Common Knitting Terms and Abbreviations Used in Patterns Explained

By Janice Jones     |Updated 05-19-2023

Knitting terms and abbreviations can seem like they are from a different language when you are first getting started, but after learning a few of the most basic terms, it will all make sense.

When you first explore a knitting pattern, you will notice that much of it looks like a long line of abbreviations.  That is what it is. Symbols and letters represent words or phrases that give the knitter directions to proceed. 

A desk with an assortment of knitting tools and yarnsKnitting Terms and Abbreviations

Why So Many Terms and Abbreviations

You may not need to know many abbreviations and terms if you are just starting out with simple patterns, but as you progress, patterns may get more complicated and the knitting designers that write the patterns need to have a way to condense them into some more manageable.

Likewise, if you want to be a knit designer, you will want to know and understand standard knitting terms.

Knitters prefer the shorthand version as there is less to read, making it easier to scan a pattern beforehand and decide if it is something you want to tackle. The less you must read, the faster you can begin your project. The best part of using standardized abbreviations created by the Craft Yarn Council is that you can pick up any pattern and understand it. US designers often use different terms than those written in the UK and Europe.

Knitting Terms and Abbreviations:  Examples from Real Patterns

Let’s take a real-world example from a simple knitting pattern for beginners.

Row 1 (RS) K1, *p1, k1; rep from* to end.

Breaking down this first line from a real pattern:

  • RS - Right Side
  • K - Knit (in this example, you would knit one stitch)
  • * or a single asterisk means repeating the instructions after the asterisk as often as indicated. You may also see the words rep from instead of the asterisk or parenthesis. All mean the same thing.
  • P - purl (here it means p1 stitch)

So, if this line were written in its entirety, in a knitting pattern instructions, it would read, “Starting with row 1, which will be your right side, knit one stitch. Next, purl one stitch, knit one stitch, repeat this knitting pattern, and purl one until you reach the end of the row.

So, using abbreviations makes sense so that the patterns can be printed with less paper, and much less reading needs to be done.


Knitting Terms and Abbreviations (in alphabetical order)

This comprehensive glossary of knitting terms includes all the most common abbreviations you will encounter as a beginner

  • approx - approximately
  • beg - to begin, beginning
  • bet - Between
  • BO - bind off
  • C2L - Cable 2 left; a cable stitch where you slip one stitch purlwise to a cable needle and hold the stitch in front of your knitting. Work the next stitch on your left-hand needle and then knit the stitch on the cable needle.
  • C4L - Cable four left is a 2x2 cable knit. Slip two stitches purlwise to the cable needle, knit the next two stitches on the left-hand needle, and then knit the two on the cable needle.
  • C2R - Cable two (2) right. To make a C2R, slip 1 stitch onto your cable needle purlwise and move it behind your knitting. Work the next stitch, then knit the stitch on your cable needle.
  • C4R - Cable four right is a 2x2 cable knit. To make the C4R, slip 2 stitches purlwise onto your cable needle and hold them behind your knitting. Knit or purl the next 2 sts, then work the stitches on the cable needle.
  • CO - Cast on
  • cc - Contrasting Color
  • cont - continue
  • cn - Cable needle
  • dec - decrease
  • dpn or dpns - double point needles
  • foll - follow(s)
  • inc - increase
  • in/cm/mm - inches/centimeters/millimeters
  • K - knit stitch
  • k1B - a knit stitch in the row below
  • K2tog - Knit two together (meaning insert the needle into two stitches and knit them together as if it were one stitch, which is a common way to decrease the number of stitches on the needle; it is a right-leaning decrease and the mirror image of the SSK.
  • K3tog - Knit three together (same as k2tog except you would be picking up three stitches together instead of two)
  • k tbl - knit the stitch through the back of loop of the stitch
  • K tfl - knit the stitch through the front loop only
  • Knitwise - Insert the needle into the stitch as if you were going to knit the stitch
  • kfb or kf&b - Knit in the front and then the back of the same stitch. It is an easy way to increase a stitch and leaves a horizontal purl bump under the increased stitch.
  • ksp - knit 1 stitch, slip this stitch from right needle to left needle, pass the second stitch on left needle over first stitch and off left needle. Lastly, return stitch to right needle, single right leaning decrease
  • LH - Left-Hand
  • lp(s) - Loops
  • LC - left cross, a left-leaning cable where the stitches are held in front
  • LTCO - Long tail cast on
  • M1 - Make one stitch knitwise, single knit increase
  • M1R - make one right; single right-leaning knit increase
  • M1L - make one left; single left-leaning stitch and is a knit increase
  • Oz/g - ounces/ grams
  • P - purl stitch
  • P2together - P2tog - purl two stitches together, which is another way to decrease stitches on the needle
  • P3tog - Purl three stitches together, another knit decrease stitch
  • pat - pattern
  • Pfb - Purl first in the front of the stitch and then in the back of the same stitch
  • pm - place marker
  • Psso - psso pass - Pass slip stitch over
  • PU - Pick up stitches
  • Purlwise - insert the needle into the stitch as if to make a purl stitch
  • Sk2p - Slip one stitch, knit two together, and pass slipped stitch over the k2together
  • RC - right cross, a right-leaning cable stitch where stitches are held in the back.
  • Rem - remains, remaining, remain
  • Rep or * or ( ) [ ] - repeat instructions within * or ( ) and [ ] as required
  • Rep from or * - repeat the instructions after the asterisk as many times as indicated;
  • Rep rows - when the same instructions for one row is repeated over multiple rows.
  • Rh needle - right-hand needle
  • Reverse shaping - A term used when making sweaters or other garments where the shaping for both the right and the left front pieces are identical but reversed; they are mirror images of each other.
  • RH - Right Hand
  • Rnd - Rounds
  • RS - right side
  • Skp - slip one stitch to the right-hand needle. Next, knit the next stitch and pass the slipped stitch over the knit stitch
  • S2KP - Slip 2, Knit, Pass. This reduces the number of stitches by two and is neatly centered (no leaning at all). (Also called Centered Double Decrease)
  • Slip - Slip the number of stitches indicated from the left needle to the right needle without purling them
  • Sl st - slip stitch. This normally refers to taking a stitch from the left-hand needle and placing it on the right-hand needle without working it.
  • SSK - Slip Slip Knit: Another way to decrease
  • St or sts - stitches
  • St or st - stockinette stitch or stocking stitch
  • st m - stitch marker
  • Tbl - through the back loop; as in K tbl (knit through the back loop) and P tbl (purl through the back loop)
  • Tog - together
  • Wyib - Means with yarn in back
  • Wyif - with yarn in front
  • Work even - continue to work the pattern without adding or deleting any stitches.
  • WS - Wrong side
  • Y/m - (Yards, meters)
  • Yo - yarn over

Knitting Terminology Referring to Yarn

An assortment of different colored balls of yarn

Bulky - a type of yarn that is thick, usually a number 5 or 6.

Cake - yarn sold in a type of ball that resembles a cake

Dye Lot - the number assigned to a batch of yarn all dyed at the same time

Fingering - A fine yarn, usually a number 2

Hank - yarn wound in a long loop, twisted around itself and secured with separate threads. It can't be worked until it is wound into a ball of yarn

Ply - the number of strands a yarn is composed of by twisting them together.

Skein - yarn wound into an oblong bundle

Superwash - yarn that has been chemically treated to remove scales from its surface. This prevents felting and allows machine-washing

Yarn Weight - the thickness of the yarn; according to the craft yarn council, there are 7 weights of yarns from 1-7; also 0 for crochet thread

WPI - wraps per inch. A method to determine yarn weight

Knitting Terms and Abbreviations:  Size Terminology for Wearables

If you are creating a garment where size matters, you will likely encounter a pattern that can be used for more than one size. 

For example, if you are making a sweater, the design may call for Small, Medium, Large, 1X, or 2X). 

The first number usually outside of the parentheses would refer to the small size, the second indicates the medium size, and so forth in the instructions. 

So, your pattern might say, Cast on 109 (121, 133, 145, 157).  If you were making a small size sweater, you would cast on 109 stitches, and for a medium sweater, 121 stitches.

Before determining the size, always refer to the pattern's sizing and measure who ever you are making the garment for.

More Knitting Terms and Abbreviations

Here are some more common terms and lingo you will likely encounter early on in your knitting journey

Alt rows:   work on every other row

Bind off in rib:  This means to bind off in the same pattern you use for ribbing, such as K1P1 or K2P2.

Back of work:  The side of your work that faces away from you when you hold the needles

Block, Blocking:  This is a finishing term where you lay your work down and shape or form it into the finished product.  It often involves steam or a wet cloth

Cont in pattern:  This term is used when you have a specific stitch or color pattern you are working on.  It means to continue in the way you are working. 

Crochet hook - The type of tool used in crochet and is useful for picking up dropped stitches.

Frog, frogging - to rip out previously worked stitches to correct a mistake.

Gauge -    The knitting gauge measures the stitches needed for the right size project.  It can be broken down to include the number of stitches needed on the needle, the number of rows worked, and the type of stitch used.  This is important because some people knit tightly and others loosely, and this is a standardized way to be sure all knitters will create a project that is the correct size.

Garter stitch - another term for knitting every stitch

I-Cord - a thin cord in stockinette stitch 

Intarsia - knitting in multiple colors in one row through a special joining method and the use of bobbins or individual balls of different colors

Jog - a visible stair-like that may occur after a color change when knitting in the round.  There are methods to correct this and have a jogless join.

Knit side - Often used when describing a stockinette pattern where the knit side is the right side or front of work, and the wrong side or the back of the work is the purl side

Leading leg - the part of a knitting stitch closest to the tip of the needle.

Lifelines - a strand of yarn inserted into the work so that it is easy to rip back to that point if an error is encountered. 

Long tail - normally seen in long-tail cast-on, which is one method of casting on or placing stitches on the needle before beginning to knit.

Mattress stitch -  A seaming technique to join two pieces of knitting.  

Needle size - refers to the size of the circumference of the knitting needle and can be written in Metric (mm) or American style

Slip knot -  The first knot made when beginning to cast on stitches.   It anchors the yarn to the needle.  There are several ways to make a slip knot.

Stash - all the yarn you own

Trailing leg - the part of the stitch that is connected to the working yarn.

Working Yarn -  the yarn that is connected to the yarn ball or skein

Skill Level Designations on Knitting Patterns

Many patterns will have a skills level icon that has been assigned based on the recommendations of the Craft Yarn Council of America’s rating system.  Skills range from beginner to experienced. 

Beginner:  Beginner Projects are intended for first-time knitters using basic knit and purl stitches.  There is minimal shaping required.

Easy:  Easy projects use basic stitches, simple color changes, simple shaping and finishing, and simple repetitive stitch patterns.

Intermediate:  Intermediate Projects will involve using a variety of different stitches and may incorporate basic cables and lace or knitting in the round.  There will be mid-level shaping and finishing techniques used.

Experienced:  Experienced projects use advanced techniques and stitches not encountered with any of the first three levels.  Expect to see Fair Isle, intarsia, cables, lace patterns, and many different color changes.

Knitting Terms and Abbreviations: Pin for Future Reference

various colored yarns are shown in this knitting terms and abbreviations pinKnitting terms and abbreviations: Pin for future reference

Knitting Terms and Abbreviations: Conclusion

I know this is a lot to take in, but you don’t need to memorize all of these terms at once.  

The patterns on this site will have easy-to-follow instructions, and you can always bookmark this page and come back to it often.

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About Janice

Hi, I’m Janice, the voice behind Smart-Knit-Crocheting. I love to knit and crochet and even more, I love teaching others what I know.

Though I learned to knit and crochet as a child, I didn’t get serious about these amazing hobbies until I retired. I’m a certified knit and crochet instructor through the Craft Yarn Council and am working on becoming a Master Hand Knitter through The Knitting Guild Association.

I’m currently living with my husband of over 50 years and our 7 Shih Tzu dogs.

I love hearing from you, so please drop me a line and let me know what you’re working on, whether you love knitting or crocheting more, and if you have any questions. Please visit my about me page for more information.

Happy Crocheting