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A decrease in knitting is a reduction in the number of stitches, usually accomplished by suspending the stitch to be decreased from another existing stitch or by knitting it together with another stitch.
When more than one stitch is suspended from a stitch, they can hang in different orders. For example, the first stitch could be on top of the second stitch (when seen from the right side) or the reverse. The order of stitches is important, both for appearance and for the way it pulls the fabric.
If the second stitch is on top of the first, the decrease slants right (as seen from the right side). Examples of such a decrease are k2tog and p2tog tbl (tbl="through the back loop").
By contrast, if the second stitch is below the first, the decrease slants left (as seen from the right side). Examples of such a decrease are ssk, skp, k2tog tbl, and p2tog.
The simplest decrease is to simply pass the stitch over another existing loop, usually an adjacent loop. This approach does not require that the knitting yarn be nearby, so it can be done at any time and any position.
Sometimes a double decrease is made, in which three stitches are suspended from a single stitch. This allows for six possible stitch orders: 123, 132, 213, 231, 312 and 321. Here, the first number is the topmost stitch, and the last number is the bottommost stitch. Thus, 213 means that the second stitch is uppermost (as seen fromt he right side), followed by the first, then third stitches. The uppermost stitch is most important; there is not much visual difference between 213 and 231.
The simplest double decreases are k3tog and p3tog, which slant right and left, respectively. An attractively symmetric double decrease is 213, which can be done as follows: slip stitches 1 and 2 knitwise simultaneously, knit stitch 3, then pass the slipped stitches over the just-knitted stitch.