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Common Phrases Used in Knitting Patterns

Certain phrases used in knitting patterns can be confusing. Some knitting pattern phrases aren’t as clear as they could be, but experience will make you familiar with them. Eventually, you’ll be surprised at how well you understand this language, and you’ll wonder why it ever seemed confusing.

Here are some of the more common phrases that you’ll come across in knitting patterns and garments:

  • as established: Repeat a series of steps or patterns.

  • at same time: This phrase indicates that two things need to happen at the same time.

  • back of your work: The side of your work that faces away from you when you hold your needles.

    Don’t confuse this with the right side (RS) and wrong side (WS) of your work, which refer to how the piece is worn.

  • bind off from each neck edge: Shaping the right side (as you wear it) of a neckline on right-side rows and the left side on wrong-side rows.

  • end with a WS row: Finish the section you’re working on by working a wrong-side row last.

  • front of your work: The side of your work that faces you as you hold your needles.

  • inc (or dec) every number rows: How often you increase (or decrease) along a sleeve seam.

  • pat rep (pattern repeat): Repeat a certain stitch pattern.

    Pattern repeat refers to what’s given between an asterisk and a semicolon (* . . . ;) in written patterns — and between heavy black lines in a chart.

  • pick up and knit: Use a separate strand of yarn to create a row of stitches on a needle by pulling loops through along a knitted edge.

  • pm (place marker): Put a plastic ring or tied loop of yarn between stitches on your needle to indicate the beginning of a round in circular knitting or to mark pattern repeats.

  • preparation row: Some stitch patterns require a set-up row that’s worked only at the beginning of the pattern and isn’t part of the repeat.

  • reverse shaping: Instead of writing a separate set of instructions for each side of a mirrored pattern, the pattern asks you to work the shaping in the opposite direction on the second piece.

  • right: When a pattern specifies the right front, it means the front that would be on your right side as you would wear the finished piece.

    When in doubt, hold your knitting up to you (wrong side to your body) to determine whether it’s the right or left front.

  • when armhole measures . . . : This phrase signals that your instructions change when you reach a certain armhole size.

  • work as for . . . : This phrase usually refers to working the front piece the same as the back.

  • work even: Continue in whatever stitch pattern you’re using without doing any shaping.

  • work to end: Work in whatever stitch pattern you’re using to the end of the row.

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