Deciphering Knitterese Common abbreviations and shorthand

In order to save space, patterns are written in a condensed form with many abbreviations and a lot of shorthand. As you work with patterns, you'll become familiar with the most common abbreviations — for example, RS (right side), WS (wrong side), beg (beginning), and rep (repeat). Pattern instructions explain any unusual abbreviations or ones that may vary from pattern to pattern. Table 3-1 presents some of the most common pattern abbreviations.

Table 3-1 Common Knitting Abbreviations


What It Means


What It Means




purlwise (as if to purl)


contrasting color


remain(s) or remaining






cable needle




decrease(s), decreased, or decreasing


right side(s)


double-pointed needles




follows or following


single crochet


increase(s), increased, or increasing


slip, slipped, or slipping



sl st

slip stitch


knit 2 stitches together


slip, slip, knit the slipped stitches together


What It Means


What It Means


knit in stitch below

St st

stockinette stitch


knitwise (as if to knit)






through the back of the loop






main color


wrong side(s)

ml (or m)

make 1 stitch (increase 1 stitch)


with yarn in back




with yarn in front




yarn back


purl in stitch below


yarn forward


place marker


yarn over


pass slipped stitch over (used for decreasing)

In addition, knitting patterns use certain phrases that can be confusing until you've had some experience with them. Here are some of the more common phrases that you'll come across in knitting patterns and garments:

I as established: When your instructions set up a series of steps or patterns to work, rather than repeat them row by row, they tell you to continue working as established.

Example: If you're knitting a cardigan with the center front band knitted in, the stitches for the center front band may be worked in a different pattern from the rest of the sweater body. After the pattern tells you how many border stitches to work in the border pattern and how many stitches to work in the sweater body pattern, it tells you to continue to work the patterns in the front piece as established.

I at same time: This phrase indicates that two things need to happen at the same time. Be on the lookout for this phrase; it's easy to get going on one task and forget to pay attention to the other.

Example: "dec 1 st every other row 4 times, at same time, when piece measures same length as back to shoulder, work shoulder shaping as for back." Translation: The neckline shaping (dec 1 st) continues as the shoulder shaping begins.

i back of your work: The back of your work is the side of your work that faces away from you as 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 or which side should be presented as the front.

i bind off from each neck edge: When you shape the neckline on a pullover, you work both edges of the neckline at the same time, but you shape the right side (as you wear it) on right-side rows and the left side on wrong-side rows. Although this instruction may sound tricky, it's quite obvious and simple when you're doing it. You may see it in a form like this: "bind off from each neck edge 3 sts once, 2 sts twice. . . ."

i end with a WS row: Finish the section you're working on by working a wrong-side row last. The next row you work should be a right-side row.

i front of your work: The front of your work is the side of your work that faces you as you hold your needles. It can be the wrong side or the right side.

i inc (or dec) every 4 (6, 8, or whatever) rows: This is how the increases (or decreases) along a sleeve seam are written. Increase or decrease on a (usually) right-side row, and then work 3 (5, 7, or whatever) rows without shaping.

i inc (or dec) every other row: Increase or decrease on the (usually) right-side row, and then work the following row without increasing or decreasing.

i pat rep (pattern repeat): When instructions tell you to repeat a certain stitch pattern, it's written this way. Pattern repeat refers to what's given between an asterisk and a semicolon (* . . . ;) in written patterns and between heavy black lines in a chart.

i 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, usually the front of a cardigan or a neckline. See more on picking up stitches in Chapter 16.

i pm (place marker): A marker is a plastic ring or tied loop of yarn that sits between stitches on your needle to indicate the beginning of a round in circular knitting or to mark pattern repeats. When you see the instruction to place a marker, as in "join, pm, and begin round," you simply place a marker at that location. (As you knit, you slip the marker from one needle to the other. But usually your pattern doesn't tell you to do that — your common sense does.)

i 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.

i reverse shaping: When you knit a cardigan, you work two pieces that mirror each other. Most patterns have you work the side that carries the buttons before you work the side that carries the buttonholes. Instead of writing a separate set of instructions for each side, the pattern asks you to work the shaping in the opposite direction on the second piece, as in "work to correspond to front, reversing all shaping." This means that you work bind-offs and neck shaping on the reverse side of the fabric as well. If you work the shaping on the wrong side in one piece, you work it on the right side when you reverse the shaping.

i right: When a pattern specifies a 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.

i when armhole measures . . . : This phrase signals that your instructions are about to change. Measure the armhole not from the beginning of the piece but from the marker you've (we hope) put near the middle of the row on which the armhole began. (The pattern should have told you to place this marker.)

i work as for . . . : This phrase usually refers to working the front piece the same as the back. It saves writing out the same instructions twice. You may see it in a form like this: "work as for back until piece measures 213-2 inches from beg."

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

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

You may run into other phrases that 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.

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