The Knitter's Dictionary: Knitting Know-How from A to Z

The Knitter's Dictionary: Knitting Know-How from A to Z

by Kate Atherley


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From "alt" to "yrn," knitting patterns have a unique language of abbreviations and knitting techniques. The Knitter's Dictionary is your comprehensive resource to understanding the language of knitting in a quick-reference guide that no knitting bag should be without. For beginner and skilled knitters alike, there's always something new to discover in your next hand knit project. The Knitter's Dictionary puts an expert knitting instructor in the palm of your hands to help you navigate any pattern.    
Within this knitting bag necessity you'll also find:

   • Over 150 illustrations showing you everything from the difference between a toque and a beret to how-to information on increase and decrease stitches.
   • Handy cross references quickly lead you to exactly the information you need whether you've come across a new abbreviation in a knitting pattern or you've forgotten the steps to a long-tail cast on.
   • Extended information on more challenging topics like taking measurements, understanding gauge, and fiber care instructions make this more than a dictionary—it's important information no knitter should be without.
   • Packed with bonus tips and tricks, learn the do's and don'ts of pattern knitting making patterns easier and more enjoyable to knit!
  The Knitter's Dictionary gives knitters the answers they need when and where they need them in a precise and helpful way. Give yourself or another knitter the gift of knowledge with this must-have resource.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781632506382
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/30/2018
Pages: 126
Sales rank: 501,290
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt


I first learned to knit when I was a young girl, at my grandmother Hilda's knee. I was a very confident maker of doll blankets and scarves at an early age. Spurred on by her clear instruction, my ability to form perfect stitches and manage yarn and needles was firmly formed.

When I picked up the needles again, as a teenager, I had moved far away from her So I found myself a pattern for something that looked easy to knit, chose a ridiculous brightly colored yarn, and sat down, keen to start working.

But I was utterly lost. I was fine with the needles and yarn, but I couldn't make any sense of the instructions. Handling the needles and yarn was an entirely different skill than reading the patterns. Although my grandmother had made sure I was a master at the first, we had never gotten around to the second topic in our lessons: the language, rules, and codes embedded in knitting patterns.

There are many books, magazines, online tutorials, and store classes that show you the mechanics of knitting, but very few that address how to read the instructions. That's what this book is all about.

Knitting has its own language: technical terms, funny abbreviations, and familiar words used in very particular ways "repeat," "even," "right side," etc. Knitting patterns are like little computer programs, with their own rules and notations.

This book is a guide to help you understand that language and patterns. If you're able to read the instructions, you'll be able to successfully knit them.

We've organized items alphabetically, and it's squarely between a dictionary and an encyclopedia. As you're working through a project, you've got a quick way to look up a term you're not familiar with. Some sections are larger, providing not only guidance on the individual words, but on the larger context to expand your knitting knowledge.

Wonder why designers are always going on about gauge? Want to know more about the differences between a raglan and a set-in sleeve sweater, and why it matters when you're choosing a pattern? And what is "heavy worsted," exactly? This book aims to answer all those questions and more, to help you break the code, and be a more powerful and successful knitter. It's one I think you'll want to keep in your knitting bag, always.



Before you pick up your needles and start knitting, it's a good idea to take a moment to familiarize yourself with your pattern and gather all the tools and materials you need.


Before you start working on a pattern, make sure you have the most recent version. If you downloaded it from a website, check for updates. If you're working from a book or magazine pattern, do a quick web search to see if the publisher has posted any corrections (aka errata; see p. 41).

If you're working from a digital pattern, make a backup copy; if you're working from a paper pattern or book, print or photocopy the pattern (when permitted under the publisher's copyright statement) and store the original somewhere safe. Put your working copy in a plastic sheet protector to protect it from coffee spills.

If working from paper, keep some scrap and a pencil handy for taking notes and tuck the notes inside the sheet protector. If you are working from a digital pattern, make sure you keep your notes as a separate file or as annotations to the pattern file.

If it's a multisize pattern, go through and highlight the numbers for the size you're working throughout the instructions. At the same time, scan the pattern for things you might want to know before you begin. In particular, look for the phrases "at the same time" (see p. 15) and "reversing shaping' (see p. 90), as these need some advance planning.

Many patterns offer explanations of terms, abbreviations, and special techniques. It's important to familiarize yourself with those. Keep your Knitter's Dictionary handy for anything that might not be explained.


Review the materials, needles, and notions list for the project: put them all in one place so they're ready when you need them. Make sure to include stitch markers, a tape measure, scissors, and a yarn needle (see notions; p. 81); these sometimes aren't included on the list, but you'll probably need them.

I also like to make sure that I have some safety pins, a crochet hook for picking up dropped stitches, stitch holders and/or scrap yarn I can use as a stitch holder, a ruler, and a needle gauge on hand as well.

Keep the extra skeins of yarn you're not actively using in a plastic ziplock-style bag, away from moths, dust, and inquisitive pets and children. Keep the receipt, and if you're working from skeins that need to be wound before use, don't wind all of them. If you don't use them all, you may well be able to return or exchange. To that end, it's good to know what your store return policies are when buying yarn. And if they won't take back the leftover skein or two, you can always use them for something else ... hats and mittens don't require much yarn!


Many knitted items have multiple sizes socks, mittens, hats, garments. For these, you'll need to decide which size you want to make.

Not all knitting patterns present sizing information in the same way. However, you should be able to find some semblance of the following in any pattern: indicator of sizes, finished measurements, and a schematic. The most helpful patterns will also provide some kind of fit or sizing recommendation. See ease (p. 39) for more information on how to choose what size to make.


A pattern may or may not list a "size." This is sometimes labelled as "to fit." It's essentially what you'd see written on the label inside commercially made clothes: simply a rough indicator of the relative bigness or smallness of the piece. It provides a guide to who the pattern is for, but it should be very much a secondary consideration when deciding which size to make. For more information on how to choose a size, see size (p. 98).

finished, measurements

Names vary, but this section tells you the dimensions of the actual pieces as knitted (once blocked). These are what you'd get if you put the knitted item on a flat surface and took a tape measure to it. See finished measurements (p. 47) for more information.


A pattern should list a gauge, which is a measurement of how many stitches and rows you should achieve over a certain distance (usually per inch [2.5 cm]). This information does two things: it helps you choose yarn and helps you identify which size needles to use. Ultimately, the purpose of gauge is to help you make sure that the piece you knit comes out to be the correct size! See gauge (p. 51) for more information.


All patterns should recommend a yarn and tell you the yarn used in the sample shown. See fiber care (p. 45) for more information on the properties of commonly recommended yarns,

yarn substitution

You might want to work the project with the yarn specified in the pattern, but you don't have to. After all, it might not be available in your area, or it could well have been discontinued.

If you choose not to use the yarn specifically listed in the pattern, find something as close to it as you can in fiber mix, coloring, and texture. Doing so will help you achieve results similar to what you see in the pictures. In general, a project with lots of texture looks better knit with a smooth yarn in solid or nearly solid colors; plainer patterns suit busier colors and more textured yarns. For more information, see yarn attributes, color (p. 117), yarn attributes, textures (p. 118), and yarn attributes, weights (p. 119).

understanding yarn labels

While yarn labels (sometimes called ball bands) can differ from company to company, there is key information all labels typically contain. Fiber content, washing instructions, skein yardage, dyelot, color name, and suggested gauge are the most common and vital details to look for when reading the label.

For more information on label graphics, see fiber care symbols (p. 46).





This phrase is as simple as it sounds. You work in the established pattern to the end of the row or round.


An oil-based polymer used to make yarn. It's colorfast and very stable in that it doesn't shrink, stretch, or fade. However, it is not good for winter wear, since acrylic fabrics can absorb water and freeze. It also doesn't have the give required for blocking, so it is not suitable for lace or colorwork. See also fiber care.


Most often in patterns in the context of measurements. A pattern might list "actual" measurements with the sizing information, referring to the measurements of the finished knitted piece(s) as opposed to a body-size measurement. "Finished measurements" is sometimes used in the same way. See also ease; measurements, body; measurements, finished.


From the coat of an alpaca, this fiber is warmer than sheep's wool and very soft. It tends to shed and pill and is relatively heavy. Best used for smaller pieces or garments with seams. It's excellent blended with sheep's wool. See also fiber care.


Alternate. Every other.


Derived from the coat of Angora rabbits, this fiber is very soft and warm, though it tends to shed and pill. Works best blended with other fibers; it adds warmth and a halo of fuzziness. Angora allergies are common. See akofiber care.


Approximately or approximate.


A heavily cabled sweater, associated with Ireland. (Fig. A1)


See yarn attributes, weights.


The section of a garment body where the sleeve is attached.


Used when continuing a previously established pattern, most often after increases or decreases, or some other special instructions, to tell you to go back to what you were doing before.


Row 1: (K1, p2) across the row.

Row 2: (K2, p1) across the row.

Continue as established until 2" (5 cm) from cast-on edge.

"As established" here indicates that you should keep working ribbing.


Usually refers to slipping stitches, e.g., slip as if to knit, or transferring stitches to another needle. When working "as if to knit" the needle is put through the next stitch on the left needle from front to back coming in from the left, the same as when working a knit stitch. See also sl, slip.


Often used in pattern instructions as part of a repeat, typically to indicate the start of an instruction that is to be repeated. See also repeat.


Indicates that two sets of instructions need to be worked simultaneously. When you see this phrase, read ahead to make sure you identify the two different instructions and the "trigger point."


Left Front Armhole Shaping

Row 1: (RS) K1, ssk, k to end.

Row 2: (WS) Purl.

Repeat the last 2 rows 6 times. AT THE SAME TIME, when the armhole measures 1" (2.5 cm), start the neckline shaping, as follows: Next row, neckline shaping: (RS) Work in pattern as set to the last 3 sts, k2tog, k1.

Work the neckline shaping row 15 times. When the armhole shaping is complete, work even at the start of the RS rows.

The first instruction is the armhole shaping (the decrease at the start of the row). The second instruction is the neckline shaping (the decrease at the end of the row). 'At the same time" alerts you that you'll need to watch for the point when you have to start the neckline shaping. In this case, it's when the armhole measures 1" (2.5 cm). This means that the armhole decrease won't yet be completed when you hit that distance.

As soon as you hit that point, you'll keep going with the armhole decrease at the start of the row but then also start working the neckline decrease at the end of the row. The key is to keep track of the two things separately: keep count of your armhole decreases, 1 to 6, and keep count of your neckline decreases, 1 to 15.


Afterthought Yarnover.



See yarn weights.


Refers to the back of a stitch on the needle; a conventional Western-style knit stitch is mounted on the needle with the right leg positioned at the front and the left leg at the back. (Fig. B1) See also ktbl; tbl.


Can mean 1) undoing a completed row, sometimes referred to as "tinking" ("tink" is "knit" spelled backward), or 2) working a knit stitch from left to right across a row or round to avoid purling.


Also known as the e-wrap, this is a method to create new stitches that can be used for increasing and casting on. This is a good neutral increase, as it doesn't have a particular lean, and it adapts nicely to be a knit or purl. See also cast-on; increase.


*Loop working yarn as shown and place it on needle backward (with right leg of loop in back of needle). Repeat from *. (Fig. B2)


One type of put-up for yarn: a ball shape. Usually wound for the end to be pulled from the center or the outside knitter's choice. See also center-pull ball; put-up.


A tool to wind yarn into a ball, often used in conjunction with a swift or to rewind untidy balls of yarn or undo larger pieces of knit fabric. (Fig. B3) See also swift.


A highly processed fiber derived from the bamboo plant. It is shiny like silk and has antibacterial properties. It can stretch out over time and is best for smaller pieces or garments with sleeves. Works well blended with other more stable fibers. See aLso fiber care.


The strand of yarn running between stitches, most easily seen when looking at the row below the stitches separated by the left and right needles. (Fig. Bl)


Another name for the kfb increase. See also increase.

BATWING See sweater types.


Usually short for "background color" in a colorwork pattern. Sometimes used as shorthand for "back cross" in a cable pattern. See also cables; colorwork.


See hat styles.


Begin, begins, beginning.


When joining for knitting in the round, this is a reminder that cast-on stitches should not be allowed to twist before being joined. This instruction isn't always listed, but it's implied. If a pattern requires you to make a twist, to create a Mobius, it will always say so. See also


See hat styles.




Also known as "cast-off," this is the act of creating a finished edge when you have completed the knitting.

standard knitted bind-off

This is the most common method for binding off. It is not very stretchy; if it's too tight you can use a needle one to two sizes larger to work the stitches. Use this method for edges that will be sewn into seams or finished in some way (such as stitches being picked up and knitted).


Slip 1 stitch, *knit 1 stitch, insert left needle tip into first stitch on right needle, pass this stitch over the second stitch, and off the needle — 1 stitch remains on right needle and 1 stitch has been bound off. Repeat from * until all stitches have been worked. Cut the yarn and pull through final stitch to secure. (Fig. B4)

If it's a knit/purl pattern stitch, such as ribbing, knit the knits and purl the purls as you work across the row.


"Blocking" is a catch-all term for manipulating your finished knitting to smooth out the fabric, even out the stitches, tidy up the stitch patterns, and bring the fabric to finished size. (Fig. B5) Blocking should always be done before you sew together pieces and finish. There are several methods for doing this, and which you should use varies with the project in question.

other bind-offs

There are many other bind-off methods. For other popular methods covered in this book, see also: Jeny's surprisingly stretchy bind-off, lace bind-off, sewn bind-off, three-needle bind-off.


Bind-off. See bind-off.


See necklines and collars.


For holding small lengths of yarn; specifically for working intarsia colorwork. See also intarsia.


Also known as a popcorn or knot, a bobble is a raised "bump" of stitches worked out of one stitch, used to create textural effects.

The simplest way to create a bobble is to work multiple times into a single stitch often alternating knits and purls or knits and yarnovers. A few rows are worked on this group of stitches and then they are decreased back down to one stitch again before continuing with the row. All sorts of variations exist: varying the number of stitches and rows, using different increase and decrease methods. (Fig. B7) See also nupp.


Excerpted from "The Knitter's Dictionary"
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Copyright © 2018 Kate Atherley.
Excerpted by permission of F+W Media, Inc..
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Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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