The Slip Stitch

Slip stitch knitting is easy and is used for a variety of purposes including textural or mosaic patterns. To slip a stitch is to move the stitch to the right needle from the left without working it, or pulling the yarn through it. For the most part, slipping stitches makes a dense, firm fabric. Slipped stitches tend to draw the rows more tightly together than for plain knitting or stockinette stitch.


Edge Stitches – are referred to as the selvages of a knit fabric, and are the one or or two stitches at each end of the needle. It’s important to note that selvage stitches are added to the total stitch count, and are used to stabilize the knit fabric and for seaming. An edge stitch is also a decorative way to finish a visible edge as in the infinity scarf below.

infinity scarf with slip stitch edging

Forming a Foldline – uses a vertical line of slip stitches made on every right side row. I’m knitting a facing for the cardigan below, making a vertical row of slip stitches to divide the facing in half. When the piece is completed, I’ll fold the facing towards the inside along this column, and then sew the facing on the wrong side. This forms a lovely even edge, and naturally folds to stay in place.

column of slip stitches to form fold line

folding facing along column of slip stitches


Slip (sl) Stitch Patterns – there are a great variety of textural patterns that use slip stitches. Mosaic patterns are interesting designs in slip stitch color knitting. These patterns look complicated, but the technique is not. If you don’t like stranding yarns on the back side, you’ll love Mosaic knitting. Only one color is worked at a time, slipping the other color, and alternating colors every two rows without having to cut yarns.

slip stitch patterns
slip stitch patterns from The Harmony Guide to Knitting Stitches – Volume Two

Decreasing – these two common decrease methods use slip stitches: slip, slip, knit (ssk), and slip, knit, pass slipped stitch over (skp). Both of these methods are left slanting decreases.

Slip Stitch Heels – is common in socks to reinforce the fabric.

How to Slip a Stitch

To slip a stitch is to move it from one needle to another. Stitches can be slipped knitwise (kwise) or purlwise (pwise). A stitch slipped purlwise remains untwisted, whereas a stitch slipped knitwise is twisted. Unless otherwise indicated slip stitches purlwise. The exception is when you are decreasing; slip knit stitches knitwise and purl stitches purlwise.

Sl 1 pwise: Insert right needle into the next stitch on left needle as if you are purling. Slide this stitch off the left needle to the right needle.

Sl 1 kwise: Insert right needle into the next stitch on left needle as if you are knitting. Slide this stitch off the left needle to the right needle. This stitch is twisted.

Note: The distinction between with yarn in front (wyif), and with yarn in back (wyib) is important to understanding the slip stitch technique in pattern instructions. The front is always the side of the knitting that faces you as you knit. The back is the side that faces away from you.

The slip stitch technique is easy and quick to make, and creates very sophisticated designs. If you don’t enjoy classic colorwork knitting like Fair Isle, you’ll find that Mosaic knitting looks just as complex, but you don’t have to weave in all those yarn ends.