Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Odds and Ends
A few weeks back, when the new Kiwi newsletter for Spring came out, I read it while standing at the counter in the shop, and was horrified to realize that I had made a huge, honking typo in my Tips From The Expert column. Egads! How to right that huge wrong? I announced a contest here on the blog, with the prize of one of my patterns to the first person who spotted my boo-boo and gave me the correct answer. Almost instantly I got a reply from Elizabeth with the correct answer. She opted to try my White Queen's Bag pattern. It's about time I told you all what my typo was, and explain the why's and wherefore's.
Here is my faux pas:
"#5 Need to work a decrease from the purl side of your work? Of course you know how to work a P2tog to make a left-leaning decrease, but what about a right-leaning decrease? SSP! Slip one as if to purl, slip the next as if to purl, place them both back on the left needle, then with your right needle enter the two sts from behind the left needle on the far side of the st. Wrap your yarn and finish the stitch."
Geeze! I still shudder to look at it! This is what comes the first time you don't re-read something endlessly before you send it off!
So today, class, we are going to talk about slipped stitches.
Basically, there are three reasons why you would want to slip a stitch in knitting. One is when it is part of the pattern, such as the slipped stitch pattern above, a modular shell shape as taught in an Irene York workshop at Kiwi last fall. Notice how the light blue stitches in the polka-dotty rows at the bottom of the photo are slipped, while the orange dots are purls that are worked in the current row. In essence, you slip one, purl one, all across the row, taking care to work the edge stitches as directed. In both upper corners of the photo you can see that same technique worked on succeeding modules. Irene works this technique with stunning success in her Patchwork Shells Patterns. I still swear, one of these days when I have lots of spare time and nothing more pressing in queue, to make one of her shell shawls.
A second reason to slip stitches is to make a smooth selvage edge on knitted pieces where there will be no other edge treatment added later, such as shawls, scarves, and cardigan edges. This makes a beautiful, finished, chained edge.
It seems that everyone has their favorite way to do this, but mine is this: K1tbl at the beginning of every row, no matter what other stitches are worked in the row, such as a purl row or ribbed pattern, etc. It may be necessary for you to add two extra stitches to your cast-on to account for your slipped stitch edge. On the last stitch of every row, bring your yarn forward as if to purl, and slip the stitch.
In both of these cases, the reason for slipping the stitch is decorative, and so the stitch is always slipped as if to purl.
The third reason for slipping stitches is when it is part of a decrease, such as an SSK, SSP, or a double decrease. In the case of a decrease, the stitch or stitches are always slipped as if to knit. Period.
Why? To change the orientation of the stitch legs before working the decrease.
For a right-leaning knit decrease - K2tog - it is right-leaning because the right needle enters the leftmost of the two stitches first, putting that stitch on top of the pile.
On the left-leaning knit decrease, in order to make the rightmost stitch of the two stitches worked land on top of the pile without twisting its legs, you must first transfer them from the left needle to the right needle. That's the S, S part. You slip them as if to knit instead of as if to purl because when all is said and done, you don't want the base of your stitches to be crossed, as they would be if you worked a K2tog tbl. The whole point of slipping them in an SSK is to change the orientation of the stitch legs. So you slip one as if to knit, a second as if to knit, stick your left needle down their little throats so that it comes out in front and the right needle crosses in back, and finish off by wrapping your yarn as usual and finishing off the stitch. It is essentially the same as K2tog tbl, with the tiny - but all-important - difference of changing the orientation of those two stitches before working the decrease, so that the left leg is in front when you work the stitch, instead of the more traditional way of knitting everything with the right leg mounted on the front of the needle, with the left leg in back of the needle. Righty ends up on top of the pile, making everything lean to the left.
So this teaches us two rules - one about slipped stitches, one about decreases.
Always slip a stitch as if to purl, unless it is part of a decrease, in which case, it is always slipped as if to knit. As ever, that bit of wisdom is left behind if the pattern specifies that you should do differently.
Whichever stitch the right needle enters first when working a decrease is the stitch that ends up on top of the pile when all is said and done.
By the way, my favorite knit double decrease is worked like this: Slip two stitches together as if to knit. Knit the next stitch. Pass the two slipped stitches over. Because you used your right needle to enter the middle of the three stitches first when slipping two together as if to knit, the central stitch ends up on top of the pile.
Okay, so all that brings us to purl decreases. P2tog - because the right needle enters the rightmost stitch first - makes a left leaning decrease. This can be used on the backside of a K2tog.
SSP, because the right needle enters the leftmost stitch first, makes a right-leaning decrease, to be used on the backside of an SSK. Here is how that tip should have read:
"#5 Need to work a decrease from the purl side of your work? Of course you know how to work a P2tog to make a left-leaning decrease, but what about a right-leaning decrease? SSP! Slip one as if to knit, slip the next as if to knit, place them both back on the left needle, then with your right needle enter the two sts from behind the left needle on the far side of the sts. Wrap your yarn and finish the stitch."
Well, I did have more to say, in answer to a question about the fit of short-row heels, and something Marianne wanted me to pass on to students, but I was more long-winded than I had planned, so those will wait for next time.