Knitting Terms

To all you knitters out there –

For my lexicography class, I’m doing a glossary of knitting terms. This includes the technical stuff, like different types of yarns and different stitches, as well as the more “cultural” stuff, terms that knitters use that have no real technical basis. This includes stuff like a “stitch-n-bitch,” “frogging,” and “the sweater curse” (ie, if you start knitting a sweater for your SO, you’ll be broken up by the time you finish).

So, do you know any terms or sayings like that? The more cultural stuff?

Much Obliged!

Oh, and if you could maybe say what the term means, that would also be helpful :wink:

I haven’t spent much time knitting, but if it helps, I can tell you that “stitch n bitch” (getting together with other afficianados and bitching about life as you stitch) and “frogging” (undoing stitches that were miscounted or completed incorrectly) are general terms used in any needlework art I am familiar with (including counted cross stitch, needlepoint, and hardanger).

You might also look into Google Groups RCTN ( There are lots of knitters that hang out there.

Felting - the act of agitating a piece made from some animal fibers in water. The scales on the fibers lock together and create a solid piece of material.

Yarn Over - (called a yarn forward in UK knitting) The act of bringing the yarn forward (or over the needle) before knitting the next stitch. Creates an increase and a hole in the work. Used very frequently in lace knitting.

Increase - Creating an extra stitch. Used to shape a piece. There are several different increases a knitter can use, including a yarn over and a technique called make one.

Decrease - Subtracting a stitch. Used to shape a piece. Again, there are several different decreases one can use, including K2tog (knit 2 together, where the needle is passed through two stitches before a new stitch is made) and skpsso (slip, knit, pass slipped stitch over, in which one stitch is slipped to the other needle without knitting it, then the next stitch is knit, and the slipped stitch is passed over the new knit stitch and dropped off the needle).

Animal fibers - Yarn made from wool, alpaca, angora, mohair, and rarely such weirdos as dog or cat or rabbit or chinchilla. Most animal fiber felts, unless it’s been treated otherwise. I know all the ovine, caprine and camel-types do, but I’m not sure about dog or cat or rabbit or chinchilla or any of the other oddballs. Silk also counts as an animal fiber, but isn’t QUITE the same as the others, not being a type of fur/hair/wool.

Plant fibers - Linen, cotton, hemp are the common ones, with oddballs that show up occasionally such as soy silk and bamboo fiber. Plant fibers do NOT felt.

Synthetic fibers - Rayon, nylon, acryclic, viscose, mylar…basically anything that doesn’t come from an animal or plant without extensive chemical processing. If it can be cut into strips or spun into fiber, it will be used.

Novelty yarn - Usually synthetic, but not always. This is yarn that has extra gewgaws. Eyelash yarn has short fibers tied onto the main yarn perpendicularly so they stick out on a finished piece. Railroad yarn has two yarns running parallel connected by flags, or small square pieces of fabric or material running down them like rungs on a ladder. Bound yarn is a loosely spun yarn bound together by a smaller stringlike yarn. Ribbon yarn is actually woven ribbon used to knit with. Braided yarns are made of three or more strands braided together all along the length.

Also, you might want to note why it’s called “frogging”…

What does a frog sound like?
Rip-it. Rip-it.

I’ve also heard the reject pile (pieces that aren’t turning out well and are set aside to be ripped out) called ‘the frog pond’.
More terms:

I-cord - a very easy-to-knit cord, made by casting on to a double-pointed needle, then knitting without turning. At the end of each row, you just scoot the piece across the needle and go on with the next row. The back side of the work pulls tight, like a zipper, as you work, and you end up with a yarn tube.

Casting on - to place the initial stitches on one of your knitting needles. There are an amazing multitude of methods of casting on. I can’t even go into them in this post.

Binding off - to finish up the main knitting of a piece (or part of a piece) so that it doesn’t unravel when it’s slipped off the needles. Basically, it consists of slipping each stitch over the stitch in front of it, so it catches on that stitch. At the end, the yarn end is pulled through the last stitch and woven into the seam.

Straight needles - the classic knitting needle. Long, pointed on one end and knobbed at the other. Used for knitting flat.

Circular needles - two knitting needles without knobs on the ends, connected by a cord of varying length. Used for knitting in the round as well as for knitting flat.

Double-pointed needles - a set of knitting needles (either 4 or 5 of them) with points on both ends that are used for knitting in the round on projects that are too small for circular needles to be practical.

Knitting flat or straight knitting - the classic back-and-forth technique of knitting on straight needles. To create stockinette stitch, one knits one row and purls the next.

Knitting in the round - knitting with circular or double-pointed needles. Rather than turning the work as you would for straight knitting, you just keep going around and around and around. To create stockinette stitch in round knitting, you just keep knitting row after row of knit stitches.

Knit (stitch) - Putting the needle through the existing stitch from front to back, then wrapping the yarn (held behind the work) around, pulling it through, and dropping the old stitch off the needle.

Purl (stitch) - putting the needle through the existing stitch from back to front, then wrapping the yarn (held in front of the work) around, pulling it through and dropping the old stitch off the needle.

Stockinette stitch - creates a smooth work, with even rows of stitches. In flat knitting, is created by alternating rows of knit and purl. In round knitting, is created by consistently using knit stitches.

Garter stitch - creates a ridged, stretchy work. In flat knitting, is created by knitting every row. In round knitting, is created by alternating rows of knit and purl.

Sorry about that…I realized you weren’t asking so much about the technical stuff AFTER I posted two long posts about technical stuff… :smack:

I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking for -
but there’s a list at the knitlist (at yahoo groups) that has some commonly used knitting terms (and site specific ones as well) in the FAQ.

Are you looking for basic “everyone knows this pattern” pattern names? Sweater types? yarn types? styles of knitting?

I’ll help out if I can, but I need a more specific question.

You might mention that the I in “I-cord” is for “idiot.”

What’s the knitting equivalent of the quilters’ UFO (Unfinished Fabric Object)?


The same.

Un Finished Object

Cardi - short for cardigan
Ribby - Short for anything knitted in a ribbed pattern

which leads to the Ribby Cardi

LYS = Local Yarn Store

SEX = Stash Enhancement Xpedition

On that same note: Stash - yarn owned. May or may not be used at some future date. Size of stash has absolutely no relationship to whether or not yarn will be bought on a trip to your LYS for SEX…

I’ve seen “tink” used as a term for when you’re un-knitting. If you knew you’d made a mistake only a short way back, it would be wasteful to frog the item, but you could un-knit (knitting backwards to carefully unravel the work) to the mistake, correct it, then carry on. I don’t see this very frequently though.

Also just remembered WIP: work in progress. I see it used differently from UFO, since there’s the expectation that a WIP will become either a UFO or a FO.

Another one:

lifeline - a thread passed through a row of stitches to hold them in place. Used a lot in lace knitting, as miscounting and errors happen constantly when you’re doing intricate patterns. If you find you’re five stitches short at the end of a pattern repeat, you can just frog back to the lifeline (which will keep the unraveling from going farther) and start from the marked row in the pattern again.

I’ve tinked when I’ve messed up one or two rows, and then I’ve had to frog when I screwed up several rows back. grumble grumble grumble

I’ve also seen de-Stashing, where you get rid of your unwanted yarn, either by offering it up to someone or donating it, usually to a school or YMCA, for their craft projects.

You have no idea how much you’re helping me out. I’m kind of a solitary knitter, so I don’t know a lot of the fun jargon that gets passed around, except for what I read in books.

I’ll definitely check out the cites y’all mentioned. Oh, and all y’all will be cited and everything, all on the up and up. :wink:

jayjay … don’t worry about defining the technical stuff; it helps to see how others would define stuff, and I learned a thing or two besides.

amarinth … I’m mostly looking for the “slangy” (for lack of a better word) terms that knitters use that have little or no real technical basis. Dunno if that explains anything any better.

Thanks again!

I use the term “rip” instead of “frogging” because it sounds more violent. It’s more satisfying for me, because I’m usually pretty grumbly when I have to rip something out.

Stitch’n’Bitch books are commonly abbreviated as S’n’B (Stitch’n’Bitch) and S’n’B:N (Stitch’n’Bitch Nation).

A yarn whore is someone who is easily lured by the siren call of yarn. I am a yarn whore, especially if it’s shiny ore sooooft. Everyone is at heart.

A yarn-snob is someone who refuses to work with acrylic yarns, preferring to work with natural fibers: wool, silk, linen, cotton, etc. Extreme yarn-snobs might look down on someone who uses acrylic yarns at all.

The only other thing I can think of are “clocks,” which are decorative stitch patterns over the outside ankle portion of handknit socks and stockings. Some patterns do call for clocks on both sides. Some might involve colorwork or might have been embroidered on after the fact.

I suggest you check out the knitting community on LiveJournal. A couple hours there should give you plenty of stuff to work with.

Cultural stuff? Well, it may not help you with vocubulary, but it will show you the Knitter’s attitude. Here’s the seedy underbelly of knitting. Only the strong survive.

“Sleeve Island”: the seemingly interminable stage of a sweater when one is trying to get the two sleeves knitted.