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Knitting Terminology

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Abbreviations and Instructions

YO: Yarn over. A method to increase the number of stitches, this creates a hole in the fabric. To make a YO, wrap the yarn around the right needle as if making a stitch.
KFB: Knit into the front and back. Another method of increasing. To kfb, knit into the front and back of a stitch.
k2tog: Knit 2 together. This creates a right-slanting decrease. To k2tog, insert the right needle into the first two stitches on the left needle and work them together.
SSK: Slip-slip-knit. This is a left-slanting decrease. To SSK, slip as if to knit the first stitch, then the second stitch, off the left needle. Insert the left needle into the front of the slipped stitches and work them together.
Sl1, k1, psso (SKP): Slip 1, knit 1, pass over. This is another left-slanting decrease. Slip the first stitch knitwise, knit 1 stitch, then, with the tip of the left needle, pass the slipped stitch over the knitted stitch.
C4B: Cable 4 back. A simple cable instruction for a right-leaning cable. Slip 2 stitches onto a cable needle and hold in back of the work. Knit the next 2 stitches, then knit the 2 stitches from the cable needle
C4F: Cable 4 front. A simple cable instruction for a left-leaning cable. Slip 2 stitches onto a cable needle and hold in front of the work. Knit the next 2 stitches, then knit the 2 stitches from the cable needle.
DPN: Double-pointed needle. Knitting needles with points on both ends so they can be worked from either end. Used to knit in the round.
MC: Main color. Used when working with multiple colors.
CC: Contrast color. Used when working with multiple colors.
Continue in pattern or similar: Some patterns look rather complicated while being fairly simple. To keep instructions simple, some patterns will instruct you to continue in pattern, which means to keep following the established pattern of knits, purls, increases, decreases, etc., until the pattern tells you to do otherwise.
Knit the knits, purl the purls: Often given as wrong-side row instructions, this means on the row you're working on to knit the stitches that look like knit stiches (that have the v shape) and purl the stitches that look like purl stitches (that have the purl bump). For example, once you set up a stockinette pattern, you can knit the knits and purl the purls and end up with a stockinette stitch.


Gauge is how many stitches and rows there are in an inch of your project, and it's one of the most important aspects of knitting patterns, particularly ones that are meant to be worn. Most patterns give a gauge in the instructions; this will tell you how many stitches and rows are needed to properly follow the pattern. This is an important measurement to match; otherwise, your finished project will not turn out right. For example, if you have something that's supposed to be, say, 5 stitches per inch, but your version has 4 stitches an inch, well, it's going to be bigger than you planned. Sure, a one-stitch-an-inch difference may not sound very important, but that means for four inches in the pattern instructions, you have five inches of actual knitting. Now imagine that on a sweater scale. Important, right?

Gauge can be tricky to sort out, and sometimes it can still make fools of us. (I'm looking at you, cardigan project from several years ago.) I've found that this Techniques with Theresa article on gauge is a great place to start. Theresa demonstrates how to measure gauge on several different types of knitting. Another helpful article is Marilyn A Roberts's Swatch out!, in which she discusses the best way to go about making and measuring gauge swatches. I highly recommend reading and learning from these articles. Speaking from experience, it's so much better to take the time to properly gauge things out than to finish a project only to realize that it's too big or too small.

Reading knitting charts

A knitting chart is a sort of roadmap to a finished piece of knitting. It allows you to "see" the finished work in a way that written patterns don't, and it makes the relationship between the stitches much clearer than written instructions. Also, it can be something of a space saver, particularly for large, complicated patterns.

Most knitting charts I've come across start in the bottom right. If you think about how you make a knitted item, that's where you start. The charts are read from right to left and from the bottom to the top. Most charts are going to have symbols for the various stitches; good single patterns will list the symbols in the pattern itself, while pattern books will have a sort of symbol glossary.

Some charts, such as the zigzag lace used in this shawl, chart out what you do on every row. If your chart is written this way, remember that the chart shows you the right side of the fabric, so read the chart accordinging. In the case of the example chart, if you're knitting it in the round, read each row from right to left, as this is how you're knitting. If, however, you're knitting it back and forth, the even (wrong side) rows will be read from left to right, because that's the direction you're moving in relation to the right side of the fabric.

Other charts, like this simple knit and purl pattern used in a pair of EarthForce socks, leave out the even rows to save space. Pay special attention whether the pattern was intended to be knit in the round or back and forth, as this can make a difference in what stitches you need for the wrong side rows.

Unfortunately, sometimes it's hard to to tell if a pattern is leaving out rows or not. If you can't figure it out, ask another knitter or three for help. Or, if you're the independent type, knit up a swatch (which isn't a bad idea, generally speaking) to sort out the kinks of the pattern and figure out if it's leaving rows out or not.

The zigzag lace chart is from Beautiful Knitting Patterns by Gisela Klöpper, published in 2005 by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., and can be found on page 54. The EarthForce Socks pattern can be found on Cosmo's neglected knitting blog.

Knitting Terms

Check here for explanations of basic knitting terms that appear in the lessons.


Further reading

Click here for recommendations of other knitting resources.



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