Special Knitting Stitches

While working a knitting pattern, you may come across some special stitches that don't fall into the category of increases or decreases. Following are tips on some of the most common.

Slip Stitch (sl st)

Sometimes instructions tell you to slip a stitch. This means you'll move a stitch to the right needle without knitting or purling. The instructions may indicate whether to slip it as if to knit or purl. To slip as if to knit (fig. 15a), keep the yarn behind your work and insert the right needle into the next stitch on the left needle as if to knit it. However, instead of wrapping the yarn around the needle, simply slide the stitch off the left needle and onto the right.

Slip Stitch - Slip as if to knit: Figure 15a
Slip Stitch - Slip as if to knit: Figure 15a

To slip as if to purl with yarn in back (fig. 15b), with the knit side facing you, insert the right needle tip into the next stitch on the left needle as if to purl, and slide the stitch onto the right needle.

Slip Stitch - To slip as if to purl with yarn in back: Figure 15b
Slip Stitch - To slip as if to purl with yarn in back: Figure 15b

To slip as if to purl with yarn in front (fig. 15c), with purl side facing you, slip the stitch as if to purl. When a stitch is slipped using either of these methods, the strand will not show on the knit side of the work. However, some stitch patterns reverse the normal process, so always follow instructions carefully.

Slip Stitch - To slip as if to purl with yarn in front: Figure 15c
Slip Stitch - To slip as if to purl with yarn in front: Figure 15c

Why does it make a difference how stitches are slipped? When stitches are slipped as if to purl, they are transferred onto the right needle untwisted, which means the front stitch loop remains in front of the needle. When slipped as if to knit, they are transferred in a twisted position. In other words, the back loop of the stitch is now in front. Some pattern stitches require this; others don't.

A rule of thumb about slipping stitches: Always slip as if to purl unless the pattern instructions specify otherwise. An exception to this rule is that you'll always slip as if to knit when the stitch is part of a decrease method. A stitch that's part of a decrease is transferred to the right needle as if to knit, in the twisted position, because it will later become untwisted when the decrease is complete.

Duplicate Stitch

Duplicate stitch is used to create small motifs, make small additions to intarsia (working large patches of color), mend socks, and cover knitting errors. It produces a stiff fabric, as stitches are duplicated on top of the knit fabric below. The technique is worked horizontally, vertically, and diagonally.

For horizontal stitches:

Step 1: Thread a tapestry needle with the same yarn type as the knit fabric beneath. Work with strands about 18" (46cm) long to avoid having the yarn plies untwist and fibers shed as the needle is drawn through the knit fabric many times. Rethread the tapestry needle as necessary.

Step 2: Begin the first duplicate stitch in the lower right corner of the motif or pattern. (You'll work from right to left.) Secure the yarn on the wrong side of the fabric, and bring the needle through to the front of the fabric at the base of the first stitch.

Step 3: Insert the needle into the right-hand side of the top of the same stitch, carry the needle and yarn across the back of the work, and bring them to the front on the left side of the same stitch (fig. 29a). Reinsert the needle into the base of the first stitch.

Horizontal Duplicate Stitch: Figure 29a
Horizontal Duplicate Stitch: Figure 29a

Step 4: Bring the needle up through the base of the stitch to the left of the stitch just duplicated. Repeat step 3.

To work the next horizontal row, insert the needle into the base of the last horizontal stitch worked, and then bring needle and yarn out to the front through the center of that stitch. Turn the work (the motif will be upside down), and work horizontal stitches across the second row of motif stitches, working the same as the previous row. Continue working horizontal stitches from right to left on each row. Weave the yarn tails through the backs of stitches to secure.

For vertical stitches:

Begin at the lowest point and work upward. Work the same way as for horizontal duplicate stitch, but bring the needle out to the front through the center of the stitch above the one just worked rather than the stitch to the left (fig. 29b).

Vertical Duplicate Stitch: Figure 29b
Vertical Duplicate Stitch: Figure 29b

For diagonal stitches:

These are made using a combination of horizontal and vertical methods. Work one stitch horizontally, and instead of finishing by moving to the next stitch on the left in the same row, bring the needle out at the base of the next stitch on the left, one row above.

How to Make a Simple I-Cord

You can make an I-cord to use as a drawstring, strap, or tie using double-pointed needles or a short circular needle.

Step 1: Cast on 3 or 4 stitches onto one double-pointed needle. Slide the stitches to the other end of the needle. The working yarn is at the "wrong" end of the needle (fig. 22a).

Simple I-Cord: Figure 22a
Simple I-Cord: Figure 22a

Step 2: With the yarn stranded across the back of the stitches, pull it up to the front at the needle tip and knit the stitches (fig. 22b).

Simple I-Cord: Figure 22b
Simple I-Cord: Figure 22b

Step 3: Repeat step 2 until the cord is the desired length. Unless instructed otherwise, finish the last row as slip 1, knit 2 together, pass the slipped stitch over. Cut the yarn, and thread the end through the last stitch.

Knitting cables looks difficult, but once you get the basics down, you'll be amazed at the beautiful creations you can make. Learn about cables on the next page.