Slip, slip stitch, or slipped stitches have a wide variety of applications in knitting. To slip a stitch is to move it without working it. These are used as part of decreases, to create slip stitch patterns, and to create neat edges & selvedges.
Context is important when considering how to work this stitch. Unless otherwise specified, always slip a stitch as if to purl. Go into the stitch from right to left as if you were going to purl the stitch.
Slip or sl is often put together with “with yarn in front (wyif)” or “with yarn in back (wyib)”. The more common style is to write is sl wyif or sl wyib. In my patterns I give the instruction for where the yarn is to be before the instruction to slip, because it is necessary to put the yarn in the proper position before slipping the stitch! This ensures that you don’t need to re-work the stitch to reposition the yarn. As a result I changed how I abbreviated it in patterns and it seems much more intuitive when knitting. See below the symbols I use in Action charts. These visually tells you where the yarn goes!
Where the yarn is positioned depends on where the unworked yarn needs to be relative to the stitch.
- When the float (unworked yarn) is to go in front of the stitch, the yarn needs to be in front. If you are working a wrong side row, the float will actually end up being on the back of the stitch. On a right side row, the float will be in front of the stitch.
- When the float is to go behind the stitch on the right side, then the yarn needs to be in the back. On a wrong side row, the yarn will go in the back if it is to be positioned in front of the stitch on the right side.
Abbreviation: sl OR sl st OR sl# (# = number of stitches to be slipped)
Slip the stitch from the left needle to the right needle as if to purl (going in from right to left). This stitch is not worked—unless the pattern specifies to work it as part of a decrease.
With yarn in front slip stitch OR slip with yarn in front
Abbreviation: wyif sl OR sl wyif
Holding the yarn in front (as if to purl) slip stitch from the left needle to the right needle, going into stitch as if to purl. Without pulling the yarn tight, work the next stitch as directed.
With yarn in front slip # stitches OR slip # with yarn in front
Abbreviation: wyif sl# or sl# wyif
Holding the yarn at the front of the work, slip the number of stitches called out from the left needle to the right needle, going into the stitches as if to purl. More than one stitch can be slipped at once. Without pulling the yarn tight, work the next stitch as directed.
With yarn in back slip stitch OR slip with yarn in back
Abbreviation: wyib sl OR sl wyib
Using the left needle, go into the stitch on the right needle, going from into the stitch as if to purl, slip the stitch onto the left needle. Without pulling the yarn tight, work the next stitch as directed.
With yarn in back slip # stitches OR slip # with yarn in back
Abbreviation: wyib sl# or sl# wyib
Holding the yarn in back of the work, slip the number of stitches called out from the left needle to the right needle, going into the stitches as if to purl. More than one stitch can be slipped at once. Without pulling the yarn tight, work the next stitches as directed.
Slipping a stitch as to knit
This use is situational. Slipping as to knit twists the stitch from having the right leg in front to having the right leg in back. This is often done as part of an SSK, or as part of a twisted stitch pattern. Unless called for in the pattern, twisted stitches can cause problems later in the pattern.
Pattern Specific Variations to Slipped Stitches
Sometimes, I include technique variations that are for specific patterns. I always include directions for specific techniques in the pattern itself, so be sure to also read any patterns you’re working on closely.
Slipped Stitch Variation for Jupiter’s Rings Euroflax
On a RS row, with the yarn in back, slip stitches to right needle purlwise.
On a WS row, with the yarn in front, slip stitches to right needle purlwise.
wyib sl Variation for Ashland
Holding the yarn in back (as if to knit) slip stitch from left needle to right needle. Without pulling the yarn tight, work the next stitch as directed.
sl1 Variation for Taos
At the beginning of a row slip the first stitch purlwise to the right needle (tip going into stitch from right to left).
Slip stitch purlwise (needle going into the stitch from the right) unless otherwise specified.
Stitches are slipped in numerous situations in knitting:
- Decreases using: SKP (slip, knit, pass slip stitch over – psso), SSK (slip, slip, k2tog), SK2P (slip, k2tog, psso).
- Moving a stitch temporarily off the right or left needle, to a cable needle, to a stitch holder or waste yarn.
- Creating color and texture patterns as in mosaic or slip-stitch knitting.
- At the beginning or end of a row (see comments below about row compression).
- Repositioning stitches.
- Creating i-cord is done by slipping stitches as a group, but generally done by shifting the needle position.
- In a pattern-writing slip stitch is often presented as sl, sl1 or sl#. In conventional pattern writing when the position of the yarn is specified (using wyib or wyif), the sl# follows the yarn position. Jill Wolcott Knits patterns reverse that and give the position that the yarn should be in before the stitch is slipped. This reduces the chance of having the yarn in the wrong position as the stitch is slipped.
- In wrapped short rows.
A feature of slip stitches is that there is a bar of yarn behind or in front of the stitch. Because the slip stitch is not worked, it takes less yarn to work a row, but generally more rows due to the overall length compression created by the slip stitches.