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Banish The Overwhelm: Essential Knitting Abbreviations Made Simple

Banish The Overwhelm: Essential Knitting Abbreviations Made Simple

If you’re relatively new to knitting, you can be forgiven for thinking that a knitting pattern is written in an entirely different language. In a lot of ways, it is a different language, because rather than containing a list of instructional sentences, knitting patterns use a special set of abbreviations to communicate the different stitches, steps and techniques you will need to work through to knit up the project shown. 

There are so many instructions within a knitting pattern that are duplicated, repetitive or wordy to write out, that abbreviations are actually the quickest and easiest way to communicate them. For example, 

‘*K2, P1; rep from * to end of row.’

Takes up a lot less space on a pattern sheet than:

‘Knit 2 stitches, then purl 1 stitch, then knit another 2 stitches and purl another 1 stitch, and repeat this pattern until you come to the end of the row.’

It can be a confusing system for beginners to get to grips with, but once you’ve familiarised yourself with the basics, knitting patterns become a whole lot easier to follow!


How Many Knitting Abbreviations Are There?


What can make knitting abbreviations a little trickier to master, is that there are no definitive fixed standards - so the more patterns you try, the more likely you are to come across slight style variations, depending on the pattern writer, and the country of origin. That being said, there are plenty of common abbreviations that are used more or less universally, and these are the ones we’ll work to demystify here. If in doubt, search the pattern itself for a list of abbreviations explained; many patterns will feature a breakdown and explanation of these somewhere on the page, or at the very least will mention the more unusual abbreviations that crop up in that particular pattern, and then refer you to a standard set of definitions for the rest.

Find Your Next Knitting Pattern at Deramores >


Most Common UK Knitting Abbreviations Explained:

Below we’ve worked through a list of UK knitting abbreviations you’re most likely to come across in your pattern, and included a handy explanation which we hope helps to demystify them for you, and help you on your knitting journey!

alt: This is an abbreviation of the word ‘alternate’ - and means that the technique referred to in conjunction with this abbreviation is to be worked on every other row, or every other stitch - whichever is specified. 

beg: An abbreviation of the word 'beginning.’ This will be used to denote how you should start or begin a certain instruction, or as an indication of the position itself; for example, if you are being instructed to work from the beginning, count stitches from the beginning, or measure from the beginning.

cont: This simply means ‘continue’ and will be used to instruct you to carry on working as detailed.

dec: This is short for ‘decreasing’ or ‘decrease,’ and is used when you need to decrease, by knitting two or three stitches together to combine them into one stitch in the next row. The instructions in your pattern will state how many stitches you need to decrease, and often will include a visual of the rows, which demonstrates how they are to be decreased.

foll: This is an abbreviation of the word ‘following.’

gst: An abbreviation for ‘garter stitch.’ This is the first technique you’ll come across when you learn knitting, and refers to the pattern you create by working solely knit stitches back and forth, when working flat. It will create a piece of flat fabric that is totally reversible, as both sides will look the same.

inc:  This is short for ‘increasing’ or ‘increase,’ and is the opposite of decreasing. Instead of knitting one stitch into two or more stitches to decrease, you will work twice or more times into a single stitch, or use another method, in order to increase.

k: This is an abbreviation of the word ‘knit’ and refers to the knit stitch. With the knit stitch, you pass your needle through the previous loop from below, as opposed to the purl stitch in which you pass through the previous loop from above. For example, the instruction: ‘k1, p1’ is telling you to knit one stitch, then purl one stitch.

kfb: This means to knit in the front and the back of the same stitch, and is one of a variety of techniques a knitter can use to increase the row they are working on by a stitch. Kfb requires you to use a stitch to create the increase, whereas m1 (below) does not use any, instead creating the increase from the space between two stitches.

m1: In knitting, this abbreviation means ‘make one’ and is instructing you to create a new stitch, to increase the number of stitches on your needle. Where m1 is used, you are required to create the increase from the space between two stitches. To do this, use the point of your knitting needle to pick up the horizontal loop that sits between the stitch you have just worked and the next stitch to be worked, and then knit or purl (depending on the pattern!)  a stitch into the back of this.

p: This is an abbreviation of the word ‘purl’ and refers to the purl stitch. With the purl stitch, you pass your needle through the previous loop from above, as opposed to the knit stitch in which you pass through the previous loop from below. 

psso: This is an abbreviation of the instruction ‘’pass the slipped stitch over’ which is how you decrease by creating a bound off stitch in the middle of a row. It’s the same technique you use when binding off and is most often used as a decrease in lace knitting. More often than not, you’ll find it used in conjunction with other decreasing techniques within the pattern, or referencing multiple stitches, e.g., p2sso means ‘pass 2 slipped stitches over.’ To psso, simply insert the point of your left needle into the front of the second stitch on the right needle, and then lift it to place it over the first stitch on the right needle.

rem: an abbreviation of ‘remaining’ or ‘remain.’

rep: an abbreviation of the word ‘repeating’ or ‘repeat.’

rs: This is short for the ‘right side’ of your knitting, and refers to the face of the fabric, or the side that will be visible/the outside of the garment you are creating. The ws - or ‘wrong side’ of your fabric is the back, or the side which will be on the inside of a garment.

skpo: This stitch instruction is telling you to slip one, knit one then pass slipped stitch over (see psso, above).

sl: An abbreviation for the term ‘slip’ which means to skip a stitch from one needle to the other, without actually knitting it.

st: This refers to a stitch, or stitches (sts).

stst: An abbreviation for ‘stocking stitch’, which is created when the knitter knits every stitch in each right side row, and purls every stitch in each wrong side row. By alternating the stitch with each full row, the knitter is able to create a fabric on which the right side will show a ‘v’ stitch pattern, whilst the wrong side will show a bar pattern.

tog: An abbreviation for ‘together’ this is used when the pattern requires you to work two or more stitches together at the same time, e.g., ‘k2tog’ instructs that two stitches should be knitted together as though they were one stitch.

tbl: An abbreviation of ‘through the back loop’ - a modifier added to a stitch instruction telling you to work the stitch through the back loop, instead of through the front part as you normally would. For example, ‘k2tbl’ is telling you to knit the next two stitches through the back loop, and ‘p2tbl’ is telling you to purl the next two stitches through the back loop.

ws: This is short for the ‘wrong side’ of your knitting, and refers to the back of your fabric, or the side which will be on the inside of a garment, as opposed to ‘rs’ which refers to the face of the fabric you are knitting up, or the outside of the garment.

yf or yfwd: An abbreviation of ‘yarn forward,’ this means you want to bring the yarn over to the front of the work and is used between two knit stitches. In doing so, you will create an extra loop over your knitting needle as you work the next stitch, so that when you come to work into the next row, there will be an additional stitch on your needle to work into. As well as being an easy way to increase the number of stitches, this will also create a hole in your fabric, and so is a common move in decorative lace or eyelet stitch patterns.

yrn: Similar to Yf, this is an abbreviation of ‘yarn round’ and is used between two purl stitches. Because the yarn starts at the front, it goes over the top of the right needle, and comes back to the front again between the two needles.


In US publications, you may find either or both of these terms replaced with the abbreviation ‘yo’ which stands for ‘yarn over’, and still refers to the same creation of an additional stitch on the needle, and hole in the fabric.


Now that you’ve been introduced to some of the most common UK knitting pattern abbreviations, you can put your skills to the test and practise translating a knitting pattern with a little help from us, in our knitting pattern reading guide. You didn’t think we’d throw you in at the deep end and leave you to it, did you?! 

Find Your Next Knitting Pattern at Deramores >


We hope you’ve found our demystification of the essential knitting abbreviations useful, and it enables you to dive into your next (or first!) knitting pattern with confidence and enthusiasm! If you are new to the world of knitting and would like a little help on selecting the best yarns to learn with, read our beginners’ guide to choosing the best yarns to work with, here. Or, if you want to know everything there is to know about yarns, give our ultimate guide to yarns a read. We can't wait to see what you create!