitting needles
- Slip the first stitch knitwise. Then, slip the second stitch knitwise.
- Insert the left needle through the front of both slipped stitches from left to right. Knit the two slipped stitches together through the back loop.
- The SSK is complete. You will now have a new left-leaning stitch on the right needle and one less stitch overall in your stitch count.
Modified SSK, sometimes called an “Improved SSK." You can use this technique to help the SSK lie a little flatter. To work it, you’ll slip the first stitch knitwise, then slip the second stitch purlwise. Then, you’ll knit the two stitches together through the back loop.
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Sarah Stearns has helped thousands of makers find their next craft project with free patterns and step-by-step tutorials on her blog, sarahmaker.com. Read more.
With over a decade of experience in knitting and crochet, she has been featured in prominent publications like The New York Times, Scientific American, Good Housekeeping, Vox, Apartment Therapy, and Lifehacker.
Tuesday 11th of April 2023
Sarah, I have been knitting and crocheting for a very long time and can usually navigate through at least intermediate patterns. I learned these skills from older generations and improved with experience but I was never taught the “why” of technique. I find your articles to be invaluable; this one on how to SSK (and why!) as well as alternative decreases was very informative. Thank you!
Tuesday 11th of April 2023
Thanks for the kind words, Lisa!