When I was five, my mom taught me to knit. Literally. She cast on the stitches, and I knit them. After a few rows of crinkly garter, we moved on to purling. A sweater, after all, requires the ability to make smooth stockinet for the body and corrugated ribbing for cuffs and edges. I think the next lesson was binding off, and the last was the long-tail cast on. Great! Barbie and all my other dollies were happily stocked with blankets, scarves, washcloths, pillows, and more blankets, scarves, washcloths, and pillows. What else can a girl imagine squares and rectangles into?
Eventually, my mom taught me to decrease, turn two stitches into one. That was magical because I had been given the power to make the fabric change shape. For example, if I cast on a bunch of stitches and decreased at the beginning of every row, I made a triangle, which was like the shawls grown women I knew wore, or if I cast on a bunch of stitches, worked a few rows even, then decreased all the way across the row before working a few more rows even, I would create a ruffle. New and exciting things were possible, and the decrease was my first major step into non-rudimentary knitting.
The simplest decrease is called “knit two together.” The way it’s abbreviated in knitting patterns is “k2tog” or “k2 tog.” Technically it slants to the right. This is important when you’re making lace or when you want the decreases to line up, but when you’re starting out, it’s a great all-purpose decrease.
How does it work?
Normally, when I knit, I have the thumb of my left hand resting lightly on the needle between the first and second stitches. Before a decrease, I move my thumb so that it’s resting lightly between the second and third stitches.
For the knit two together decrease, I do exactly what I do for the knit stitch, only instead of inserting the needle into one stitch, I insert it into two. I start by placing the tip of the right needle where my left thumb is. I push the tip through the second, then the first stitch on the left needle, scoop or wrap the yarn exactly as I do when knitting a single stitch, then draw the right needle back through both stitches, dropping them off the left needle when I’m done.
It feels a little awkward the first time or two, and it’s one of those things that your hands just get, so it’s best not to think too much about what you’re doing or what you’re going to do. It’s best to imagine all the things that you’ll be making.