Knitting Terms - What The Words And Phrases Mean

So, what do all those knitting terms and words actually mean?  Maybe you are looking at some knitting pattern instructions and scratching your head.

Terms and phrases in knitting are like shorthand and it's like a special language. 

They're used to shorten a long knitting pattern and also make the pattern a little more interesting to read. 

knitting terms

I think the terms and knitting abbreviations are pretty much the same. They both decipher words and phrases.

Understanding phrases and knitting terminology will get a lot easier as you go along. 

And the more you read patterns and various knitting books you'll find that it all starts to make more sense.

Eventually you won't even give it another thought.  

Here's a basic list of common knitting terms to get you started; kind of like a knitting glossary which I will continue to add to as I go along.

As with everything knitting there is always a new knitting word, phrase or knitting term that seems to pop up but you'll learn them as you go along.

Glossary of Knitting Terms

as established

Work pattern or series of steps as previously set - in other words you may see something like 'continue working pattern as established'

as if to knit

Knitwise, begin knitting next stitch like you are going to knit it

at the same time

Working more than one set of instructions at the same time. You may read something like this: 'Continue working pattern at the same time decreasing stitches every third row'

back of work

The back of work is the side that faces away from you when you are holding the needles.


Blocking is a finishing technique where you lay your finished pieces out flat and dampen or steam them. This helps to form and shape them and also helps define intricate stitch patterns.

cont in patt

Continue in pattern - Continue working pattern as previously established. In other words - keep knitting the way you were originally.

ending with RS row

Last row to work will be a right side row so you may see something like this: Continue working as established ending with a right side (RS) row.

ending with WS row

Last row to work will be a wrong side row so you may see something like this: Continue working as established ending with a wrong side (WS) row.

every other row

Work instructions on alternate rows for instance you may see this: Continue increasing stitches every other row or continue increasing stitches on every alternate row.  So you will increase on one row, work a regular row without increasing and then increase on the next and so on


When knitters are frogging their knitting it means that they're unraveling or ripping out their work. 

front of work

The side facing you when you hold your needles. It can be the right side or the wrong side of the work. 


The number of stitches and rows per inch - called knitting gauge.

join yarn

Adding a new ball of yarn to your knitting or adding a new color known as joining yarn.


As if to knit - Begin knitting the next stitch like you are going to knit it.

K the knits, P the purls

Common term to describe a pattern of knit and purl stitches. Rather than repeating the pattern over and over they'll say to repeat every row knitting the knit stitches and purling the purl stitches. I made a tutorial on ribbing stitches that teaches you how to knit the knits and purl the purls.

on alternate row(s)

Work particular instructions every other row


As if to purl, begin next stitch like you are going to purl it.

reverse shaping

A term often seen in sweater patterns where the right front and left front are the same only the shaping needs to be reversed.What you do is work both fronts identical only you reverse the increases and decreases (the shaping). If one front was decreasing stitches at the beginning of the row then one front would be decreasing stitches at the end of the row.


The right side is the side that people will see or the public side

selvage or selvedge

These are the edge stitches at both ends of your row of knitting. Sometimes an extra stitch or stitches is added to create a selvedge edge. Knitting a selvage edge makes seaming easier. 

small (medium, large)

Common method of showing changes in knitting pattern for other sizes. Small is usually first and then continues with other sizes in parentheses. It could also read as follows: 36 (38, 40, 42). Throughout the pattern you will follow directions for your specific size. Example: Instructions for size small may be to cast on 60 stitches and for a medium cast on 66 stitches and large 72 stitches so it would look like this: CO 60 (66, 72) sts. Tip: Highlight the size you are working with throughout the pattern. 


Tink is knit spelled backwards and it's the term knitters use if they make a mistake. It means unknitting. If you make a mistake that isn't too far from where you are currently knitting you can tink back to the mistake and start again. It's not usually used if you have to go back many rows though. (In all honesty though, I've done it - and it's not fun...haha) Here's a tinking knitting tutorial

work even

Continue knitting without making any increases or decreases.


Wrong side - the side that won't show

If you are still looking for a knitting term and can't find it here be sure to check out my page on knitting abbreviations as well.  

It may be there or drop me a line. Just click on the Contact Me button just below on the right side. I'd love to hear from you. 

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