Glossary

Knitting is the answer. I don’t care what the question is.

The following are some common knitting terms, techniques, and abbreviations.

  • Arm knitting. Arm knitting is a technique where your arms become the knitting needles and you use your hands to pull up new loops.  Arm knitting is often used with super bulky yarn to make blankets.  
  • Back of the loop. When knitting or purling, instead of working the stitch in front of the needle, you work through the leg of the stitch that sits behind the needle.  That twists the stitch, which is intentional in certain patterns. 
  • Bind off (BO). Binding off is what you do to take your project off the needles when you’ve finished knitting the pattern. There are several different ways to bind off your work. With the simple or traditional bind off, you knit two stitches and then pass the first stitch over the second and off the needle. 
  • Blocking. Blocking is the last step of a project after you finish your knitting or crocheting. One method is to wet the item and carefully lay it out flat into the desired shape. This process helps relax and smooth out the stitches. It’s not essential for all small projects (such as a coaster), but is important for projects like sweaters, shawls, etc. 
  • Brioche. This stitch creates a rib by alternating between the brioche stitch and slip 1 yarn overs (SL1YOs). The fabric is very satisfyingly squishy. Two color brioche is often popular because of the interest it gives to projects. This fisherman’s rib scarf is an example of a single color brioche pattern.
  • Cable knitting. Cable knitting or cabling is a style made popular in Aran sweaters from Ireland. Depending on the pattern, a number of stitches are held to the front or back of the work on a cable needle, then after a working a few stitches, the ones on the cable needle are picked up. Crossing the stitches in front of the others creates a cable effect. You can see examples in this headband or these fingerless gloves
  • Cable needle. A cable needle is a special needle used to hold live stitches to the front or the back during cable knitting. It doesn’t really work like a regular knitting needle in that it isn’t used to actually make new stitches.
  • Cast on (CO). Casting on is how you get the yarn into loops and onto the needles at the beginning of a project so you can start to knit. There are many different methods of casting on; a good option for beginners is the Continental cast on
  • Circular needles. Circular needles can be used for working in the round or as a substitute for straight needles. They can also substitute for double pointed needles when working on a small project. Circular needles come in different sizes of needles with different lengths of cables. 
  • Continental cast on. The Continental cast on is perhaps the easiest for new knitters because it’s very similar to simply knitting. Learn how in this video.
  • Continental knitting (Picking). Continental knitting is oneof the two most popular styles of knitting. With this method, knitters hold the working yarn in their left hand. This is often easier for new knitters because the left hand can focus on tensioning the yarn while the right hand is responsible for moving the working needle. Continental knitting is usually considered a faster knitting style than English (or Throwing.)
  • Contrasting color (CC). When working with more than one color of yarn, they are often designated as the main color and the contrasting (or accent) color.
  • Crochet hook. A crochet hook is the tool used for crocheting, which is also sometimes used in knitting, such as for the provisional cast on or for picking up dropped stitches. 
  • Decrease (dec). A decrease is a way to reduce the number of stitches in a row.  There are several methods of doing this, such as knitting 2 together or slip slip knit.
  • DK. DK (or double knit) yarn is a popular yarn size a little smaller than worsted weight.  DK is typically considered a size 3 yarn and is often used for socks, scarves, and sweaters. 
  • Double knitting. Double knitting is a technique that gives you a two-sided project, each in stockinette.  The finished project is completely reversible and great for interesting color work.  It’s often used for scarves.
  • Double pointed needles (DPNS). DPNS are used for smaller projects that are worked in the round but are too small for circular needles.  DPNS have points on both ends; you typically need five to do a project, which is how many come in a set.
  • Dropped stitches. If a stitch is dropped as a mistake, that means it fell off the needle and will need to be corrected or your work can unravel.  Sometimes patterns used a dropped stitch on purpose to add interest, such as with this weekend scarf.
  • English knitting (Throwing). Perhaps the most popular style of knitting is English, where knitters hold the working yarn in their right hand.  One benefit of this method is the yarn wrapping motion of the right hand is identical in knitting and purling. 
  • Fair isle. Fair isle is a kind of stranded colorwork from Shetland that’s very intricate.  It’s used most often in sweaters, hats, and mittens.
  • Fingering.  Fingering weight yarn is considered superfine, size 1. It’s typically used to knit socks, baby clothes, and lace.
  • Frogging. Frogging is when you pull out multiple rows of stitches to go back and redo them, or to scrap a project completely. It’s called frogging cause you “rip it, rip it.”
  • Garter stitch. To make garter stitch you simply knit every row when making a flat piece of fabric.  When knitting in the round, you would need to alternate between knit rows and purl rows in order to create garter stitch fabric. Garter stitch is a flat project with a rippled texture that’s the same on both sides. 
  • Gauge (Tension). Gauge is the size of your stitches, which is influenced by the tension of your yarn. It’s important to use a combination of yarn and needles to get the correct gauge specified in the pattern, which affects the size of your finished projects.  Some patterns suggest you make a test gauge swatch before starting  In other patterns, this is less important.  
  • Hank. Nice yarn, and especially hand dyed yarn, will often come in a hank rather than wound into a ball or skein. A hank needs to be wound into a ball or cake before using it for a project. 
  • Increase (inc). An increase adds to the total number of stitches in a row. There are many mays to increase the stitches, such as the make one method or knit-front-back.
  • Interchangeable needles. If you ultimately knit a lot, you will end up buying lots of different pairs of needles. At some point, an avid knitter will often find it’s more affordable to buy a set of interchangeable needles. These are circular needles that allow you to attach different sized needles to different lengths of cables. Circular needles can be used instead of straight needles in most projects. 
  • Irish cottage knitting. See lever knitting.
  • Jenny’s stretchy bind off. This bind off method creates a beautiful, elastic edge that’s great for toe up socks, mittens, etc.
  • Jog. When working in the round and two rounds next to each other are knit with different colors of yarn, they don’t line up perfectly at the first stitch in the round, which is called the jog.
  • Join. A join is when you combine two ends of your knitting to knit in the round. The easiest way to join is to knit an extra stitch to the cast on row, then when it’s time to join, pass that stitch over the first stitch in the pattern (being careful not to twist the stitches.) After dropping off the extra stitch, there will be one round of stitches in the correct number.
  • Judy’s magic cast on. This helpful cast on technique is good for starting toe up socks or double knitting projects.  It was invented by Judy Becker.
  • Kitchener Stitch. This stitch is a method of binding off that seams two pieces of knitting into one piece with a beautiful finish.  It’s often used to close the toe of socks knit heel down. 
  • Knit (k). To knit refers to both the act of knitting and to the specific knit stitch
  • Knit-a-long (KAL). A knit-a-long is when a group of knitters get together to knit the same pattern, or sometimes to learn a new skill. It can be  an in person or virtual group. A mystery KAL is when knitters only see one section of the pattern at a time and don’t know what the project will look like until the end. 
  • Knit front back (kfb). With this method of increasing, you knit into the front of the stitch (like usual), but then before pulling that stitch off the left needle, knit another stitch into the back half of the loop that sits behind the left needle. 
  • Knitwise (kwise). When slipping stitches, if the pattern says to slip knitwise, that means to insert the right needle into the stitch on the left needle the way you would to knit, but then simply move the stitch over rather than pulling up a loop.  
  • Knit 2 together (k2tog).  With this method of decreasing, you insert the right needle into the first two stitches on the left needle and knit them at the same time. This creates a single right-leaning decrease.
  • Ladder. A ladder is a gap in knitting that appears between vertical columns of stitches. It can happen when using multiple needles and knitting in the round, such as with DPNS.
  • Lever knitting (Flicking). With lever knitting, also sometimes referred to as Irish Cottage Knitting, the knitter holds the working yarn in the right hand and wraps the yarn without moving the hand away from the right needle very much; the left hand moves the left needle back and forth like a lever, similar to the way a machine would knit. People who win speed knitting contests almost always use the lever knitting style. 
  • Lifeline. A lifetime is a piece of yarn, string, or floss that is knitted or threaded through a row. You leave it there was you continue to work additional rows. If there is an issue later and you have to rip the work back, the lifeline holds the stitches of that row so you can reduce the work at the lifeline. 
  • Live stitch. A live stitch refers to loops on the knitting needles that have not been cast off.
  • Longtail cast-on. Probably the most popular method of casting on, the longtail cast on is easy to do and creates a clean line of stitches. 
  • Make one (M1). A common method of increasing stitches is known as a make one.  The make one is performed in between two stitches, with the bar between the stitches. You can make one left or make one right (see below)
  • Make one left (M1L). From the front, lift the horizontal strand between stitches with the left needle.  Knit through the back loop.
  • Make one right (M1R). From the back, lift the horizontal strand between stitches with the left needle.  Knit through the front loop.
  • Magic loop. Magic loop refers to using a long circular needle (or sometimes two separate circular needles) to knit a small piece of work in the round. It can be helpful for things like socks, gloves, or sweater sleeves. 
  • Main color (MC). When working with more than one color of yarn, the primary color is called the main color; the accent color is called the contrasting color.
  • Markers. See stitch markers.
  • Needle caps. Needle caps go on the ends of your needles and keep the stitches from slipping off when you put your work down in the middle of a project.
  • Negative ease. Negative ease is a concept used in connection with knitting garments like sweaters or socks.  For example, you may want an inch of negative ease in a sock, so the tube is knitted to be an inch smaller than the diameter of your foot and will be comfortably snug as the fabric stretches. 
  • Picking. Picking is another name for Continental knitting
  • Place marker (PM). A pattern will often instruct you to place a marker, which means adding a stitch marker in between two stitches, such as at the end of a row when knitting in the round.  The marker kind of “floats” along on the needles or cable.
  • Positive ease. The opposite of negative ease, positive ease refers to wanting a little extra space in a garment, such as not wanting a sweater to fit too tight, so the knitter would add a few inches of positive ease to the size when calculating gauge. 
  • Provisional cast-on. This method of casting on utilizes a piece of scrap yarn and a crochet hook and leaves the cast on stitches “live” so you can join them seamlessly with the other end of the knitting using the three-needle bind off method. It’s often used in projects like this infinity scarf
  • Purl (P). One of the two primary stitches in knitting (along with the knit stitch), a purl stitch is made by holding the yarn in front and inserting the right needle into the first loop (stitch) on the left needle with the right needle in front. Wrap the working yarn counter-clockwise around the right needle and pull it through the loop. Pull the stitch off the left hand needle. 
  • Purlwise (pwise). When slipping stitches, if the pattern says to slip purlwise, it means to insert the right needle into the loop on the left needle with the two needle points facing each other. 
  • Purl 2 together (p2tog). Purl 2 together is when you insert your right needle into the first two stitches on the left needle and then purl them at the same time, which allows you to decrease one stitch. 
  • Repeat (rep). A patten will often note that one section will repeat multiple times across a row.
  • Ribbing (Rib stitch). The rib stitch, or ribbing, alternates knit and purl stitches to create columns in the work that cinch together to create a stretchy edge, which is nice at the top of a sock or bottom of a hat. You can see an example of 2 x 2 rib (knit 2, purl 2, repeat) at the bottom of this hat
  • Right Side (RS). The right side of your work is the front side of a piece of knitted fabric, opposite the wrong side. The right side is the one that would typically be seen more often when the project is complete. When knitting stockinette, the right side is typically the side with the Vs.
  • Round (rnd). In circular knitting, rows are called rounds.
  • Row. When knitting flat, after working all the stitches on the left needle and transferring them to the right, you will have completed one row.  
  • Selvage. Selvage is the edge of the work formed by the first and last stitch of each row. 
  • Short rows. A short row is made by turning back and working stitches in the opposite direction before reaching the end of the row. This helps create vertical increases that bow the fabric outward, which are helpful when shaping fabric such as the back of a sweater below the neckline or in socks to create the heel. 
  • Slip slip knit (SSK). SSK is one kind of decrease that is slightly left-leaning. Slip the first stitch from the left needle to the right, knitwise. Then slip the second stitch; some people like the way the stitch looks if you slip knitwise (which is most common) while others prefer to slip the second stitch purlwise. Then insert the left needle into the front loops of those two stitches and knit them together. 
  • Slip stitch (sl st). A slip stitch is a stitch that is simply moved from the left needle to the right without pulling up a new loop or working the stitch. Unless otherwise noted, you slip stitches purlwise with the yarn held toward the wrong side of your work. 
  • Sport. A common yarn is sport weight, which is size 2.  It’s often used to knit thick winter socks and clothes or blankets for babies. 
  • Stash. A yarn stash is the collective term for all the yarn you have saved up that could be used (or is planned to be used) for projects. A stash can become so large as to outgrow its storage space.  A tip is to store your stash in plastic tubs that seal well so moths do not ruin your yarn.  
  • Stitch (st). Just like the word “knit,” a stitch can refer to two things: individual stitches that are made as part of the act of knitting (such as a purl stitch), and a fabric that is formed through a set combination of stitches (such as garter stitch, stockinette, moss stitch, linen stitch, etc.)
  • Stitch markers. These are small circles to help mark rows or changes in patterns.  Each marker sits between stitches and easily can be slipped from the left needle to the right, holding your place.
  • Stockinette. Stockinette is made by knitting on the right side rows and purling on the opposite. The right side of the fabric looks like columns of Vs and the wrong side looks like a series of smiles and frowns, or “purl bumps.” When knitting in the round, continuing to knit without making any purl stitches will result in stockinette. 
  • Stranded knitting. Stranded knitting is a kind of color work where stitches are made in two alternating colors every few stitches. The yarn not being worked creates “floats” along the wrong side of the work. This hat is an example of stranded knitting.
  • Straight needles. Straight knitting needles have a point on one end and a cap on the other; you need a matched pair.  They come in different sizes (thicknesses), lengths and materials.
  • Swatch. A swatch is a small sample of your work (ideally at least 4” x 4”) that you make before starting a project to test your gauge.  
  • Swift. A swift is a tool that helps you hold a hank of yarn in place so you can wind it using a winder. 
  • Tail end. The tail end of the yarn is the opposite end from the working yarn that is coming off the skein or ball of yarn. It can also refer to the short pieces of yarn that are left at the beginning and end of a project, or in the middle when you change skeins or colors, that need to be woven in as part of the finishing process for your project. 
  • Tension. Your tension results in a specific size of knitting stitch, or gauge. You want your tension to be even so you don’t have gaps or puckers in your work. There are many factors that influence tension, such as how you hold your yarn and how far apart you keep your needles. Tension almost always improves with experience.  
  • Three needle bind off. When paired with a provisional cast on, this bind off technique is a great way to create an even seam when connecting the beginning and end of your work, such as for a cowl.  
  • Tinking. To tink is to unknit; tink is knit spelled backwards.  You undo the stitches one at a time to repair a mistake that wasn’t very far back in your work.  If a large section needs to be taken out, most knitters would frog the work instead of tinking.
  • Tubular cast on. This cast on method creates a beautiful, stretchy edge that’s great for hats, socks, and mittens.  
  • Twisted stitches. A twisted knitting stitch is usually one that got put on the needle backward by mistake. It often happens if the yarn is wrapped around the right needle incorrectly before completing a stitch or if you’re picking up stitches and put them back on the left needle incorrectly.  A proper stitch will have the front leg heading to the right and the back leg heading to the left.  You can correct it by turning it around or simply knitting the twisted stitch through the back loop. Occasionally patterns will instruct you to twist stitches on purpose for interest.
  • Winder. A winder, or ball winder, allows you to wrap a hank of yarn into a yarn cake or ball so you can pull the working yarn from the center when knitting a project.  Trying to knit with a hank of yarn without winding it into a ball is very likely to result in frustrating tangles. 
  • With yarn in back (WYIB). Sometimes a pattern will tell you to do something (such as slip a stitch) WYIB, which means to hold the yarn at the back of your work as you do when knitting. 
  • With yarn in front (WYIF). Sometimes a pattern will tell you to do something (such as slip a stitch) WYIF, which means to hold the yarn at the front of your work as you do when purling.
  • Work in progress (WIP). WIP is a common acronym when talking about a knitting project that is a work in progress.
  • Working end. The working end is the end of the yarn coming from the ball or skein.
  • Worsted. Worsted weight yarn is one of the most popular weights. It’s a medium or size 4 yarn that is often used for scarves, sweaters, hats, mittens, of afghans.  
  • Wrong side (WS). The wrong side of your work is the back side of a piece of knitted fabric, opposite the right side. The wrong side usually won’t be seen once the project is complete (such as the inside of a hat.)  When knitting stockinette, the wrong side typically the side with the purl bumps.
  • Yarn back. Yarn back is a pattern direction that means to take yarn that’s been being worked at the front of the needles (such as when purling) and move it between the two needles so it’s at the back of the work.  
  • Yarn forward. Yarn forward is a pattern direction that means to take yarn that’s been being worked at the back of the needles (such as when knitting) and move it between the two needles so it’s at the front of the work.  
  • Yarn over (YO). A yarn over creates a stitch increase that also creates a small eyelet hole in the fabric, often use for lace patterns. You make a yarn over by wrapping the yarn around the right needle before working the next stitch. 
  • Yarn needle. A yarn needle, sometimes called a darning or sewing needle, has a large enough eye to fit a piece of yarn. It’s used for weaving in tail ends, sewing a whip stitch, or other sewing for the project. 
  • Verigated yarn. Verigated yarn has multiple, alternating colors in one skein. 
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