Knitting Terms

Knitting Terms for Beginners

Knitting Terms

Understanding common knitting terms is half the battle of learning how to knit. It all seems very confusing at first, but with a little bit of perseverance you will soon be fluent in the language of knitters everywhere.

I have compiled a list of some of the most common knitting terms you will come across and as when I think of any others I will be sure to add them.

If you can’t find what you are looking for in my list of knitting terms, you might want to have a look at my summary of knitting abbreviations further down this page.

Bind Off (Cast Off)

To tie off the stitches so that you can remove the knitted fabric from the needle.

Cable Knitting

A type of knitting that produces a textured pattern of pipe like patterns (called cables) on the fabric. You use a special cable needle for this technique.

Cast On (Number of stitches)

To add the required number of stitches to the needle to start knitting.

Continental Knitting

A method of knitting where you hold the yarn in your left hand. It is sometimes known as “picking” because of the limited movement it requires.


Reduce the number of stitches.

Dye Lot

Most yarn is dyed in batches. This means that although yarn may be the same color, if yarn comes from different batches the shade may vary slightly. The dye lot is usually stamped on the paper band of each ball of wool.

English Knitting

A method of knitting where you hold the yarn in the right hand.


A knitting technique that produces knitted fabric with a basket-woven effect.

Fair Isle Knitting

A traditional technique for adding colors in a characteristic pattern using only two colors per row. You draw through whichever color is required and hold the other color behind.


Add a number of stitches.


A technique for adding colors to knitting, often in the form of motifs. Unlike Fair Isle knitting, the yarn is not carried across the back of the work and only and the areas of color are all separate pieces.


A striped, textured pattern often seen on the hems of knitted fabric. You create the pattern by alternating a few purl stitches with a few knit stitches.

Right Side

This right side of knitted fabric is the side that shows when the garment is worn. If you are knitting stockinette stitch, it is the side you knit on (rather than purl).

Selvedge (Selvage)

This is the edge of the knitted fabric.


Most yarn is sold in skeins rather than balls. A skeins is a longer, more oval shape than a ball but it is not of a specific length.

Slipped Stitch

A slipped stitch is passed from the left needle to the right needle without being knitted. Slipped stitches can be used for making extra long stitches and carrying over colors.


This is a technique for garments knitted in the round where a cut is made across part of the tube to attach another knitted piece.

Tension / Gauge

This is the recommended number of stitches and rows you get when you knit a particular size square (usually 4” or 10cm square).

Wrong Side

The wrong side of knitted fabric is not visible as it faces inwards when the garment is worn.

Yarn Over

A knitting technique where you pass the yarn over the right needle for increasing or decoration.

Knitting Abbreviations

At first, knitting abbreviations seem very confusing. However, you will soon realize that the common abbreviations appear in knitting patterns again and again.

I have found that most of the mistakes I have made have happened because I have misread the pattern. However, making mistakes is the best way to learn so I try to look at any setback as a positive experience!

Learning knitting jargon is like learning a new language. It seems like gobbledygook at first but before you know it you will be understanding snippets here and there.

If I can learn how to read patterns, then I think anyone can. (I am not known for my patience!)

Good luck and I hope your project turns out well.

Knitting Abbreviations List

*Repeat the instructions after the asterisk as directed
**Repeat the instructions between the asterisks as directed
[  ]Repeat the instructions within the square brackets as many times as directed
(  )Follow the instructions within the curved brackets in the place directed
BObind off  
CAcolour A
CBcolour B
CCcontrasting colour
COcast on
DKdouble knitting weight yarn
k2togknit two together
m1make one  
p2togpurl two together
pssopass slipped stitch over  
rev st streverse stockinette/stocking stitch  
RSright side
skposlip one, knit one, pass slipped stitch over  
sl1kslip one knitwise  
sl1pslip one purlwise  
sl stslip stitch  
st ststockinette/stocking stitch  
tblthrough back of loop  
WSwrong side  
wyibwith yarn in back
wyifwith yarn in front
ybyarn back  
yf / yfwdyarn forward  
yoyarn over
yonyarn over needle  
yrnyarn round needle