Remember that high school cheer "Lean to the left, lean to the right, stand up, sit down, fight fight fight!"? It came to my mind as I was working on this post about decreasing in knitting—there's a lot of talk about left-leaning and right-leaning in the world of decreases.
When I first started knitting I only used one decrease, knit two together. It's easy and it looks good. When I started doing garments, though, the options for decreasing really increased! (Ha, ha.)
I learned about right- and left-leaning decreases and how using the correct decrease when shaping the waist, sleeves (especially when working a raglan design), socks, hats, and so on, really makes a difference in the finished product.
There are two decreases that are used most often: knit 2 together (K2tog) and slip, slip, knit (SSK).
Here they are:
|Knit two together = right-leaning decrease, which is done on the left side of the row. Most often seen in patterns as "K2tog."||Slip, slip, knit = left-leaning decrease, which is done on the right side of the row. Most often seen in patterns as "SSK."|
These examples of decreases create really professional-looking shaping. I like the pronounced look shown here, which is achieved by doing the decreasing a few stitches in from the edges, which makes them more pronounced. If you want a less visible line of decreases, you can work them on the edge stitches so they'll end up hidden in the seam.
K2tog and SSK really work for pretty much all shaping situations, but I got curious as to what else was out there.
As I was cruising the info-superhighway I came upon something called "feathered decreases," which can also be fully-fashioned but make a softer edge. I knit up a swatch—and here it is:
|SKP decrease||KRPR decrease|
Basically, this system uses a right-leaning decrease on the right side and a left-leaning decrease on the left side, which is the opposite of what's usually done. The right-side decrease is a KRPR, which means "knit-return-pass-return." What you do is knit 1 and replace it on the left-hand needle, pass the next stitch over and then pass the stitch back to the right hand needle by slipping it purlwise.
The left-side decrease is an SKP, which means "slip one, knit one, pass slipped stitch over knit stitch."
I quite like this pairing. It's softer than the K2tog/SSK match-up but it still adds definition, which I like in my garments. To me, shaping serves two purposes: ensuring a good fit and adding some texture, especially when using a smooth, solid-colored yarn.
So, as always in knitting, there are several ways to achieve your goals; you get to choose!
If you're interested in learning more about shaping techniques and so much more, get yourself a copy of the DVD workshop Getting Started, Basics and Beyond with Eunny Jang, which is what started me down this rabbit hole in the first place (plus, it's on sale this weekend!).