What Do All Those Knitting Terms Mean

Here are the most commonly used knitting terms and their definitions, and how you will see their abbreviations marked in patterns.

Knit: When you are reading a pattern, knit refers to a type of stitch. This is also called the knit stitch and is marked in patterns as "k." The knit stitch is probably the first stitch you learned, but in case you forgot, or are new to the craft of knitting, here is a brief refresher. You make a knit stitch when you insert the right hand needle through the top stitch on the left hand needle, wrap the yarn around the right hand needle with the left in front, and push the right hand needle through the opening in the old stitch to create a new stitch.

Purl: Like knit, purl refers to a certain type of stitch. A purl is made when you insert the right hand needle into the first stitch on the left hand needle, but bring the right around to the front. With the yarn in front (instead of behind the needles), wrap the yarn around the right hand needle and push it through the opening in the stitch to create a new loop on the right hand needle. Purling feels just like knitting, but backwards. On a pattern, purl will be marked as "p."

Numbers: Any time you see a number after a "k" or a "p" on a pattern, that means that you should knit or purl that many stitches. For example, "k3" means knit three stitches.

Garter stitch: This is the knitting term for the pattern that a group of knit stitches makes. If you knit all knit stitches, you'll get horizontally ribbed rows called a garter stitch.

Stockinette stitch: This is a knitting term for the pattern created when you alternate knit stitch rows with purl stitch rows. The pattern looks like rows of "V's."

Cast on: This is the technical term for how you begin a knitting project. Casting on refers to getting the first row of stitches onto the needle. In a pattern, cast on will be marked as "CO."


Bind off: This is how you end a knitting project. If you think of knitting as making row after row of slip knots, binding off is how you tie the knots to keep your project from unraveling. Binding off is denoted as "BO" in a pattern.

Slip stitch: Sometimes when you knit, you won't want to knit every stitch. To make a slip stitch, take the top stitch on the left hand needle and slip it onto the right hand needle without doing anything to it. This knitting term is written as an "sl" in a pattern.

Yarn back: Sometimes you will need to change the position of the yarn before making your next stitch. Yarn back means to take the yarn and move it behind your needles. Think of "yarn back" as putting the yarn where you would normally put it to make a knit stitch. In a pattern, yarn back is denoted as "yb."

Yarn forward: Like yarn back, yarn forward means to adjust the position of the yarn before making your next stitch. When you see "yf" on a pattern, bring the yarn to the front of your needles like when you are purling.

Yarn over: This is another knitting term that deals with positioning the yarn. When you see "yo" in a pattern, take the yarn and bring it to the front. Then take the yarn and wrap it around the right hand needle and use it to knit the next stitch. Yarn over is used to increase the number of stitches in a row, and it also makes a hole that is often used as decoration in some complicated patterns.

Through back loop: A knitting pattern will sometimes tell you to work a stitch "through back loop" instead of through the front part of a stitch. When you do this, it makes a little twist at the base of the stitch that can be decorative. Through back loop is denoted as a "tbl" on a pattern.

Increase: To increase means to add another stitch. Do this by skipping the first stitch on the left hand needle and knitting into the second stitch. Don't drop any stitches yet. Knit into the first stitch as normal, drop it and then knit the second stitch again normally. The second time you knit the second stitch, it will feel tighter. Learning how to increase is an important step in varying the width of your project. Increase is denoted as "inc."

Make: Make also increases the number of stitches in a row. It is marked as "m" and you do this by inserting the left hand needle into the yarn between the stitch you just made and the next stitch on the left hand needle. Look for the horizontal line of yarn that stretches when you tug gently. Transfer it to the right hand needle by inserting the right needle from front to back. Knit the extra stitch through the back loop.

Knit together: Instead of knitting just one stitch into the weave, pretend the first two stitches on the left hand needle are one and knit them together. This will look like "k2tog" or "k3tog," depending on how many stitches you are supposed to knit as one.

Repeat: Instead of writing out every step on a pattern, the pattern will often tell you to repeat certain steps. This is marked "rep," and a (*) will tell you where to begin the repetition.

Right hand and left hand: The right hand and left hand needles are abbreviated as "RH" and "LH" on patterns.

Right side and wrong side: The right side of your knitting (RS) will be the side with the pattern. The wrong side (WS) will be the reverse side. This isn't too important with simple patterns that look nice on both sides, but more complicated patterns will have a definite right and wrong side.

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