Knitting Terms

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On this page, you will find definitions of common knitting terms used in knitting patterns.

A  B    C    D    E   F   G    H    I   J    K    L    M    N    O    P    Q    R    S    T    U    V    W   X    Y    Z


- A -

Aran Knitting

Aran Knitting is a style of knitting that is often used to knit handspun wool. The style originated in the Aran islands off the coast of Ireland. Aran knitting is characterised by intricate patterns of cables and textured knitting like moss stitch, lattice stitches and bobbles.

- B -


A backstitch is a strong hand seaming stitch used to sew flat, knitted pieces together. This method provides a strong, but elastic seam.

Bind Off

Finish or close off live stitches so knitted work does not unravel. Also referred to as Cast Off.

Bind Off in Pattern

To keep the pattern active while binding off. For example, if pattern is a two-by-two rib stitch you would work this pattern while binding off. Also see cast off in pattern. 


A finishing process in which knitted fabric is moistened (either by water or steam), then shaped to final measurements. Blocking ensures even stitches and helps to flatten out any curled edges.


Plastic tools used to hold short lengths of yarn when working with multiple yarn colors. Bobbins are a lifesaver when working on a pattern with many color changes.


Ornamentation stitch on knitted fabric. Created by adding several stitches to a needle and then working those stitches back into a single stitch. 

Buttonhole Band

A strip of knitted fabric onto which button holes are created. 

- C -


To create twisted designs within knitted fabric by crossing a group of stitches in front or behind each other. 

Cable Needle

A small, double-pointed needle that can be curved or straight. A cable needle is used to temporarily hold the stitches off the work when creating a cable pattern.

Cable Panel

The stitch panel (typically stocking stitch) where a cable is created.

Circular Needles

Knitting needles consisting of a pair of short, straight or slightly bent needles attached to a flexible cord.

Circular needles may be used in place of straight needles as long as work is not joined.

Contrasting Colour

An accent colour used in a pattern. (And no it is not spelt incorrectly - this site is Australian so I write using the English/Australian spelling not American spelling.)

- D -


To reduce the number of stitches in a row and shape your knitting. The decrease is usually achieved by knitting two stitches together. 

Double Pointed Needles

Straight needles with a point at each end. These are used for knitting small circular items such as socks, or the centre of baby shawls.

Dropped Stitch

A stitch that has slipped off the end of a needle accidentally and has not been worked for several rows. If a dropped stitch is not picked up or tied off in some way (can be done using a crochet hook) the knitting will eventually unravel.

- E -


A small decorative hole, most commonly used when knitting lace or for buttonholes on baby clothing, but also used in decorative cables and rib stitch patterns.

- F -

Fair Isle Knitting

Another style of knitting commonly used by spinners, Fair Isle Knitting is a method of knitting with two or more colors knitting with frequent changes of color in the same row to create intricate patterns.

Colors not being used are carried or stranded across the back side of the fabric.

Flat Knitting

Knitting accomplished using straight needles when one row is work and piece is turned to work on next row. Flat knitting can also be done on circular needles as long as the stitches are not joined into a circle.

- G -

Garter Stitch

A common stitch pattern created by knitting every row.

Finished fabric has a bumpy, ridged surface. 


The number of stitches and rows in a set measured area (usually 10cm square). A gauge swatch (also called a tension square) is knitted to ensure that the finished project will have the correct measurements.


An invisible seaming method used to join two active rows of knitting so seaming will resemble a row of knitting stitches.

- H -


A loosely twisted length of yarn. Hanks must be wound into balls before working with the yarn. This can be accomplished by hand or with a ball winder.

Also called a skein.

- I -


Adding stitches to a row to make the knitted piece wider.

- J -

- K -


Performing a basic knit stitch by knitting into the back of the live stitch.

Knitting in the Round

Refers to knitting with circular needles to create tubular items like socks or hats. Also known as Circular Knitting.


Inserting the working needle into the next stitch as if you intended to for a knit stitch.  For right-handers, this would be in the front of a stitch going from left to right. 

- L -

Live Stitch

Live Stitches that those that are being worked on a needle and not yet been knitted or cast off.

- M -

Main Colour

The predominant color in a multicolored knitted piece. 

Make One (M1)

A technique used for increasing stitches. See knitting abbreviations for more detail.


Typically a plastic circle or loop used to mark a pattern change. You can also use a strand of different colored yarn as a marker.

- N -

Needle Gauge

A needle gauge is a tool used to determine the size of unlabeled needles. Usually, it is a strip of plastic with a different sized hole for each needle size.

- O -

- P -

Purling or Purl

The act of making basic purl stitches by knitting through the front of the live stitch.

- Q -

- R -

Reverse Stocking Stitch

Reverse stocking stitch is the fabric formed by making a row of purl stitches and a row of knit stitches. Being the opposite of stocking stitch, the finished garment is bumpy of the right side and smooth on the wrong side.


A rib is a combination of knit and purl stitches that creates a stretchy fabric with vertical ridges. Ribbing often is found at the beginning and end of garments. 

Right Side

The side of fabric shown on the 'good' or exterior side of a project.

Row Counter

A row counter is a small tool that is attached to one of your knitting needles and used to keep track of how many rows have been completed. 

- S -

Single Pointed Needle

A straight needle with a point at one end and a knob at the other to keep stitches from slipping off needle.

Used for flat knitting.


A loosely twisted length of yarn. Skeins must be wound into balls before working with the yarn. This can be accomplished by hand or with a ball winder. Also called a hank. 

Slip Stitch

To move a stitch from one needle to another without working. 


One of a series of loops to form a piece of knitted fabric.

Stitch Holder

A stitch holder is a tool used to any hold stitches that are not being worked to prevent them from unraveling.

Stocking Stitch or Stockinette Stitch

A fabric created by alternating between a row of knit stitches and a row of purl stitches. The fabric is smooth on the right or exterior side of the work and bumpy on the wrong or interior side of the work.


Stranding is a technique in which yarn is carried around stitches on wrong side of work to make a color change. If there are more than four stitches between the color change, the second color is woven into the back of the knitting.

- T -

Tapestry or Wool Needle

A large sewing needle with a dull tip. Used to weave in loose ends or tails and to sew seams.

- U -

- V -

- W -

- X -

- Y -

- Z -

I hope you found this page of common knitting terms useful. As the site develops I add to the content of the page so please feel free to come back when you next visit.

If you have any suggestions for any knitting terms or phrases that you feel should be included, please let me know by using the form on my contact page.

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