21 Sept 2013

Market Bag Knit-along #6 - The Two-Row SSK

BYOB Market Bag by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

Welcome back to the next blogpost in my tutorial/knit-along series where we are working on a lovely bright yellow market bag, the BYOB Market Bag. If you would like to join in with the knit-along, then please click here to read the first of the blogposts then follow the links at the bottom to complete the base and the lower band of the knitting.

So we have now reached the centre of the bags we have been working on! This is the lovely mesh openwork pattern in the middle which gives the BYOB Market Bag the flexibility to accommodate strangely-shaped items with ease. It also makes the bag lighter too.

The mesh pattern used here is formed by combining yarn overs with two different decreases, the "Knit 2 stitches together" decrease or k2tog and the "Slip, Slip, Knit" decrease, which is usually abbreviated to SSK. 

These two should end up being mirror images of each other, the k2tog leaning to the right and the SSK to the left. However, the SSK decrease is a tricky manoeuvre and it often ends up elongated or distorted compared to its companion. The problem comes down to the way in which the SSK is worked, so I am going to suggest an alternative approach – working the decrease over two rows not just one! 

See if you like this "Two-Row SSK" as we continue our Tutorial/Knit-along.

So what is the SSK decrease?

Knitting two stitches together - Diagram for Blogpost by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

When you decrease two stitches into one, the result either leans to the right or the left. As I already mentioned, the 'knit two together / k2tog' decrease goes to the right. This is a simple stitch and very neat to work. You insert your needle into two stitches instead of just one and then knit them together. 

So the technique is very familiar and you don't have to prepare the stitches before working them. Here's a video showing how to work the k2tog. 

However, when you come to work the 'Slip Slip Knit / SSK' decrease this is not the case. If you are at the right point in your BYOB Market Bag and have finished the lower band, then you can try this as you read about it. Change to the larger-sized needles (I used 5.5mm/US #9 size) and start the first line of the openwork pattern:

Rnd 1: *K2tog, yo, k1, yo, SSK; rep from * to end of rnd.

So, insert your needle into the first two stitches and knit them just as if they were one stitch.

Then, bring your yarn to the front under the needle and back over the top ready to work the next stitch. This will insert a 'Yarn-Over / yo' and make a lacy hole at this point. Knit the next stitch and then make another yarn over as before. 

Knitting two stitches together - Diagram for Blogpost by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

Now insert the needle into the next stitch as though you are going to knit it but instead just slip it from the left-hand (LH) needle to the right. Do the same again with the next stitch. Now pass these two stitches back to the LH needle. 

Insert your knitting needle into the back of these two stitches and knit them together through the back of the loops (k2tog tbl). This is the SSK decrease – you slip one stitch knitwise, slip another, then k2tog tbl.

You can probably see that you can streamline that a bit and not have to actually pass the stitches back to the LH needle to complete the second part of the working, but even so it is a lot of moving of stitches before you get to actually knit them together. Here's a video showing how you usually work the SSK. 

Work around the whole round trying to get this decrease as neat as possible. 

[... and as a side-note, if you would like to read more about yarn overs and how to work them, then please click here.]

Two-Row SSK

The key part about the slipping of the stitches knitwise is to change the way that they are sitting on the needle – ie to change the 'mount' of the stitch. Before knitting them together, we need to make them sit facing backwards. However, you can prepare for this on the row below. Try this:

Knitting two stitches together - Diagram for Blogpost by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

Next rnd: *Knit 3 sts by bringing the yarn under and around the needle in the usual way, then knit 2 sts bringing the yarn over the needle; repeat from * to end of rnd.

So that's [k3 under, k2 over] all the way around. You will see that in each group of 5 stitches you now have three stitches that face to the L (coloured green in these two diagrams) and 2 stitches that face to the R (coloured blue).

Knitting two stitches together - Diagram for Blogpost by Moira Ravenscroft, Wyndlestraw Designs

It is a little tricky to get your hands to work the knit stitch the reverse way at first, but persevere and soon it will be smooth and quick. You probably even remember doing this when you were first learning to knit and discovered that your stitches weren't always facing the right way! 

Then your next row will be:

Next rnd: *K2tog, yo, k1, yo, k2tog tbl; rep from * to end of rnd.

Much simpler and neater. The stitches do not need to be separately manipulated, the k2tog and the k2tog tbl are both quick to work, and the stitches are not pulled or distorted out of shape. 

And you can use this technique wherever you encounter an SSK decrease. Just note all the SSK's in your pattern chart and highlight the two stitches in the row below. Work them 'backwards' to get the mount facing to the right and then your SSK will be neat and easy on the subsequent row.

Eastern Uncrossed Knitting

Some of you may by now have realised that you have seen this wrapping technique before. In fact, it is thought that stitches were always worked this way when knitting was first invented! It even has a name in knitting, as this method is called "Eastern Uncrossed Knitting".

So, any time you find that you are not liking the look of your SSK decreases, you can think about using this 2-row SSK instead. 

Openwork panel

However, this tutorial/knit-along was supposed to be a simplified version of the BYOB 2.0 bag! So, let's return to the BYOB Market Bag pattern here, and commence the Openwork panel.

You will find that this section works up quickly and is a nice change of pace from the lower section of the bag. Continue working this central openwork panel until the bag measures the length you want it to be minus the height for the top band.

I am going to work a 5cm/2 ins Seed Stitch band at the top, and I want the whole bag to be 35cm/14 ins from the middle of the base to the top. So I will continue in the Openwork Lace pattern until I get to the 30cm/12 ins mark and then start the upper Seed Stitch band.

See you next time where I will be discussing handle choices and how to finish your bag.

Until then – Happy Knitting!


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