What I learned from the SSK decrease


Have you ever been knitting along and been asked to do something that by the slip of the needle, you think that you alone have discovered a much easier way to do it and wonder why ‘they’ had to make it so complicated? The later on you discover that low and behold, you really didn’t invent a new way of doing something, you were just doing it *wrong.

Ya.  I have experienced these exact circumstances. I knit along, up until I ran out yarn, on the Nightsongs Shawl using what I thought was a much easier and quicker Slip, Slip Knit (SSK) decrease.  Then, one day I’m watching the Elizabeth Zimmermann DVDs and she gets a question from a groupie… er devotie of hers.  The person in the letter asks why you can’t just stick the needle in behind the two stitches you would slip, and then knit them, essentially Knit Through The Back Loop (K tbl) two stiches at once.  Elizabeth says: NO. This is not the same thing.  She shows the two side by side quickly and then moves on, leaving me to understand that I did not invent a new technique.

I totally understood what the writer was asking though, and it is based on the disasterous and difficult to understand if you are a beginner concept of slipping knitwise instead of the more intuitive (IMHO) purlwise.

Here’s what I mean. The first image is of me doing my fancy fingerwork and slip slipping purwise, then kniting into the back of the loops.

not the real ssk

The second image is of me doing the proper SSK (slipped knitwise).

the real SSK

This is what they look like side by side (not a huge difference if I do say so myself)

SSK on the right, not the SSK on the left

But this is what they look like if they are decreased every other round beside the ‘twin’ left leaning decrease, the wonderful K2tog. Not the SSK:

Not the SSK decrease every two rounds

The Real McCoy (SSK)

SSK decrease every two rounds

Woa.  It makes a huge difference, even though the difference, essentially is two twisted vs untwisted stitches.  The twisted stitches somehow make the decreases more invisible.  Wow.

The verdict – my shawl doesn’t look bad because I did a funny decrease the whole way though, in fact I don’t know if anyone but a very experienced and detail oriented knitter could tell, and it was a heck of a lot faster (I’m slow with the SSKs).  So maybe in certain cases, like with lace weight, beside a YO, its all good to use my trick (if my perfectionist-a-type consciousness can handle knowing it every time I look at the garment…)

* Now there is something to be said about ‘mistakes’ or doing something ‘wrong’ often the most exciting revelations and inventions are created in this way.  Think about post-it-notes.


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