Alternative SSK

I mentioned this technique on the KnitList the other day and it confused a few people. I decided that posting some pictures will show what’s going on.

The goal of an SSK is to decrease one stitch by combining two columns of stitches. It creates a left-slanting stitch because the stitch from the first column will end up on top of the stitch from the second column.

I start my SSK normally, by slipping two stitches to the right-hand needle. These stitches must be slipped as if to knit, in order to change the direction they are mounted on the needle.

Here’s a shot of slipping the first of two stitches:

At this point, the two stitches are facing the correct direction and are sitting on the right needle in the order they need to lay. All that remains is to pull a new stitch through them.

The next two photos show how an SSK is commonly executed.

You take the left needle and insert into the two stitches on the right needle as if you were to knit them.

Then you wrap the yarn (yes, I knit Continental) and complete the knit stitch.

My technique diverges after the two stitches have been slipped to the right needle.

First I insert the left needle into the back of both stitches (in the direction of the arrow in the photo, this is also the direction that you’ll pull the yarn through). I keep the right needle to the back.

Then I wrap the yarn around the right needle:

And finish the stitch by pulling the yarn through the two stitches and moving those stitches off the needle. Again, the arrow points the direction that the yarn moves in.

This is what the finished SSK looks like. The red circle shows the two columns that have been combined. The arrow points out that the stitch from the first column ends up on top. You’ll notice that it is not twisted.

Another way to describe my technique is to insert the left needle so that you could knit the two stitches through the back loop. This does not produce a twisted stitch because first slipping the stitches turns the way they are mounted on the needle.

I prefer this technique to the common SSK because it is simpler to execute and puts less stress on the stitches, minimizing any distortion. You do see some stitch distortion in my photos because I had to exaggerate my motions to get good photographs.

If you have any questions on this technique, feel free to leave them in the comments section and I’ll answer them in an upcoming post.


I’ve gotten a bunch of different feedback on this, from people who said they do it the first or “common” way I describe, from people who say they’ve always done it the second or “alternative” way I describe and that it’s actually the “common” way, and from people who do it the second way and have always been convinced they were doing it the wrong way (there were a surprising number of people in this category).

I didn’t mean to imply that doing it the two different ways gives different results; the net effect should be the same, the stress on the stitches might vary a little.

The description of the last step of SSK is to Knit the two stitches. The motivation for this post came when someone asked how she’d complete the knit stitch if the loops were on the right-hand needle. Someone described it the first way I show, I described it with the second way I show because I think it’s more efficient and less awkward, but it’s counter-intuitive to a normal knit stitch.

I think the interesting thing is that most of the differences come from differing understandings of what “front” and “back” mean with regards to a stitch. Most people make a knit stitch by inserting both needles the same direction into the stitch, as I’ve shown in the first set of photos, into the front of a stitch. So to SSK the way I show in the second set of photos, you actually insert the left needle into the back, contrary to how most would normally knit a stitch. However, it is how you would make a normal knit stitch if you knit Eastern Combined Uncrossed.

Just another example of the fact that there is no one “right” way to knit.