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How To Knit Diagonally - Your Guide to Diagonal, Bias, and Slanted Knitting

Updated on January 17, 2015

What is knitting on the bias anyway?

When I first tried to teach myself knitting from a library book, I couldn't even knit and purl in the same row. I would look forlornly at all the brilliant fair isle hats, cabled sweaters, and intricate beadwork thinking that I would never amount to anything. Fortunately, I stuck with it. To build the foundation for any type of knitting project, using any technique, for any yarn, all you have to learn is to knit and purl. From there, you're on your way to learning a million new things that are all just one easy step farther than you were yesterday.

Knitting on the bias is simply knitting on the diagonal. The technique itself if very simple and relies only on decreases along one side of your pattern and increases on the other. It is one of my favorite ways to show off variegated yarn without giant blocks of horizontal color. It's also a great way to make anything you make look fancy without needing any special skills or extra work.

I hope you enjoy this lens. If you have your own techniques or think I should add something, be sure to tell me in the comments. Also, please check out my Etsy Shop ZyloHandmade for stylish knit and sewn accessories if you don't have time to make your own!

Diagonal Drop Stitch Scarf
Diagonal Drop Stitch Scarf

Method 1

How to use increases and decreases to bias knit.

Bias knitting is nothing more than working your increases and decreases to their fullest advantage. You can use your favorite increase and decrease stitches to achieve the effect you want, but for simplicity I will demonstrate using Kfb (knit in the front and back) and K2tog (knit two together).

Sharp slant to right:

Row 1 (RS): Kfb, k to last two stitches, k2tog

Row 2 (WS): K2tog, k to last stitch, kfb

This will create a sharply slanted piece because you are increasing and decreasing on all rows.

Slant to left:

Row 1 (RS): K2tog, k to end.

Row 2 (WS): Kfb, k to end.

This will create a left slant that is not as sharp.

The more often you increase and decrease, the more dramatic the bias will be. However, don't be afraid to experiment with a softer diagonal. Play with it to see how much you want for the pattern you are creating.

To create a diamond:

Row 1 (RS): Cast on 1 stitch. Kfb.

Row 2: (WS): Kfb in both stitches

Row 3: Kfb,k to last stitch, kfb

Repeat row 3 until the piece is as tall as you want. Then decrease using the following method.

Row 1 (RS decrease row): K2tog, knit to last two stitches, ktog

Repeat this row until you decrease your last stitch and bind off.

You can use these techniques in a number of ways to create sharp slants, gentle curves, zig zags, and diamond patterns. Go wild.

Still confused? - Here are a few videos that will help you on your increases and decreases.

Method 2

Short Rows

Short rows are a hot little number that not only give you another option of how to knit on the bias, but they can also be used to create interesting color patterns for variegated yarn and for shaping to create the perfect fit. They also make a great addition to your knitting repertoire because they make make anything look fancy with virtually no skill needed!

The basic idea of a short row is to "interrupt" a row of knitting by turning before you finish and start creating an additional row. If you add multiple rows at even intervals, you will create a wedge shape. You can also start them at uneven intervals to create curves, patterns, or any other tailoring you want. When working with short rows, you will see a big debate on people who "wrap and turn" and those who don't. The idea is that once you turn your work, you can wrap your working yarn around the last stitch so turning doesn't create a hole. It's up to you whether you decide to wrap or not depending on the look you like and the garment you are creating. The instructions below do not include the wraps in parenthesis so you can try both and decide what you like.

Basic Short Row Recipe:

Cast on 20 stitches and knit a few rows in stockinette, ending on a purled row. Turn to the right side with knit stitches facing.

Row 1: Knit 10 stitches. This will leave half of your stitches unknit. Don't panic.

Row 2: (Wrap and) Turn your knitting so the purl side is facing you. There are 10 stitches on both needles. Purl 10 stitches.

Row 3: Knit 9 stitches. (Wrap and) Turn.

Row 4: Purl 9 stitches.

Row 5: Knit 8 stitches. (Wrap and) Turn.

Row 6: Purl 8 stitches.

Continue in this way until you have worked all short rows down to one stitch and turn work so the right side is face. Now knit across all 20 stitches.

You have just created a short row wedge shape on the right half of your work. Adjust the size of your short rows to your project.

How to wrap and turn:

Let's use the same example above. If you are knitting in stockinette with knit side facing, knit your first ten stitches. Now bring your yarn forward as if to purl. Slip the next stitch knitwise and bring your yarn to the back as if to knit again. Now turn your work and slip this unknit stitch back to your right needle. This is wrapping your yarn to prevent gaps in the work. It is commonly abbreviated as w&t, w+t, or wt.

For a great visual example, follow this link in the next module to The Purl Bee where they give you a great visual example of the wrap and turn tutorial above.

Still Confused? - Check out some videos to help you with those wrap and turns.

Cat Bordhi is the Houdini of the knitting world and here she gives you tips on how to prevent holes with your short rows.

Learn the basics here.

Method 3 - Entrelac: Using short rows to "weave"

Entrelac Scarf
Entrelac Scarf

Entrelac is a bias knitting technique that allows you to create a woven look for your piece by knitting one block at a time. Don't be fooled by the intricate fabric, entrelac is actually easy one you get the hang of it. You simply start by creating a few triangles. By working short rows back and forth to create small slanted blocks, you can pick up stitches on the sides to start another block slanting in the opposite direction.

Here is an example of a basic stockinette entrelac pattern repeat.

CO 24 stitches (8 stitch pattern repeat)

To create your base triangles:

Knit first 2 stitches (RS)

Turn work, purl 1, slip 1 purlwise

Turn back to right side, knit 3 stitches

Turn work, then purl 2 and slip the final stitch

Knit 4 and turn, purl 3 and slip 1

Knit 5 and turn, purl 4, slip 1

Knit 6, turn, purl 5, slip 1

Knit 7, turn, purl 6, slip 1

Knit 8. Do not turn. The first triangle is complete.

For this example, you will have 3 triangles (24 stitches with 8 stitch pattern repeats).

You have just created the base for your entrelac knitting.

To knit the entrelac squares.

First side triangle:

Purl the first 2 stitches

Turn work, knit 2 stitches

Purl into the front and back of the first stitch (Pfb), purl 2 together (P2tog)

Turn work, knit 3 stitches.

Pfb, purl 1, p2tog, turn, knit 4, turn.

Pfb, purl 2, p2tog, turn, knit 5, turn.

Pfb, purl 3, p2tog, turn, knit 6, turn.

Pfb, purl 4, p2tog, turn, knit 7, turn.

Pfb, purl 5, p2tog. Your side triangle is complete, but do not turn.

To finish the rest of the blocks for the row:

With purl-side facing, use right-hand needle to pick up and purl 8 stitches along the side of the base triangle.

Turn work, knit 7 stitches, slip the last stitch as if to purl.

Turn work, purl 7 stitches, p2tog.

Repeat last two rows, slipping the last stitch on the knit side and purling 2 together each purl-side.

To finish the square, knit 7 stitches, slip the last stitch again.

Turn work, purl 7 and purl 2 together.

You are now done with the first half of the squares and have completely knit across this side. Now finish the blocks going back across the row as follows:

With purl-side facing, pick up and purl 8 stitches from the base triangle.

Knit 6, slip 1, turn purl 5, p2tog

Knit 5, slip 1, turn, purl 4, p2tog

Knit 4, slip 1, turn, purl 3, p2tog

Knit 3, slip 1, turn, purl 2, p2tog

Knit 2, slip 1, turn, purl 1, p2tog

Knit 1, slip 1, turn, p2tog

To work more on these techniques, visit a few of the pattern links below to start your own entrelac project.

Still Confused? - Try this video for some visual entrelac lessons.

Books to Back it Up!

Having a guide at your fingertips is always helpful for getting beyond the basics. I suggest a few here that teach you not just the technique itself but how to apply it in different settings. It includes books for all three diagonal knitting techniques that will help you tailor your knitting for a perfect fit and learn more techniques than you can shake a stick at!

The Shape of Knitting: A Master Class in Increases, Decreases, and Other Forms of Shaping
The Shape of Knitting: A Master Class in Increases, Decreases, and Other Forms of Shaping

Helps you build you knowledge base not only teaching you increases and decreases, but the differences between them which will effect how your projects look.

Knitting Off the Axis: Projects and Techniques for Sideways Knitting
Knitting Off the Axis: Projects and Techniques for Sideways Knitting

Modern patterns that use bias knitting to create more fluid and clean lines in fashion.

Knit to Flatter: The only instructions you'll ever need to knit sweaters that make you look good and feel great!
Knit to Flatter: The only instructions you'll ever need to knit sweaters that make you look good and feel great!

Learn to tailor your knits to flatter your figure. Short rows are just one example of how to achieve this and this books covers several example of how to do this with sample patterns to set in your skills.

Entrelac: The Essential Guide to Interlace Knitting
Entrelac: The Essential Guide to Interlace Knitting

This is your bible. It's an in-depth reference for the how's and why's of entrelac knitting so you know both the stitches and the technique to get you from A to Z.


Pick your poison

What's your favorite bias technique?

See results

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    • Zdiddle profile image

      Zdiddle 3 years ago

      @jennabee25: I love short rows, but seem to forget how to do them every single time. At least I always have a handle on my increases and decreases.

    • jennabee25 profile image

      Jenn Dixon 3 years ago from PA

      I'm of a short rows person, but I do like both methods!

    • Zdiddle profile image

      Zdiddle 4 years ago

      @LilyBird: I thought I would die my first time, but I started to get the hang of it during the first row. My biggest problem is actually not the entrelac itself, but picking up stitches! I think you'll do fine. Let me know how it goes!

    • LilyBird profile image

      LilyBird 4 years ago

      I love the look of Entrelac but it looks so complicated I've never even looked into how to do it. The video and your pattern make it look doable. I'll give it a try soon, I'm sure there will be lots of frogging but I'll learn something new in the process. Thanks for this informative lens!

    • Zdiddle profile image

      Zdiddle 4 years ago

      @CassandraCae: I still haven't gotten around to socks. They've been on my list for years! I have more sock yarn than should be allowed for someone who doesn't actually make them. Good luck!

    • Zdiddle profile image

      Zdiddle 4 years ago

      @Elsie Hagley: Me too. I tried entrelac very soon after figuring out how to knit and remember it being challenging. Now, I think it's much easier, but still makes me think about what I'm doing every stitch. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 4 years ago from New Zealand

      I enjoyed this article very much.

      I have been knitting for years, but have never this "entrelac weave way."

      I will be trying this out as soon as I have finished viewing the other Rocket squids pages.

      Thanks I like something new, a nice challenge.

    • CassandraCae profile image

      Cassandra Kuthy 4 years ago from Ohio

      I wanna learn to knit. I crochet and I love it. I really wanna knit socks.

    • Zdiddle profile image

      Zdiddle 4 years ago

      @jlshernandez: There is another method involving short rows that I plan to add in the next week or so. I'm building the page as I go, so hopefully there will be even more resources for you once you decide to take the plunge!

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 4 years ago

      I have never tried knitting on a bias and I am an avid knitter. Something new for me to try. Thanks for sharing the instructions.