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Glossary of Knitting Terminology

Author: Roxanne McDonald - Updated: 30 August 2015 | commentsComment
Glossary Knitting Terminology Knitting

If you have ever heard an avid knitter speaking aloud to herself and saying something about “dropping a stitch” you may have wondered, “Is this a good or bad thing?” Likewise, as you prepare to start your own lifetime of knitting, you probably want to know what else is involved, what other knitting terms you need to know.

Below are a few of the most commonly used knitting terms found in patterns you will soon be tackling on your own!

Knitting Terms
Alternate - To work every other row.

Bind off - To close work by finishing with a final row—by knitting two stitches; slipping the first stitch over the second stitch; repeating with every two stitches until only one last stitch remains; and cutting yarn and looping it through the last stitch.

Cast on - To begin by creating the first stitch, or to add a stitch or stitches—by making a slip loop over left needle, placing right needle through the loop, passing yarn over and under right needle, drawing yarn through loop, and transferring loop to left needle.

Decrease - To work fewer stitches according to instructions for shaping a piece—most typically by a) knitting stitches together; or b) slipping a stitch and passing over the slipped stitch while knitting the following stitch.

Garter Stitch - A pattern using knit for every stitch and every row.

Increase - To work additional stitches according to instructions—most typically by a) creating two stitches from one stitch by knitting twice into the same stitch; b) creating two stitches from one stitch by purling twice into the same stitch; or c) using the right needle to pick up the yarn, place it on the left needle, and knit an additional stitch into the back of the new loop created.

Knit - The act, to knit, but also the most common stitch. In patterns, knit is abbreviated as K and is followed by the number of stitches needed: K4 = knit four stitches.

Make 1 (see increase) - To work additional stitches according to pattern directions—commonly performed to shape a piece; or to create a hole and extra stitch (for a lacy pattern), for example.

Moss Stitch - The alternating of one knit stitch and one purl stitch in every row.

Purl - The second most common stitch. Whereas in a knit stitch you put the right needle through the stitch from behind, in the purl stitch you place the right needle into the front of the left needle stitch.

Pass Slipped Stitch Over - The process includes slipping one stitch (transferring the next stitch from left needle to right needle); then knitting the following stitch (yarn under then over right needle and yarn pulled through); then slipping stitch off left needle—so that slipped stitch and knitted stitch are now on right needle. Finally, the slipped stitch is lifted up and over the knit stitch and off the right needle.

Repeat - To do the same step or stitch as just previously instructed. If the instructions read [repeat], do the same action as you just did in the [previous bracketed instruction] step.

Reverse Shaping - The act of working the second side of the piece’s shape at the opposite end from where it was worked for the first side. The process typically includes binding off.

Row - The completed series of stitches worked from one needle to the other, thereby making it time to transfer needles accordingly: from left hand needle in left hand to right hand, and right hand needle (with row) to left hand.

Selvage (or, selvedge) - Technically meaning raw edge of a piece—the edges that were the first and last rows of stitches.

Slip - To transfer a stitch from left needle to right needle without adding yarn.

Stocking Stitch - A stitch pattern made by alternating one row of knit and one row of purl throughout.

Through the Back of the Loop - The act of knitting (or purling) into the back of the loop on left needle, creating a twisted stitch.

Together - On a knitting row, the right needle (pointing left to right) works with the next two stitches (or number indicated) on the left needle, while the yarn is put under right needle, brought over the top, and pulled through both stitches at the same time; then the two stitches are dropped. On a purling row, the process is done in similar fashion but with purling actions—right needle is put through the front of left needle stitches; and yarn is brought over the top of right needle point.

Yarn Back - The action of putting front-sitting yarn to back, between the two needles.

Yarn Forward - The action of bringing back-sitting yarn to the front, under the right needle.

Yarn Front - The act of leaving the already front-sitting yarn at the front instead of moving it back for a back-sitting yarn stitch—an action which will instead create a loop or hole.

Yarn ‘Round Needle - The act of preceding the next stitch by wrapping yarn around the right needle point (yarn starting and finishing at back for a knit stitch, yarn starting and finishing at front for a purl stitch)—thereby creating a hole and an extra stitch.

Knitting Abbreviations
Alt. - alternate (verb)
Beg. - beginning
Cont. - continue
Dec. - decrease
Foll. - following
Folls. - follows
G. St. - garter stitch
Inc. - increase
Incl. - inclusive
K - knit
m1 - make one
M.St. - moss stitch
P - purl
Patt. - pattern
p.s.s.o. - pass slipped stitch over
Rep. - repeat
Sl. - slip
St. - stitch
St. St. - stocking stitch
Tbl. - through the back of the loop
Tog. - together
yb - yarn back
yfwd - yarn forward
yf - yarn front
yrn - yarn ‘round needle

Now that you have caught up on the basic knitting terminology, it’s time to put the techniques into action. Check out our other helpful articles for your next knitting adventures—whether they involve learning how to knit your very first piece or trying new knitting stitches.

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Leave a Comment, Ask for Advice or Share Your Story...
[Add a Comment]
Hi x Wyib .... 'with yarn in back'. Does that mean I bring wool to the back of the pattern?
Cath - 30-Aug-15 @ 3:12 PM
when a pattern says "a multiple of 8 stitches + 1",what does that mean, and how do I figure how many stitches do I need to cast on (if doing a baby blanket,or scarf )?
sandy - 2-Aug-15 @ 10:43 PM
@jeanne. It doesn't really make sense to us either. Assuming it's somewhere that decreasing is needed, we guess it's just a case of slip a stitch (with the yarn over in purlwise position) then continue....the number of stitches must be halved at the end of this row? Anyone else have any suggestions?
CraftExpert - 8-Apr-15 @ 9:50 AM
Please help me. I am an experienced knitter but I have recently come across this instruction in the"Sandra" magazine:-sl 1 together with yo purlwise. What do I do? I'm helpless. This is part of a half"fisherman's rib" pattern. The next stitch is a purl and this instruction is repeated till thend of row. The following row is equally confusing:- k1,purl stitch tog with 1 yarn over
Jeanne - 4-Apr-15 @ 5:41 PM
I have a Gansey pattern which has no glossary with it. Can anyone tell me what "(Wind 2) twice" / "yfwd, k3, pass yfwd over k3" / "(Bind 2) 4 times, bind 1, (bind 2) 4 times" means please. Thanks in anticipation. PatsyMike
PatsyMike - 23-Feb-15 @ 8:47 AM
@ovaltine: Slip one - simply slip a stitch from left needle to right
yfrt - We assume this is yarn foward - so make sure your yarn is in forward (into the purl position)
s1p - this is slip one purlwise - so slip a stitch with your yarn still facing you at the front of the knit
yuk - we've not come across this but guess it means with your yarn in knit position
Knit tog next and loop across St (s1 and yfrt of previous row)- this looks like it should be Knit two together (place your right needle through two stitches on the left needle and knit as normal) then loop your yarn to the purl wise postion then slip a stitch.
CraftExpert - 17-Dec-14 @ 11:35 AM
Hi. I am knitting from a Rico pattern and it's telling me to s1,yfrt,s1p,yuk.Knit tog next St and loop across St (s1 and yfrt of previous row)can you please help me out. many thanks
ovaltine - 16-Dec-14 @ 7:48 PM
Hi ... I'm working on a beautiful Hayfield sweater pattern and have come across a term I don't know ... what does 'wrap 1' mean?It's at the end of a row finishing with knitting and starting with purling.Thanks in advance !!!
Sue - 5-Oct-14 @ 3:50 PM
dear shalora youve got it right- turn your side panels to the horizontal and pick and knit-because aran knitwear is much chunkier and heavier your bands would stretch our and pucker over time if you were to knit them vertically Another option is to crochet along your edges and put in a zipper instead of bands with buttonholes
anne - 5-Aug-14 @ 1:57 PM
I am an experienced knitter but have an american pattern with the abbreviation skp and have no idea what this means can anyone help with this please
anne - 5-Aug-14 @ 1:33 PM
I have a Rico Design pattern which tell me to 's1p *knit tog next st and loop across st (s1p and yfrt of previous row). I'm feeling a little thick because I don't quite understand. I know what the abbreviations mean but can't figure out how to do it. Can anybody help?
Finchy - 6-Dec-13 @ 1:02 PM
So I am an American using a lovely British pattern for an aran cardigan.I've noticed that when finishing and putting the edge on the vertical lengths of the left and right panels, it gives the instruction to "knit up".From the image, it looks like the rib is running horizontally and not vertically, so I assume that you're turning the piece so that the vertical finished edge is now the horizontal edge, so I'm assuming that "knit up" is what we would call "pick up and knit", where you are passing a yarn loop through an existing stitch in order to create a working edge where there was none before?
Shalora - 23-Feb-13 @ 9:47 PM
ive just found an american pattern on line that uses the instruction 'unzip' cast on stitches. can any one help with what this means please,
Jan - 19-Oct-12 @ 10:34 PM
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    Re: Glossary of Knitting Terminology
    Hi x Wyib .... 'with yarn in back'. Does that mean I bring wool to the back of the pattern?
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