The Abbreviation Translator for Beginner Knitters 

knitting patterns

While the knitting community might be one of the most welcoming communities out there online, it’s safe to say that the majority of patterns and knitting books don’t do much to help a newbie ease into their new fibre-art.

If you’ve never picked up a pair of needles before, have a look at my post - ‘Knitting: How to get started’ for a push in the right direction.

‘YO’, ’CO12’, ‘SKP’, ‘PSSO’… It sounds more like we’re cracking codes, or working in a lab, rather than creating something beautiful. 

knitting abbreviations

That’s why I wanted to help de-mystify some of the language and jargon surrounding the knitting world, so that beginners can get on and enjoy the process with a bit more confidence. If there are any experienced knitters reading this, please add any advice and abbreviations you think would be useful,in the comments section. 

Below I’m going to list some of the most common abbreviations and terminology that you’ll see in beginner knitting patterns and tutorials, tell you what they mean, and give you an example of where you’d be likely to find it. There are so so many I could list, but as a beginner, these should get you started…

CO - Cast On

Example: ‘CO 20 (22, 24, 28) sts’  

Usually seen at the start of a pattern, ’CO’ means to cast on. Effectively you need to put a certain number of stitches onto your needle to start working. 

The number tells you how many you need. The number 20, in this example, is the smallest size, then the numbers in the brackets are the next sizes up. This will be a recurring feature in your pattern. 

BO - Bind Off

Example: ‘BO to end’

You’ve finished your project, now you just need to take all your remaining stitches off your needle in a way that they won’t unravel.

knitting terminology

K - Knit

Example ‘K first row, and all following 2nd rows’

‘K’ simply means to knit. You’ll usually be told how many stitches to knit, or how many rows. In this example, you are told to knit every 2nd row. 

P - purl

Example: K1, P1

‘P’ means to purl, this creates a different type of stitch to a knit stitch. In the example, it tells you to knit one stitch and then purl the next stitch. If you carried on ‘K1, P1’ along the whole row, it would create a rib effect. 

Beg - Beginning 

Example: ‘Slip marker at beg of every rnd’  

‘Beg’ simply means ‘beginning’ and tells you what to do at the start of a new row or ‘round’ in this example. 

St / Sts - Stitch / Stitches

Example: ‘CO 28 sts

'Sts’ is usually used to tell you how many times to do the action indicated. 


Dec - Decrease 

Example: ‘Dec 1st at each end of next 4 rows’ 

There are a few ways to decrease in knitting, one of the easiest ways is to knit two stitches as if they were one. Decreasing can be used to create shape, like in a neckline, or at the end of a project. In the example, it’s telling you to decrease at the first and last stitches, of the next four rows.

Inc - Increase

Example: ‘Inc in this way on every following round’ until there are 100 sts’ 

There are also lots of ways you can increase in knitting, and your pattern will normally explain how they want you to do it. The example tells you to increase in the way previously stated until you get to 100 stitches on your needle. 

Dpn - Double pointed needles

Example: Double pointed needles are normally used when you are making something circular, like a sock, or armhole. You knit on 3 or four identical needles to create an opening that does not need to be sewn up or seamed at the end. 

Kwise or Pwise - Knitwise or Purlwise

Example: ’Slip 1 knitwise’ 

‘Knitwise’ means ‘as if you’re going to knit’. The way you hold your needles and yarn in a knit stitch is different to a purl stitch, so sometimes the pattern needs to identify how they want you to hold your needles and yarn. 

In this example, your going to slip a stitch from one needle to the other without knitting it, however, they want you to do this by inserting your needle through the back as if you were going to knit it, rather than through the front as if to purl. This is to avoid a twisted stitch. ‘As to knit’ and ‘As to purl’ are often used in this way too. 

knitting translation

LH or RH - Left hand or right hand

Example: ’21 stitches on the LH needle’ 

‘LH’ and ‘RH’ normally refer to the needles you’re holding, and in the example, it asks you to have 21 stitches on the LH needle, the rest will be on your right needle or a stitch holder if indicated. 

SL - Slip 

Example- 'Sl1, k1'

To slip a stitch, means to move a stitch from one needle to the other without working it or twisting it. 

SM - Stitch marker

Example: ‘Place SM at beg of row’

A stitch marker often indicates the beginning, or end of something, or can be used to show where certain features will go, such as arm holes. You can buy a stitch marker from a yarn shop or haberdashery, or just use a loop of wool. 


YO - Yarn over

Example - ‘K2, YO, K2tog’

To yarn over, means to wrap the working yarn over your right-hand needle, so that an extra stitch is made. This technique creates a small hole and can be used to do a button hole, or create eyelets or lace patterns. 

K2tog - Knit 2 together

Example - ‘K2, YO, K2tog’

Knitting two stitches together effectively decreases the number of stitches on your needle. 

As established 

Example: ‘Work remaining 5 rows as established’ 

To work your rows ‘as established', simply means to continue with the pattern you’ve been working. For example, you might need to continue in stocking stitch or rib stitch for the next 5 rows. 

knitting help

As I mentioned, there are a hell of a lot of abbreviations and technical jargon out there, but hopefully, I’ve introduced you to some of the most common ones you’ll find in beginner patterns. 

Please let me know if you have any questions!