Right and left slanting decreases (for lefties)

On the left-side of the photo, you can see a right-slanting decrease at the arm holes, meaning the stitches point toward my neck. On the right side of the photo is a left-slanting decrease

There are a lot of different ways to do decreases in knitting and it easily gets confusing for a leftie trying to figure out how to do it correctly.

I only use 2 decreases – one that slants to the right and one that slants to the left. To create a right slanting decrease, I use knit two together (k2tog). And for a left-slanting decrease, I use knit two together through the back loop (k2tog-tbl)*.

Which decrease to use depends on the pattern and the style of the garment. Decreases are often very noticable in garments knit in the round (like the photo on the left) as they create a sort of seam effect. In garments knit in peices, where a sleeve will be set in when sewing up, it may not be as noticable or important to slant left or right as written in the pattern.

If you want to do it as written, remember that you’ll need to reverse the instructions written for right handers*. K2tog does create a right-slanting decrease for righties as well – but they are knitting in the opposite direction (from right to left). So an instruction that reads: k1, ssk (a left slanting decrease), k10, k2tog, k1 – when knit by a righty will create the effect on the photo , where the decreases point inwards because they are knitting a row from the right side of the photo to the left. Because a lefty is knitting in the opposite direction (left side of photo to the right), they need to swap the decreases to get the same effect – so the start of the row should be a right-slanting decrease, or k2tog.

Confused? If so, please leave a comment so I can try and make it clearer!

So, now you know which type of decrease to use and when in a pattern, how do you actually do a right or left decrease?

Right-slanting decrease (k2tog)

1. Start with your knitting, right side facing (see below for details of how to decrease on the purl side)

2. Put your needle into the front of the two stitches that form the decrease

3. Scoop through the yarn/wool as for a regular knit stitch

Left-slanting decrease (k2tog-tbl)

1. Insert your needle into the two stitches that create the decrease, but put it in via the back of the stitches. Note that this can be a bit awkward and difficult, but stick with it!

2. Scoop the wool/yarn as for a regular stitch and pull through your new stitch

And that’s it! You’ve created right and left-slanting decreases!

Doing it on the purl side

Decreasing on the purl side isn’t as common, but it’s easy enough to do. Just do as before, but purling. So if I wanted to also decrease on the purl side (and make sure the decreases went the same way as on the knit side), I would p2tog at the start of the row, and p2tog-tbl on the end.

Lovely slanted knit and purl decreases

* Note that this applies to left-handed knitting in the combined style only.

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7 thoughts on “Right and left slanting decreases (for lefties)

  1. Dear Jeni,
    Hi, You are the greatest. I am a true lefty and it has been alittle difficut to find someone who can help me in my lace knitting. Just recently I have noticed that where I should be doing things opposite, I have just ignored. Will you please help.
    What conversions have to be made when reading a chart, like instead of bottom right to left, you start from the bottom left to right. Also when do you know to change your decrease, if for instance it say sl2k1psso. should that be changed. Any suggestions you have would be so welcomed. I love your sight Gae

    • Hi Gae,

      There are some basic rules for lefties, some of which you already mentioned. When reading a chart, make sure you read from left to right, bottom to top. I think one of the most helpful things a left-handed knitter can do for her/himself is to create a decrease swatch and write down how to do a good looking left and right decrease. This will make converting charts and even written patterns a lot easier. If you are a combined knitter like me, you can see how to do left and right slanting decreases on my decreases tutorial.

      If you are a more traditional lefty knitter, you will need to know which way your k2tog and ssk (or skpsso) leans. For more traditional lefty knitters, a k2tog will lean left, while a ssk or skpsso will lean right. This is the opposite of a righty. Keep this in mind when reading charts and, whenever you encounter /, use ssk or skpsso. When you encounter \, you k2tog. When reading instructions, you don’t need reverse anything for decreases – this is because you’re knitting in the opposite direction of a righty, so decreases are already reversed for you.

      For example, take this chart: o / ooo \ o
      For a righty, this would be written as: k, ssk, k3, k2tog, k (reading the chart from right to left)
      If you wrote this chart for a lefty, it would read the same: k, ssk, k3, k2tog, k (reading the chart from left to right)

      The other major challenge for lefties is cables – in order for cables to twist the correct way, you’ll need to reverse their direction. This is again due to the fact that you are knitting in the opposite direction from a righty. A simple rule for symmetrical cables (for example, a 4-stitch cable where two stitches are taken in front of or behind another two) is to reverse the direction of the held stitches. So if the pattern says to hold 2 stitches to the front, then knit the next two before knitting the two held stitches off the cable needle – a lefty would hold the two stitches to the back, knit the next two stitches, then knit the stitches off the cable needle. It can get more complicated with more complicated cables – perhaps another photo tutorial is in order!

      Hope this helps.

  2. Confusing is right! I am also a left-handed continental combination knitter, and had become convinced that I am the only one out there. I was finally able to find a chart online that “translates” western instructions to combination instructions, but – of course! – both of the above were for right-handed knitters. I have been stuck on the increases and decreases, so let me rephrase your post to see if I’ve gotten it right.

    k2tog is a right-slanting stitch for right-handed western knitters. In right-handed combination knitting, k2tog becomes left-slanting. But since we’re left-handed, it gets turned around again, and k2tog ends up a right-slanting stitch for us, too. Did I get that right?

    • Yes! That’s absolutely correct. It’s kind of a double-reverse, so that it ends up correct when reading written instructions. It took me ages to figure it out too.

  3. Thanks for this site! It has been very helpful, but I have another question:

    When I get to turn the heel of a sock the pattern looks like this (this is knit flat):
    Row 1: K to center, K2, SSK, K1, Turn
    Row 2: P to center, P2, P2Tog, P1, turn

    I did a little swatch test, like you suggest, and it seems like my K2tog leans right and my SSK leans left.
    Do I need to switch these decreases? This is the my second try at the sock, but I made so many mistakes the first time that I can’t tell if this was one of them! Trying to do this sock is actually what got me online googling if I should be switching my decreases. I played around with them when I started doing the gusset decreases, and it seemed like I should switch them, but that part was in the round. I’m pretty sure this confusion with decreases is what caused ridges on the sock- at least I hope so, otherwise I was need to add to the list of things I was doing wrong :)

    I hope that all made sense! Thank you!

    • If I’ve understood this part of your pattern correctly, you should be switching the decreases. So instead of a SSK, you should do a k2tog. And instead of P2tog, you should do slip, slip, purl. Again, this is because you are coming at this part of the heel from the opposite direction, so to get the stitches to go in the direction the designer intended, you need to swap them around. This is only because your k2tog leans right (suggesting you knit combined style). Another lefty knitter who doesn’t knit combined style would not swap the decreases.

      Hope that makes sense. I’m not sure if that was the cause of ridges. I think it would only have caused stitches that point outward at the edges, when they should point inwards (or at least that’s how I am imagining the decreases – without knowing the pattern it’s hard to say).

      • Thanks for responding so quickly! I am pretty sure the ridges were from a different mistake :D I decided to try it with the decreases switched from the original pattern…I can’t tell if it worked or not, lol. I’m going to finish it with them all switched and see how it looks in the end.
        I didn’t realize until I saw your site that there was a left-hand combination type of knitting. I figured I was just doing it left handed, but after reading your site I think I might be knitting completely wrong AND from the left side! I will have to figure out what I’m doing if I want to follow more difficult patterns. I’m going to mess around with the decreases, and probably try doing a really simple pattern in the round to see what is happening when I knit. I tried to ask my sister-in-law what she thought–I got a look I can’t describe when she saw me knit. She definitely didn’t know how she could help.

        I will figure it out! And thanks again for your great website and your quick response!

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