Friday, September 28, 2007

A new method for left-leaning decreases: SYTK (slip, yank, twist, knit)--part 3 of the series "right and left decreases"

includes 10 illustrations

Here is a new method for left-leaning decreases, a method I call SYTK. SYTK stands for "slip, yank, twist, knit." Of all the variations on left-leaning decreases I've experimented with over the years, I think this one lies closest to the intersection of good looks and ease of creation. Some alternatives may look as good, but they are more complicated to make, some alternatives may be as easy to make, but don't look as good. The advantages of the SYTK are these:
  • it can be worked from the front (a major advantage, to me, at any rate)
  • it requires no re-ordering of stitches (the stitches are never taken off the needles and reversed in position--a procedure which, although it leads to good results, I find annoying and time consuming).
  • it gives a nearly perfect match for k2tog
Below are the how-to illustrations. Do not be discouraged that there seem to be so many steps--the whole business takes only a few seconds. The point of having so many illustrations is to leave no doubt about how to do a SYTK--every little part has its own picture, and that'll avoid confusion, I believe. At the end is a photo comparing SYTK with k2tog. The post finishes with a tip on perfecting the SYTK in grabby wool.

THE SYTK, illustrated

Step 1 (below) Slip the first (red) stitch from the left needle to the right needle. Slip the stitch KNITWISE (left arm forward) as shown. This is the SLIP part of the SYTK maneuver--the part represented by the first letter "S."
Step 2 (below) Leaving the red stitch on the right needle, insert the tip of the right needle into the next stitch (green) on the left needle. Be sure the tip of the right needle is inserted under the right arm of the green stitch, as shown. Now comes the fun part: making sure that you have enough of each needle inserted to anchor the stitch completely, perform the "Y" part of the SYTK--the YANK! Pull the right arm of the green stitch towards you with the right needle at the same time as you pull the left arm of the green stitch away from you with the left needle, thus opening up the stitch as much as possible. You don't want to bend your needle or stretch the actual fibers of the stitch, but you certainly want to YANK enough to pull all the slack yarn from both surrounding stitches into the green stitch.
Step 3a (below) Begin the TWIST ("T") part of the SYTK decrease by removing the right needle tip, thus returning the now-enlarged green stitch to the tip of the left needle.
Step 3b (below) Using the tip of the right needle, TWIST the green stitch, and return it to the tip of the left needle, as shown. Check to be sure that the formerly right arm lies ON TOP, as illustrated by the little PURPLE ARROW. If the stitch is twisted the wrong way, take it off and re-twist it so that it lays as shown--this is fairly important to the final appearance.
Step 3c (below) Return the much-enlarged, now-twisted green stitch to the tip of the left needle.
Step 3d (below) Slip the red stitch onto the tip of the left needle, taking care that it remains LEFT ARM FORWARD. This ends the "Twist" portion of SYTK, the "T."
Step 4 (below) Insert the right needle into the BACK ARMS of the red and green stitches, as shown, and twitch the standing yarn over the right needle, in position to knit a stitch.
FINISHED SYTK (below) Draw the standing yarn through the red and the green stitches to make a new stitch (blue). This is the final, the KNIT step of SYTK--the "K."
You should now have a rather nice left-leaning decrease looking at you from your right needle. The reason this works is because it mimics the situation you get with a k2tog. Recall from the first post of this series that a k2tog is performed in such a manner as to squeeze the hidden second stitch AND ALL ITS EXCESS YARN behind the first stitch. Recall from the second post of the series that both ssk and psso leave the first stitch on the surface of the fabric, together with all the excess yarn it has accumulated from being manipulated. By adding a YANK step to SYTK, the excess yarn from the surface stitch is all transferred to the hidden second stitch, and by adding a TWIST step, that excess yarn is prevented from slipping out again. Further, the twist step aligns the only visible part of the second stitch (the arm which started off as the right arm, but was twisted forward to become the left arm) to lie in the same direction as the top stitch. In other words, the TWIST step makes the only visible portion of the second (green) stitch follow the left-leaning orientation of the top (red) stitch. Here is the photographic evidence:

A final note: In grabby yarn, the top (red) stitch may not be completely re-oriented by the slip maneuvers you have performed on it in steps 1 and 3d. This lack of orientation reveals itself in a proportionately shorter right arm, and a proportionately longer left arm, and disturbs the appearance of the left decrease column. Therefore, in a grabby yarn you may wish to add one further step.

Per the illustration below, after the decrease has been finished, insert the tip of the left needle under the right arm of the already-knitted top (red) stitch. GENTLY adjust the red stitch to lengthen the right arm while simultaneously shortening the left arm, and you will see that the stitch orientation improves. Be MILD in your adjustment--you only want to redistribute yarn in from the left arm of the top stitch to the right arm of the same stitch. You don't want to tug so hard that you undo all your previous effort--you don't want to drag slack back from the second (green) stitch and dump it back into the top (red) stitch.
Dear readers--have fun with this, and I hope you like it as well as I do!

--TECHknitter (You have been reading TECHknitting on "SYTK (slip, yank, twist, knit), a new method for left-leaning decreases.")


Anonymous June said...

Your explanations are crystal clear - I am thoroughly enjoying this series. Brava!h

September 29, 2007 at 4:37 AM  
Blogger Mary-Lou said...

... ahhh! light bulb goes on - it's the yank / twist part that I hadn't thought of. I already do the bit where you adjust the arms of the first stitch. great stuff, this has probably saved me several weeks worth of swatching!

September 29, 2007 at 6:11 AM  
Blogger Vicki Knitorious said...

I can't wait to try this! And I just happen to be making mitered mittens!

Have I said, "Welcome Back!" yet? I meant to...

September 29, 2007 at 7:30 AM  
Anonymous LeeAnn said...

I can't wait to try it! Thanks so much for sharing the fruits of your hard work!

September 29, 2007 at 7:42 AM  
Blogger Micki said...

Awesome. I've always done the "yank" bit with my SSKs, but now I can't wait to try the "twist" part.

September 29, 2007 at 7:55 AM  
Blogger Amelia, belle of The Bellwether said...

Wow! a new egg in my basket! Thanks ever so much, and I hope you had a nice summer break. I missed you!

September 29, 2007 at 10:18 AM  
Blogger Tracy said...

Ooooo, nice, very nice!

September 29, 2007 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger Jesse said...

This is a great technique! I've just tried it and (not surprisingly) it works brilliantly. Your instructions are really clear. Thank you!

September 30, 2007 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger Mitz said...

I have just found this blog and skimmed through it. I am sooo impressed!
So much knolledge, so detailed and so clear. Fantastic!

And soon I'm on to asking: Have you any plans to make a post on colorwork, intarsia and it's variations?

September 30, 2007 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I experimented with this technique on a WIP (a scarf) and find that it looks different on the reverse side compared to a SSK. Not bad, but noticeably different. Have you tried using the SYTK with a lace pattern or other pattern that is meant to be viewable from both sides, and if so, what do you think?

September 30, 2007 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

Lisa--Do you mean that the SYTK looks different than an SSK, or do you mean that it looks different than a k2tog? If you mean the former (ssk) then this ought not to create too many problems, because the SSK would be used as an alternative to the SYTK--you'd really pretty much never see the two in the same work--unless you switch partway in a WIP-which--ah--lighbulb comes on--is what you're thinking of doing isn't it? Well to tell you the truth, I never did switch from SSK to SYTK in the same piece of work. I'm really sorry that I have no advice better than the obvious--if it doesn't look good...wait until the next project to try out the SYTK, rather than switching partway.

If, on the other hand, you mean that the SYTK looks different than the k2tog on the back, that hasn't been my experience. If that IS what you do mean, can you decribe further what doesn't look the same to you? I have used the SYTK in openwork as a partner to the k2tog, and it looked OK to me (well--as Ok as the reverse side of anything ever looks...)

Thank you for writing, sorry I don't have a better answer if you meant ssk, and let me know further if you meant that SYTK doesn't look like k2tog.


September 30, 2007 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I figured mixing the SYTK and SSK in one project was not a good idea - I just tried it out on on this project because it happened to be on the needles and was easy to test with.

Mostly I was curious whether in a completed two-sided project the end result would be acceptable (on the "wrong" side) when using SYTK. Sounds like it is. And maybe the difference I noticed (a bump that didn't appear with SSK) was due to my inexperience.

In any case, I'll use the SYTK method on my next sock project since it definitely has a nice smooth appearance on the right side - thanks for the lesson!

September 30, 2007 at 5:27 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

It's vaguely troubling for me to realize how eagerly I've been awaiting this post. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

October 1, 2007 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger AuntieAnn said...

Thank you, this is very interesting.

I'm a little curious whether you have tried Cat Bordhi's suggestion of twisting the stitch (the blue one in your diagram) when you work it in the round following the decrease? I think it improves the look of my line of decreases. Now I am curious to try this method.

October 1, 2007 at 3:55 PM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

Hi Auntieann: Thank you for writing. Do you mean "twisting" as in crossing the stitch or do you mean twisting as in changing the stitch orientation? If you mean crossing the stitch (so that a twist, such as the one pointed to by the little purple arrow in an illustration in the post) shows on the surface, I would think that would interrupt the stitch line, and so never thought of trying it. If you mean changing the stitch orientation, I did try this as one of the innumerable variations during the course of my "experiments," but concluded that the amount of loose yarn it left on the surface of the fabric was not a pleasing look. Have you had good luck with this procedure, and if so, how did you do it? --TECHknitter

October 1, 2007 at 4:27 PM  
Blogger AuntieAnn said...

Hi -- I mean that on the next row, I work the blue stitch through the back leg, making it slant slightly to the left and, I suppose, tightening it up slightly. This seems to give the line of decreases a better, smoother look, less of the zig-zag, stairstep look I otherwise get. Perhaps it takes up a bit of the excess yarn that is otherwise left in the top stitch of the decrease?

And BTW, my SKP's look better than my SSK's, which is the opposite of your result, I know, but there it is.

October 1, 2007 at 4:59 PM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

Hi Auntieann: When I try this, it loosens the stitch--you must have a special trick in your wrist or something! Also, generally skp (aka psso) looks worse than ssk. Two questions: 1) May I ask whether you are a combined knitter? 2) how does SYTK work for you as written (witout twisting the blue stitch)--does it lay smoothly like the photo in the picture illustration, or is it more bumpy, like the photo of the ssk and the psso in the previous post?--TECHknitter

October 1, 2007 at 5:25 PM  
Blogger AuntieAnn said...

Hi --

I haven't had a chance to try your decrease yet (darn it, I still have to work for a living), but I will. I am not a combined knitter, I'm a convert to continental knitting, though. Shouldn't matter, though, right?

When I get a chance, I can try to take some photos of my results from the way I do the SKP, both with and without the twisting in the next row (cuz sometimes I forget, of course). Probably not until tomorrow, though, I have to go to a PITA meeting at school tonight (fundraising Board).


October 1, 2007 at 5:57 PM  
Blogger The Bullknitter said...

Dear Techy, I have been eagerly awaiting this post all summer. I am just wondering if working a ssk by slipping the first as if to knit and slipping the second as if to purl and then knitting those two together is kindof what you are explaining. I found that description in an old knitting book and have been using it as I like it better than psso. What do you think? I am going to try the yank and see if it makes a difference.

October 1, 2007 at 10:38 PM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

Dear Bullknitter: First of all, thanks for your patience in waiting for this post. Thanks also for a being a reader.

The idea of slipping the second stitch as if to purl is one of the first variations on SSK which I tried. It WAS an improvement over SSK, so I agree with your "old book" about that. However, although it is undoubtedly an improvement, it isn't all that much of one. Over time, I added the step of YANKING and then TWISTING that second stitch, instead of simply slipping it purlwise. If you try the "full SYTK," please let me know how you like it, and thank you again for writing.

October 2, 2007 at 6:51 AM  
Anonymous Joanna said...

Hi Techknitter, thank you for this post! I never thought of introducing a "yank" step, and though I haven't tried it yet, I can imagine it helping a lot. However, I'm confused a bit by your directions and your illustrations... specifically, there seems to be an inconsistency between steps 3d and 4. In 3d, the right leg of the green stitch crosses in front of the left leg, then wraps around the back of the left needle. If you knit both stitches through the back loop from this position, you'd get a full twist in the green stitch. In step 4, the green stitch seems to be oriented in the same way as all the other stitches on the needle, with the right leg coming up in front and the left leg wrapping around the back. This would give a half-twist in the green stitch, which is what you've shown in the final image, but it also wouldn't require an extra twisting step. So is the green stitch supposed to have a half-twist at the end, or a full-twist?

I hope my question makes sense... sorry to be so long-winded, but I'm amazed at how closely this decreases seems to match your k2tog's and I just want to make sure I get it right!

October 2, 2007 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

JOANNA!!! *THANK YOU* for your eagle-eyed catch. I have changed the last three illustrations and re-posted the entry on SYTK, crediting YOU with catching this error. I believe the illustrations will make more sense now--and you will see that there IS a full twist in the finished SYTK. THANKS AGAIN--TECHknitter

October 2, 2007 at 11:52 AM  
Anonymous Barbara said...

Thanks so much for such detailed explanations and wonderful graphics. Though I've been knitting a long time, your site has given me tools to improve my skills and make knitting even more enjoyable.

October 2, 2007 at 12:08 PM  
Anonymous Joanna said...

Haha, thank *you*! The pictures make a lot more sense now, I can't wait to get home and try it. :)

October 2, 2007 at 4:36 PM  
Blogger Lillian said...

I'll have to try this. I do a combo of SSK, K2Tbl, and the yank. I slip & return the first stitch so the orientation is changed. Then I do a k2tbl and as I'm slipping the stitches off the left needle, I yank the 2nd stitch. Since the first stitch had the orientation changed, it's not twisted when I do the K2TBL.

October 4, 2007 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger knittingjuju said...

My hero.... again...

October 6, 2007 at 7:16 PM  
Anonymous aimeejessica said...

i recently discovered this post through a recent discussion on ravelry - you've solved a frustration i've had for years with my decreases. my thanks are unending. your site is genius.

August 28, 2008 at 5:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been working a raglan in the round & been frustrated with the good & evil twins. For left leaning, I came up with slip the 1st st knitwise then replace on the left hand needle then k2 tog through the back loops thus twisting the 2nd st. Better than SSK BUT NOT nearly as good as inserting the yank. Thanks!

May 17, 2009 at 2:20 PM  
Blogger Pumpkin Pie Baby said...

I'm making my daughter a sweater and was unhappy with how the decreases for the sleeves were looking. I found your instructions and my left leaning decreases are now as invisible as the k2togs. Thank you!

June 25, 2009 at 3:26 PM  
OpenID sajbat said...

LOVE! As always, another amazing tip to make my knitting look as good as possible. Now, if there were only a way to fix all the SSK's that I've done on the garment so far...

July 30, 2009 at 3:18 PM  
Blogger Cat said...

Thank you for this, it works great! I have a question about parts 3c and 3d. I've been skipping these steps (leaving the red and green stitches on the right needle), then slipping the left needle into the front arms of the red and green stitches and knitting (like ssk). I think this does exactly the same thing as described in steps 3c, 3d, and 4. Is there an additional benefit (that I am missing by doing it this way) for slipping the stitches back to the left needle first?

Thanks again, I've learned so much from your web site.

mwaa on ravelry

December 1, 2009 at 5:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, this is truly a revelation for me. Now my SSKs are completely indistinguishable from my K2togs. Thank you!!!!

July 26, 2010 at 9:54 PM  
Blogger Ghost of a Rose said...

I'm wondering if this would work as well for Norwegian Twined Knitting, since in that technique the two adjacent stitches are worked from different yarns.

Has anyone tried it?

January 29, 2011 at 11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was magic.

March 5, 2011 at 9:44 PM  
Blogger Laina Shockley said...

Hi there! The SYTK is wonderful! A tremendous improvement over SSK. I tried it on a raglan sleeve project a while back, and it's been my go-to left-leaning decrease ever since. Thank you so much for sharing!

A photo of the stitches from my original project can be found here:

July 31, 2011 at 1:08 AM  
Anonymous Anna said...

Thanks!! I've done some research on this topic and thought it was impossible to make left decrease look as neat as the right one. This is so cool and explanations so clear! My only complaint is that now I've done my left mitten with SYTK decreases, I might want to reknit the right mitten, which has old ugly SSK! :)

February 15, 2012 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger joulesB said...

I had been working on the assumption that it was normal for my SSK's to look wonky. Then I tried this, instant neatness, and it doesn't take more time and is easy to do.


February 20, 2012 at 9:35 AM  
Blogger Alterknit Universe said...

This is amazing, THANK YOU!

October 12, 2012 at 8:53 PM  
Anonymous rililie said...

Hello there!
I know this post is quite old, but I thought you'd be interested in another method for a neat looking left-leaning decrease that I came up with by employing the same logic as you did, dear techknitter: I call it the LK2tog
and I made a tutorial on my site...

Here is the link:
Please Welcome the LK2tog

Since I regard you as our great knitting-master, I wanted to share... to show my progress, like any pupil would do...

December 15, 2013 at 3:15 AM  
Blogger TECHknitter said...

Thank you Rillie, for writing and sharing your new technique. We are, all of us, always moving the craft further along. Thanks again,and best regards, TK

December 16, 2013 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

very interesting and wonderful, clear illustrations thank you!

January 30, 2014 at 7:18 AM  
Blogger Ellen Renegar said...

The results in my knitting are beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this technique. Blessings.

March 29, 2014 at 10:51 AM  

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