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Summer of Sock Techniques: Increasing and Decreasing

Post by Gretchen, Lion Brand Yarn Studio Education Director

This week we had some people working through their gussets, and others beginning at the toe of another sock. There was some confusion about the best way to work increases and/or decreases. Cuff down socks begin with a full complement of stitches to fit your calf with decreases worked at the gusset and toe. Toe up socks begin with just a few stitches and begin increasing right away to shape the toe. Today I’m going to discuss perhaps the most frequently misunderstood decrease (ssk) and a new way to work an easy increase that looks even better than the old way.

SSK (slip, Slip, Knit)

The two most commonly used decreases mirror each other: ‘K2tog’ (knit 2 together) leans to the right & ‘ssk’ (slip, slip, knit) leans to the left. ‘K2tog’ is pretty self-explanatory for most knitters, but ‘ssk’ is frequently misunderstood.

The abbreviations used in knitting patterns are mnemonic devices to help you remember the steps to work the stitch. In this case “slip, slip, knit” means that you should slip the next two stitches individually, knitwise and then knit them together through the back. Not all of this is specified in the abbreviation because that would make it long and ultimately more confusing.

• Slip 1 stitch knitwise (meaning enter the stitch with your right needle as if you were going to knit it, and slip it from left to right without pulling a new loop through)


• Slip the second stitch knitwise.


• Insert your left needle through the front of the two slipped stitches.


• Wrap yarn around right needle.


• and pull your new stitch through both loops,


• removing them from the left needle


In this swatch you see a line of SSK along the right edge, slanting to the left, and a line of k2tog along the left edge, slanting to the right.


KF&B (Knit front and back) & KFSB (knit front, slip back)

Toe up socks will require you to cast on just a few stitches and immediately begin increasing for the toe shaping. If you are working a gusset before your heel turn, that too will require increases.

Since socks are worked on lightweight yarn, kf&b (knit front & back) is often the easiest increase to work. However, when you knit through the back part of the loop it creates a visible “purl” bump on the right side. Some people find this bump decorative and others prefer to avoid it.

There is a new approach to this stitch that eliminates the bump and is actually easier to work. In my experience with knitting, “looks better” usually goes hand in hand with “trickier to execute” so let’s savor this rare occasion!

First, the original kf&b (also written as k1f&b)

1. Knit into the front of the stitch as usual, but don’t remove it from the needle.


2. Bring the working needle around to the back and knit the same stitch through the back loop.


3. Remove both stitches from the needle. See the bump?

This new version is called “alternate kf&b” or “knit front slip back (KFSB)”


1. Knit into the front of the stitch as usual, but don’t remove it from the needle.

2. Bring the working needle around to the back of the stitch and insert it as if you were going to knit


3. slip it from the needle.


4. Snug up the knit stitch. Here you can see the two increases side by side:

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