Slipped stitches can create all kinds of interesting patterns in your knitting. Today we’re going to use them to make butterflies. This involve slipping several stitches WYIF (with yarn in front) to create what are called “floats,” which are then gathered with a stitch at the center. These can add a cute element to a plain stockinette pattern. If you do the right number of floats, you could even make them look like spiders, which is perfect for Halloween!
For the purposes of this demonstration, we’re going to make our butterflies 5 stitches wide. Cast on 17 stitches, which allows for three butterflies as well as a stitch on each edge. I used Vanna’s Choice® in Eggplant on size 9 needles, but for learning purposes, you can use whatever yarn you are comfortable with. A lighter color might help you see your stitches better.
After casting on 17 stitches, knit two rows to create a garter stitch edge. Then work two rows in reverse stockinette — purl on the RS, knit on the WS. You can work butterflies on regular stockinette stitch, but they pop more off the purl side. It’s a personal aesthetic choice.
Now it’s time to make the floats. To do this, you will be slipping several stitches WYIF. Knit the first stitch, bring the yarn forward, then slip 5 stitches.
Then purl the next stitch. Be sure to leave enough slack that the float can be gathered up later, but don’t leave too much or it will look droopy.
Purl 4 more stitches, then slip 5 stitches WYIF and knit the last stitch. You should have two long floats. Then, knit the WS row.
You will repeat these two rows three more times.
To recap, the float rows are as follows:
Row 1: K1, move yarn forward, slip 5 WYIF, P5, slip 5 WYIF, K1
Row 2: K across
When finished you should have four rows of floats.
The gather rows seem weird the first time you try them, but once you do it they make sense. I promise.
To work the gather row, K1, then P2. The next stitch should be at the center of the floats. Using your right hand needle, gather the four floats, bring them up onto the left needle, and place them BEHIND the first stitch on the left needle.
Knit the first stitch on the left needle, then drop the four floats off the needle. They should hang behind the knit stitch you just worked. Then, purl 9 so you are at the center of the second butterfly, and repeat the gathers for the other set of floats. Knit the WS row.
Congratulations! You have now made your first set of butterflies. See what I meant when I said they could also pass as spiders? You could work them in an orange color yarn, on the end of a scarf or as part of a hat, and make a cute Halloween garment.
Now, we’re going to work one more spider/butterfly, in the center of the piece.
One More Time
To make a center butterfly, do as follows:
Row 1: K1, P5, slip 5 stitches WYIF, P5, K1
Row 2: K
Repeat these rows three more times to once again make four floats.
Now you will work another gather row.
Row 1: K1, P7, use the right needle to lift the four floats and place them on the left needle behind the first stitch, K1, drop the four floats off the left hand needle, P7, K1
Row 2: K
Then work a couple of rows of garter stitch and bind off. You’ve created your first swatch of butterflies!
You can play around with different widths (odd numbers work best with the center gathers) and different numbers of float rows, if you want. You could also turn the gather stitch into a bobble if you want to add some volume to it. However you choose to adjust it, the basic idea is the same: use slipped stitches to create floats, then gather them at the center with a stitch. Have fun!