21 Knitting Terms & Abbreviations to Start With

A variety of yarn weights
A variety of yarn weights

The first thing you need to know about knitting terms is that there are entire books written about them.  I owned one at one time.  It was a small book, but my point stands.  Trying to fit all of the knitting terms & abbreviations out there into one post would not be enjoyable for the author or the reader.  Perhaps someone will make a searchable knitting terms site or app, but this post is not that.

What follows are some of the more commonly used terms.  It’s also worth noting that many pattern designers will use whatever term or abbreviation they’re comfortable with, so check to see what the pattern says.  A well-written pattern will explain any variations or less common terms and abbreviations.

BO – bind off (Hurray, you’re project is done!)  Tip:  Use needles that are 2 sizes larger than the project size so your bind off isn’t too tight.

CO – cast on (Hurray, you’re starting a new project!)  Tip:  Use needles that are 2 sizes larger than you will be using for the first row(s) so you’re cast on isn’t too tight.

MC – main color

CC – contrasting color – if there’s more than one, they’ll typically be listed as “CC1, CC2,” etc. or “CCA, CCB,” etc.

inc – increase (one stitch).  Usually it will only be one stitch.  On the rare occasions when it’s more than one stitch, a number will follow the “inc.”  More often, it will say something like “inc 1 st every 4 st.”

M1 – make one st.  This typically refers to making a st by picking up the horizontal strand between 2 sts, but double check your pattern to see if the designer has something else in mind.  There are a variety of different ways to create new sts, and each will have a different look in your finished project.

PU – pick up.  This refers to pulling loops of yarn through your work around a finished edge, like a collar or armhole, to create new stitches for an edging treatment or to begin knitting in a new direction.  Make sure they’re evenly spaced.

st – stitch, of course!  This could refer to the number of stitches on your needle or to the name of the stitch pattern, “Garter St” or “Seed St,” for example.

dec – decrease, see “increase” for common usage.  Note:  There are different types of dec & inc.  Which one you use in your project can make a very visible difference in your project.  It took me years to figure this out.  Learn from my mistake.  They are not interchangeable!

K or k – knit

P or p – purl

LH – left hand

RH – right hand

R or RS – right side, the side that will face out when the project is finished & in use.

W or WS – wrong side, the inside, or unseen side of the project, when it’s done.  There’s nothing “wrong” with it, of course, but this is the terminology that’s been in use for deca

des, or longer.

k2tog – insert your needle as you normally, but through 2 stitches instead of just one.pull yarn through & slide sts off, now you have one less stitch.  Note:  This creates a tilted st & repeating this dec at the same location on rows that follow will create an obvious line in your project.

ssk – slip the next 2 sts off your LH needle, one at a time, as if you were going to knit them, then insert the LH needle into the 2 sts & knit them together.   Note: This creates a tilted st & repeating this dec at the same location will create an obvious line in your project.

pm – place marker.  Usually VERY important!!

rnds – In circular knitting, a row is called a round, or “rnd.”  Make sure you place a marker so you can keep track of your rnds!

DPN’s – double pointed needles – the only way to knit in the round before circular needles were invented. Tip: A DPN can be used to substitute for a cable needle.

Yarn Weight – This refers to the diameter of the yarn, not the ounces or grams in the ball/hank/skein. A standard yarn weight ranking system, 0 through 7, was developed but seems to be used erratically.  It is vitally important that your yarn be the correct weight for your pattern. Other factors, like drape and stitch definition, are determined more by the type of fibers used in the yarn and are NOT reflected in the yarn weight.

  • 0/Laceweight, Fingering, Crochet thread
  • 1/Superfine, Sock, Fingering, Baby
  • 2/Fine, Baby, Sport
  • 3/double knitting, aka DK, Light worsted
  • 4/Worsted, Afghan, Aran
  • 5/Chunky, Craft, Rug
  • 6/Super Bulky, Roving
  • 7/Jumbo, Roving

Seem like a lot so far?  We’ve only just begun!  I hope you’ve learned something new and that you have a better understanding of your pattern and yarn label.  If you haven’t already, you might want to take another look.

Stay tuned for the next installment!  Let me know if you run across any particularly puzzling terms or abbreviations and I’ll try to include them.

Happy Knitting!


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