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Knitting Technique - Understanding Knitting Abbreviations

In knitting magazines, patterns, and books, space matters. That's why directions are so often given in a very abbreviated form. After a while, knitters learn to read these abbreviations with ease. I know knitting magazines need to use these abbreviations to save space, but it causes lots of problems for new knitters and sometimes even for experienced knitters. I've been knitting all my life, but I never say in my head -- sl 1, k1, psso -- while I am knitting. NO - I repeat in my mind - slip one, knit one, pass over -- Don't you???

So I do not use abbreviations in the booklets included in my knitting kits. What I do though is to write instructions broken up into small steps, just as I did when I taught school. It's too easy to get lost when following multiple instructions written as if they were sentences in a paragraph. Also, I feel it's my responsibility to ensure that all of my kits end up as satisfactory garments. (That's why I always include my email address in the booklet so that knitters can get in touch with me in the unlikely event that they have a problem knitting the kit garment. For clarity's sake, I also include charts when needed and laundering instructions.)

It's important, however, to understand the abbreviations that you WILL encounter in knitting magazines, patterns, and books. Here is a sampling of the most common abbreviations:

  • k = knit

  • p = purl

  • CO = cast on

  • BO = bind off

  • k2tog = knit two together

  • p2tog = purl two together

  • ssk = slip, slip, knit (slip two stitches knitwise, place them back on left needle and knit them together)

  • skpsso = slip, knit, passover (slip 1, knit 1, pass the slipped stitch over the knit stitch)

  • yo = yarn over

    Of course there are many more abbreviations, but these are the basics. There is a wide variety of knitting books that list many more abbreviations. We will be discussing some good knitting books next week in our Knitting Tip of the Week.