So today, I will be looking at the central openwork panel which makes the bag so beautifully lightweight and flexible. This stitch pattern is a mixture of yarn over increases combined with two different decreases: the k2tog/Knit 2 sts Together and the SSK/Slip, Slip, Knit. The k2tog decrease leans to the right while the SSK goes towards the left, so they are often combined in lace patterns to give mirror image decreases.
However, the SSK decrease is a tricky manoeuvre and so it often ends up elongated or distorted compared to its k2tog 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 rounds not just one!
So let’s look first at the k2tog decrease. This is easy to work and gives a very neat result. Instead of inserting your needle into just the next stitch, you place it through the next two. Then you knit them together in the usual way. So the technique is very familiar and you don't have to prepare the stitches before working them.
However, when you come to work the SSK decrease this is not the case. To work this decrease, you need to insert the needle into the next stitch as though you are going to knit it but then just slip it from the left‐hand (LH) needle to the right. Do the same again with the next stitch, then pass both of these back to the LH needle.
Now insert your knitting needle into the back of these two sts and knit them together through the back loops (k2tog tbl). This is the SSK decrease – you slip one stitch, 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.
If you are at the right point in your pattern, you could try this out on the first part of the openwork panel. So change to the larger-sized needles as directed and then work around the whole round trying to get this decrease as neat as possible.
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 backwards.
However, that is the place where the stitches can get pulled out of shape. By picking them up, slipping them to another needle and then passing them back again, extra yarn has been pulled out of neighbouring stitches and they have become distorted.
However, there is a solution in that you can prepare for this decrease on the previous round. Try this:
- Next rnd: *Knit 3 sts by bringing the yarn under the needle in the usual way, then knit 2 sts bringing the yarn over the needle; rep from * to the end of the round.
So that's [k3 under, k2 over] all the way around. See the diagram above to see how to work the stitches.
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 round 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., not just in this pattern but elsewhere too. Just note all the SSK's in your pattern chart and highlight the two stitches in the row or round below. Work them 'backwards' to get them mounted 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, using whichever method you prefer, continue working this central openwork panel until the bag measures the length you want it to be minus the height for the top band. Again, I am just going to work a narrow top band as I want a nice long openwork section for my bag, but you decide how long you want this to be for your version.
Then next time, I’ll be back to discuss the various options you have for the bag handles.