Hot Tip: Remember right- vs left-leaning stitches

Hot Tip: Remember right- vs left-leaning stitches

If you’ve been knitting for very long at all, you’ll have encountered multiple kinds of increase and decrease stitches. You may also have come to realize that each one has a lean to it. (For instance, your first hat may have used k2togs for all of the decreases, which creates a sort of swirling crown, since the k2togs all lean in one direction.) Perhaps you’ve even come to understand that for every right-leaning increase or decrease, there’s a corresponding left-leaning version. To prevent fabric that leans one direction or the other, increases and decreases are often deployed in mirrored pairs, such as a k2tog (right-leaning decrease) paired with an SSK (left-leaning decrease). Or m1L increases paired with m1R increases. The trouble many knitters have is remembering which stitches lean which direction. So here’s an invaluable tip I picked up from Barry Klein once upon a time:

A stitch will always lean in the direction the working needle is pointing when you work that stitch. Stop and repeat that to yourself a couple of times, and point with your index finger like it’s your needle. When you insert your working needle into the front of your stitch(es) — as with a k2tog or m1R — you insert it from left to right. The needle points to the right and the resulting stitch will lean to the right. Conversely, when you knit through the back of your stitch(es) — as with SSK or m1L — you insert the working needle from right to left. The needle points left, and the resulting stitch will lean left.

Once you have that lightbulb moment, reading charts becomes much simpler. For instance, the “\” symbol leans left (“my needle will be pointing left, so I’m working into the back of the stitches, which I do when I SSK!”) and the “/” symbol leans right (“my needle will be pointing right, so I’m working into the front of the stitches, which means a k2tog!”). With the m1’s, you do have to think a tiny bit harder: “If I want it to lean left, m1L, that means I’m knitting into the back, so I will have picked it up from the front.” And vice versa. But you’ll have it memorized in no time flat.

Hot Tip: Remember right- vs left-leaning stitches

24 thoughts on “Hot Tip: Remember right- vs left-leaning stitches

  1. The problem I have as a continental knitter is that I’m never quite sure what the pattern is asking for, since I can make my k2tog both left and right leaning, depending on how I knit the stitches together. . .

    • Hm, I’ve never heard of that. The lean is created by the position of the two stitches once they’re worked together, which shouldn’t have anything to do with how you were holding the yarn.

  2. Definitely had a lightbulb moment here! I was knitting mittens earlier this year and had to keep a cheat sheet in front of me top remember m1l and m1r. This is so much better!

  3. Brilliant tip!!! I don’t use charts (they’re slightly daunting, still) but this will be a useful tip when I try.

  4. Neat! I just learned a similar tip: You can remember that K2tog leans right and Ssk or Skp lean left because the vertical stroke on the “2” leans right and the vertical stroke on the “S” leans left.

  5. I already really liked your blog – but the fact that you addressed an issue that I have JUST been struggling with – well that’s what I call personalized service. :) Great tip – thanks!

  6. This is one of the reasons that I love your blog. You seem to know exactly how to explain things to make them easy for me. Thank you!

  7. Reblogged this on Crafted and commented:
    OMG. This post changed my knitting life. I usually use post-its to remind me when I’m working on a project what the directions mean when it says M1L vs. M1R. This sentence from Fringe Association is the answer: “A stitch will always lean in the direction the working needle is pointing when you work that stitch.” I’ve been knitting for as long as I’ve been alive but this one sentence makes all the difference and will, I think, let me be more intuitive about the work. It’s too good a thought — and I’m too grateful for it — not to share. Cast on!

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  10. My way of remembering M1L vs M1R is this:
    Right — pick up the bar from the Rear. R and R. That’s it! If I’m picking it up from the front, I know it’s not a Right facing lean, because I didn’t pick it up from the Rear.

  11. Perfect. This explanation is the first that really clicks for me. I guess it is different for everyone. No more looking up which increase is left or right for me! Thank you!

  12. Great tip! Thank you! I’ve never been able to figure out a ‘trick’ for remembering decreases. But I do use this to remember m1L or m1R: left has 4 letters, so I’m knitting into the back – also 4 letters. Right has 5 letters, so I’m knitting into the front – also 5 letters.

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