Complete guide to knitting abbreviations: how to read knitting patterns

New to knitting or need a quick reminder of a knitting term? You've come to the right place! Here's our guide to the common abbreviations and key elements you'll find in our patterns.

Complete guide to knitting abbreviations: how to read knitting patterns

How to read knitting patterns

You’ll notice that knitting patterns are presented differently in every publication. All the different components can look quite confusing, with what seems like a code to be cracked before you can knit! Don’t worry, though – learning how to read knitting patterns is really quite simple. In our complete guide to knitting abbreviations you’ll find:

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How to understand knitting patterns

It’s a good idea to take the time to read through a pattern before you start, to give yourself an idea of the techniques involved and how any separate knitted pieces will fit together to create the final item. Look up unfamiliar techniques before you start knitting, not halfway through a pattern! Use scrap yarn to practise on first if you need to. Make sure you’ve got everything you need and check your tension before you begin.

Below are the key elements that should appear on every pattern and what they mean.

How to read a knitting pattern

1. You will need

This section tells you exactly what yarn and needles you need to complete the pattern, as well as other equipment, such as fabric or buttons. Yarn amounts are based on average requirements, so if your tension is loose, you might need more.

2. Tension

This part of the pattern information panel tells you how many rows and stitches are needed for the correct tension required to complete the design.

3. Abbreviations

Special abbreviations used within the pattern are explained here. Take a look at our list of common knitting abbreviations for the ones you’re most likely to encounter in our patterns.

4. Measurements

Most patterns state the size of the finished item – if it’s a garment, sizes may be in a table. ‘Actual’ measurements are the finished size of the item. ‘To fit’ measurements show the recommended measurements of the intended wearer.

5. Different sizes

If the pattern is for a garment or other item that can be made in different sizes, there will often be a table showing them all. Some patterns, like the ones in Simply Knitting, use colour-coding to help you follow the size instructions you need throughout the pattern.

6. How to…

If there’s an element within the pattern that might require a little extra knowledge or skill, there might be a handy how-to knit guide, or step-by-step photos.

7. Schematic

This is a simple diagram showing you the shape of the pieces you’ll make to create a garment or other knitted item, and their measurements.

8. Summary

Some patterns include a quick snapshot of the techniques involved, the type of yarn used and the size of needles you need. That way, you can see at a glance whether it’s a pattern you fancy making.

9. Chart

Often used on patterns with lace, cables or colourwork, charts are a great visual way to follow a pattern. They will either sit next to written instructions or be used instead of them. See our guide on how to read charts in knitting patterns.

10. Stockists

Many patterns you see will use yarn from a specific manufacturer. In order to help you get that yarn, the pattern will also include stockist details for who to contact about buying the yarn, and retailer information.

Print out and keep our how to read a knitting pattern guide:

How to read knitting patterns

A guide to knitting abbreviations

To a beginner, knitting patterns can look like they’re written in another language. And in a way they are! Most patterns use knitting abbreviations to represent the stitches, actions and techniques you encounter as you knit. This special shorthand is easy to understand once you know how, but it can be very confusing if you’re reading a pattern for the first time. How would you b&t on a K rnd, or C4B after mrk on alt rows? We’ll help you find out!

Why do we use knitting abbreviations?

Knitting patterns use abbreviations for two main reasons: clarity and brevity. Instead of saying, “Knit one, then purl one, then knit another one and purl another one, and carry on doing this until you run out of stitches”, which is difficult to follow at a glance and takes up a lot of space on the page, your pattern might read: “*K1, P1; rep from * to end of row.” Simpler, shorter, and much clearer.

If we didn’t use abbreviations, patterns would be extremely long and dense, and the lack of consistency could baffle even experienced knitters. It can be frustrating to encounter all these strange knitting terms when you’re first starting out, but rest assured that you’ll soon become fluent.

Are there standard knitting abbreviations?

The short answer is no! While there are similarities in the knitting abbreviations used across different pattern writers and even different countries, there are no fixed standards and variations are widespread.

However, there are common abbreviations that you’ll see used in lots of patterns, such as K for knit and P for purl. These letters are usually followed by a number that tells you how many stitches to work – so K2 means “knit two stitches”. You’ll also spot similar-sounding terms that you may be able to figure out from context (such as “knitwise” and “knitways”).

Most patterns will either have their own abbreviations somewhere on the page or refer to a set of definitions elsewhere. Some publications may only mention abbreviations that are unusual or specific to that pattern, and then send you to their own standard terms for the rest.

Beginner’s guide to knitting

We can help you get started! For more knitting know-how, take a look at our expert guides and in-depth tutorials, including:

Yarn weight conversion and beginner's guide

Knitting abbreviations list

The abbreviations you’ll see below are the ones we use in our knitting patterns here on Gathered, and reflect UK knitting terms, but they should also help you to decode any other patterns you find around the web.

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You might come across knitting patterns that use crochet stitches too, in which case you’ll need our crochet abbreviations as well!


*
work instructions immediately following *, then repeat as directed

alt
alternate

approx
approximately

b&t
(break and tighten) break off the yarn and thread the end through the st(s) left on the needle. Pull the end of the yarn to tighten the st(s) together

beg
beginning

C2B
slip next stitch to cn & hold at back, K1; K1 from cn

C2F
slip next stitch to cn & hold at front, K1; K1 from cn

C4B
slip next 2 stitches to cn & hold at back, K2; K2 from cn

C4F
slip next 2 stitches to cn & hold at front, K2; K2 from cn

C6B
slip next 3 stitches to cn & hold at back, K3; K3 from cn

C6F
slip next 3 stitches to cn & hold at front, K3; K3 from cn

cb
cable back

CC
contrast colour

cf
cable forward

cn
cable needle

co
cast on

cont
continue

dec
decrease(ing) (by working two stitches together)

est
established

DK
double knitting

DPNs
double-pointed needles

foll/s
following/follows

g st
garter stitch (knit every row)

inc
increase (usually knit into same stitch twice)

K/k
knit

k(1)tbl
knit (1) into back loop

k2tog
knit the next two stitches together

kfb
knit into front and back of stitch

kwise
knitwise; by knitting the stitch

LH
left hand

LT
left twist

M1
make one by knitting into back of loop between two stitches (increase 1 stitch)

M1L
(left leaning increase) with left needle tip, lift strand between needles from front to back. Knit lifted loop through back of loop

M1R
(right leaning increase) with left needle tip, lift strand between needles from back to front. Knit lifted loop through front of loop

M1P
make one purlwise by purling into back of loop between two stitches (increase 1 stitch)

M1pw
make 1 st purlwise: with LH needle lift the strand between next and last st from front to back and purl through the back loop

MB
make a bobble

MC
main colour

meas
measure(s)

mrk
marker

P/p
purl

p(1)tbl
purl (1) into back of the loop

P2tog
purl 2 stitches together (1 stitch decreased)

P3tog
purl 3 stitches together (2 stitches decreased)

patt(s)
pattern(s)

PB
place bead

pfb
purl into front and back of stitch

PM
place marker

prev
previous

psso
pass slipped stitch(es) over

pwise
(purlwise) by purling the stitch

rem
remain/remaining

rep(s)
repeat(s)

rev st st
reverse stocking stitch

RH
right hand

rib2tog
either k2tog or p2tog dep on what next stitch in ribbing should be (keeps ribbing looking neat on buttonholes)

rnd(s)
round(s) (on a circular needle/DPNs)

RS
right side

RT
right twist

s2kpo
slip 2 tog kwise, knit 1, pass slipped sts over (2 stitches decreased)

skpo
slip 1 stitch, knit 1 stitch, pass slipped stitch over (1 stitch decreased)

sk2po
slip 1 stitch, knit 2 stitches together, pass slipped stitch over (2 stitches decreased)

sl
slip

sl st
slip stitch

SM
stitch marker

ssk
slip 2 stitches one at a time, knit 2 slipped stitches together (1 stitch decreased)

sssk
slip 3 stitches one at a time, knit 3 slipped stitches together (two stitches decreased)

ssp
slip 2 stitches one at a time, purl 2 slipped stitches together through back loops (1 stitch decreased)

st(s)
stitch(es)

st st
stocking stitch

T2B
slip next stitch to cn & hold at back, K1; P1 from cn

T2F
slip next stitch to cn & hold at front, P1; K1 from cn

tbl
through the back of the loop

tog
together

W3
(wrap 3 stitches) with yarn held at back of work, slip next 3 sts to cn and hold at front of work. Wrap yarn 3 times around these 3 sts, being careful not to pull it too tight and ending up with yarn at back of work. Slip the 3 sts to right needle without knitting them

w&t
(wrap and turn) slip next st from LH to RH needle, take yarn between needles to other side of work, slip st back to LH needle, take yarn between needles to its starting point, then turn. On next row, knit or purl the wrapped stitch together with the strand wrapping around it

WS
wrong side

wyib
with yarn in back

wyif
with yarn in front

ybk
yarn to the back

yfwd
yarn forward

yo
yarn over

yrn
yarn round needle

yon
yarn over needle

Print out and keep our knitting abbreviations guide:

Knitting abbreviations UK chart