Knitting Terms – Common Knitting Words and Phrases


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

Terms and phrases in knitting are like shorthand and it’s kind of 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

In all honesty I find knitting terms and knitting abbreviations pretty much the same in meaning. They both decipher words and phrases.

Understanding knitting terms and phrases 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 or phrase 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 keep repeating what you were doing – you may see something like this in your pattern ‘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

Work the instructions right after this term together with those instructions you were working on before. In other words you’ll be working 2 sets of instructions. Example: Continue working pattern as set and at the same time begin increasing 2 sts at the beginning of every right side row. So this means to continue working the pattern you were already working on and don’t change that at all and as you continue working the pattern start increasing 2 sts at the beginning of every right side row as well.

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. They’re sending it to the frog pond. Haha

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

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…ha ha) Here’s a tutorial for tinking

work even

Continue knitting without making any increases or decreases. Example: Your pattern says to knit the next 4 rows even so that means to continue knitting in the established pattern 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 in the comments below and I’ll be happy to help.

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10 thoughts on “Knitting Terms – Common Knitting Words and Phrases


  1. I am knitting slippers and have reached the point where I am using 4 needles, instead of 2. I do not understand what “do not join in round” means and how to proceed. Can you help me thanks.

    1. Hello Barbara. When they say “do not join in the round” they want you to knit flat in rows. If you were knitting with two needles before I think you still need to knit the rest of them with two needles as well. Of course I’m not certain as I don’t know which slipper pattern you’re using but it sounds like they’re made with straight needles. I hope this helps Barbara. 🙂

    1. Hi Maria. I’m really not sure without seeing more of the pattern. I just can’t say. Please consider joining my free knitting forum Maria where I can spend some time helping you with your knitting pattern. I’m sure it’s simple enough but without more information I’d just be guessing. Hope to see you over there.

  2. I am a beginner on round needles. I have a pattern which says ‘repeat back in rnd’ and I do not know what it means. Also what does ‘K1 rnd even’ mean?

    1. Hello Yorkshire Lass. I don’t answer knitting questions here in the comments as I have created a lovely free knitting forum to help answer everyone’s questions. I love helping knitters with their questions. Please consider joining my forum. Hope to see you there. 🙂

  3. Hello and congrats for your blog !
    I’m just working on a pattern that says: “Next (dec) rnd: Work in Estonian twisted braid, p2tog A, (p1 B, p1 A) to end of rnd—24 sts. Distribute sts evenly over 4 dpn (6 sts on each needle).
    Cut B.
    With A, knit 4 rnds even.”
    My question is: “4 rnds even” means that you continue knitting for another 4 rounds following the previews (dec) round instructions? or plain knitting for 4 rounds?
    thank you in advance for you reply!

    1. Hello Iliada. When they say to knit 4 rounds even it means to knit around in plain knitting. I’d like to encourage you to join my free knitting forum Iliada. It’s there to help everyone with their knitting questions. Hope to see you over there Iliada. Happy Knitting! 🙂

  4. Hi there, am planning on knitting a baby cardigan for the first time – here’s how it starts off.
    “Cast on 40 (44, 48, 52) sts. Knit every row until piece measures 6 (7, 8, 9)”. Place markers at each edge to mark sleeve placement”
    What does place markers on each edge mean here? Thanks so much for your assistance.

    1. Hi Julie. I’d really like to encourage you to join my knitting forum as that’s where I answer all knitting questions. It’s totally free to join. That way I have lots of room to explain things and help you. To briefly answer your question, put the markers at each edge as I believe you’ll be increasing at the edges for the sleeves. By placing a marker you’ll know exactly which sts are the sleeve sts. Hope to see you in the forum. Enjoy and happy knitting.

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