Knitting Tips & Hints

Standard Abbreviations

beg beginning
bet between
BO bind off
CC contrast color
ch chain
cn cable needle
CO cast on
dec decrease
dpn double pointed needle(s)
eor every other row
est established
inc increase
k1b knit 1 in back loop of stitch
k2tog knit 2 stitches together (a right-
slanting decrease)
k or K knit
LH left hand
MC main color
meas measures
ndl needle
p1b purl 1 in back loop of stitch
p or P purl
pat pattern
pM place marker
psso pass slipped stitch over knit (or purl) stitch
rem remain, remaining
rep repeat
RH right hand
rnd round
RS right side
sk skip
sl slip
ssk slip, slip, knit (a left-slanting decrease worked by slipping 2 stitches individually as if to knit to right-hand needle, reinserting tip of left needle through the front loops and knitting two stitches together from this position)
sp space
St st stockinette stitch
st(s) stitch(es)
tbl through back loops
wyib with yarn in back
wyif with yarn in front
WS wrong side
yo yarn over
" inch(es)
* repeat instructions following asterisk (or between first and last asterisks) number of times stated
[] repeat instructions within brackets number of times stated
( ) repeat instructions inside parentheses number of times stated

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Basic stitches

Casting on -- the process of making stitches on the needles for knitting. There are several different ways to do this. Experiment with different techniques to find the easiest one for you.

Knitting -- weaving yarn into loops on needles forming a fabric for apparel or household items. Also defines a stitch used. When rows are knitted across, a horizontally ridged fabric is made called garter stitch.

Purling -- working a stitch opposite from knit. When rows are knit then purled alternately across, the fabric has a smooth appearance on the front and ridges on the back; also called stockinette stitch.

Ribbing -- combining knit stitches and purl stitches within a row. This gives a stretch to the fabric and is used for cuffs, waistlines and neck edges for garments.

Increases and Decreases -- making new stitches to increase the width of the fabric or knitting stitches together to narrow the width of the fabric.

Slipping stitches and yarn overs -- used for creating a lace effect in the fabric.

Pattern stitches -- a combination of knit stitches and purl stitches to create a texture in the fabric.

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Metric conversion charts and standard equivalents

Metric Conversion Charts
US to Metric

U.S. measurements Multiplied by Metric Measurement
yards X .9144 = meters (m)
yards X 91.44 = centimeters (cm)
inches X 2.54 = centimeters (cm)
inches X 25.4 = millimeters (mm)
inches X .0254 = meters (m)

Standard Equivalents

US measurement Metric Measurement
1/8 inch = 3.2 mm = 0.32 cm
1/4 inch = 6.35 mm = 0.635 cm
3/8 inch = 9.5 mm = 0.95 cm
1/2 inch = 12.7 mm = 1.27 cm
5/8 inch = 15.9 mm = 1.59 cm
3/4 inch = 19.1 mm = 1.91 cm
7/8 inch = 22.2 mm = 2.22 cm
1 inch = 25.4 mm = 2.54 cm
4.5 inches = 11.43 cm = 0.11 m
9 inches = 22.86 cm = 0.23 m
13.5 inches = 34.29 cm = 0.34 m
18 inches = 45.72 cm = 0.46 m
22.5 inches = 57.15 cm = 0.57 m
27 inches = 68.58 cm = 0.69 m
31.5 inches = 80.0 cm = 0.8 m
36 inches = 91.44 cm = 0.91 m

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Following patterns

Using repeat symbols in patterns shortens and simplifies the instructions, as well as providing a focal point to help you find your place when you return to the pattern after working a step.

Even the most intricate pattern can be easily completed when you understand style.

Guidelines to use when reading patterns:

  • Knitted items are made either in rows which are turned at the end and the next row is worked back in the other direction, or in continuous rounds which are joined at the ends and not turned.
  • When the instructions state around (for rounds) or across (for rows), this means the instructions will be repeated to the end of the round or row with no stitches left over.
  • When repeating between parentheses ( ), work the instructions inside the ( ) the number of times stated directly after the ( ). For example: (K 5, inc) 3 times.
  • If this were written out, it would read: K 5, inc, K 5, inc, K 5, inc.
  • When repeating from asterisks *, work through the instructions to the semicolon before the words ³ repeat from *, ³ then go back to the * symbol and repeat the instructions the number of times stated. For example: * inc, K 5, P 1; repeat from * 2 more times.
  • If this were written out, it would read: inc, K 5, P 1, inc, K 5, P 1, inc, K 5, P 1.
  • The instructions from the * were completed once, then repeated twice more.
  • When repeating between first and second asterisks *, go back to the first * symbol and repeat the instructions to the second * symbol.
  • These same repeats are also used in combinations. For example: *K 4, (yo, dec, K 1) 2 times; repeat from * 3 more times.
  • Working from the *, the first part would be worked, then the instructions in parenthesis worked twice, then all of it repeated three more times. Or another example could read: [K 1, P 1, *K 1, (P 2 tog, K 1) 2 times, P 1; repeat from *, K 1, P 1]; repeat between [ ].
  • To work this sequence of instructions, starting at the first [ , the two stitches are worked, then the K st following the *, next the instructions in parentheses are worked twice, then the P st, then the entire instructions from the * are worked, followed by the next two stitches, and then go back to the first [ and repeat the entire sequence to the ending ]. Entire rows (or rounds), or groups of rows are often repeated. For example: Row 12: Repeat row 4.
  • In this instance, to work row 12, look back and work the instructions for row 4 again.
  • Or a repeat may be written: Rows 24-42: Repeat rows 4-8 consecutively, ending with row 7.
  • To do this, look back and work rows 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 in consecutive order over again three more times, then work rows 4, 5, 6 and 7 again. This last repeat of row 7 will be row 42 when you count your completed rows.

Special stitch instructions and abbreviations will be printed either in a Note or included in the row in bold type with a semicolon at the end of the stitch instructions. From this point on in the pattern, only the abbreviation will be used.

Just remember to work the instructions carefully, one phrase at a time, from one punctuation to the next, the number of times stated, and be sure to start and finish each repeat at the correct point.

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The single most important factor in determining the finished size of a knit item. Patterns will produce different finished sizes just by using a different needle size. Although gauge is not as important for flat, one-piece items, it is important to be able to determine how much difference a needle change will make, especially in clothing items, and when pieces are to be sewn together or when they must fit a certain area.

Since each one of us knits differently, there is no standard for knowing exactly how much a needle size will change the gauge or finished size. The tension you hold in the yarn will create loose or tight stitches. For smooth, even stitches, it is important to maintain the same tension. This means the gauge is the responsibility of the knitter and must be consistent throughout the entire item to assure an accurate finished size. It is always best to make a small swatch, about 4" or 5" square, using the yarn, stitch pattern and needles recommended. A simple formula for gauge is: Stitches/rows divided by measurement equals gauge.

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Thoughtful gifts

When giving a hand-knitted item as a gift, include the yarn wrapper, a few yards of yarn, and an extra button or two if the item has buttons. This way, the recipient of the gift can wash or clean the item correctly, and repair it if needed.

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Hide the ends

To hide yarn ends neatly and securely, thread the cut end into a tapestry needle and weave through the backs of the stitches, first in one direction, then go back in the opposite direction through other stitches. This will prevent the yarn from working loose when the item is stretched or laundered.

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How to work in pattern

Once the stitch or design repeat has been established, rather than continuously writing the same instructions over and over, the instructions may simply say, "work in pattern."

This means to work the instructions exactly as previously stated, carefully keeping track of your stitches and rows, and using stitch markers if necessary. It is helpful to keep a notepad handy to mark down the repeats and rows as they are completed.

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Inconsistent gauge

A very important step is checking your gauge frequently. If you aren't getting the proper gauge, you'll need to pull back and rework that portion adjusting your tension accordingly.

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Keep your place in written color changes

Before you begin, use highlighter markers to mark each color change in the pattern; using a matching-color highlighter for each yarn color works even better.

When knitting duplicate pieces such as sleeves, socks, fronts of cardigans, etc., knit both pieces at the same time on the same needles, using a separate ball of yarn for each piece.

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Too many loose ends?

When making pieces that are to be sewn together, leave yarn ends long enough to sew the sections together. This cuts down on the number of yarn ends to be woven in, making the work neater on the back.

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Lose your place in the pattern?

If you keep losing your place in the pattern, try using a Post-It® note as an inexpensive alternative to a plastic line keeper to keep your place on written patterns or graphs.

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Knitting needles are available in straight, circular and double-pointed styles.


US Metric U.K.
14 .60 mm
12 .75 mm
10 1.00 mm
6 1.50 mm
0 5 1.75 mm
1 B 2.00 mm 14
2 C 2.50 mm 12
3 D 3.00 mm 10
4 E 3.50 mm 9
5 F 4.00 mm 8
6 G 4.50 mm 7
4.75 mm
US Metric U.K.
5 F 4.00 mm 8
6 G 4.50 mm 7
4.75 mm
8 H 5.00 mm 6
9 I 5.50 mm 5
10 J 6.00 mm 4
6.50 mm 3
10 1/2 K 7.00 mm 2
11 8.00 mm
13 9.00 mm
15 P 10.00 mm
Q 16.00 mm

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Add a new skein of yarn

It is easier to hide the ends if you add a new skein of yarn at the end of a row, even if it means cutting off a long strand of yarn. If desired, the cut-off yarn can be used to sew seams or saved to use for scrap yarn projects.

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Pin it together

In place of straight pins, use plastic hair roller picks to pin knitted pieces together before sewing seams.

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Quality finishing is an important step in producing beautiful knitted items. Even a well-knit item will be less attractive if the seams are bulky or uneven.

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Need a smooth edge?

When working stockinette stitches in rows, there is a little knot or ball at the beginning of each row, forming a rough, knobby edge. To create a smooth edge for your knit pieces, slip the first stitch on each row, then work the remainder of the row as instructed. The edge will be nice and straight.

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Tight cast-on edge

If your cast-on edge tends to be too tight, try casting on with a size or two larger needles, then change to the required size for the remainder of the project.

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Placing unraveled stitches back on needles

When necessary to unravel several rows in order to correct a problem, wind the yarn into a ball as you unravel back to the row in question; using a needle one or two sizes smaller than those you are working with, unravel the problem row one stitch at a time and place the free stitch on the smaller needle -- using the smaller needle will help prevent splitting the yarn as it is replaced on the needle.

After the entire row has been unraveled and all stitches are on the smaller needle, resume knitting with the regular size needles.

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Feel like gauge swatches are wasted effort?

When beginning a new project, determine your gauge by knitting a 4"-square gauge swatch and bind off. Save the swatch from each project, and when there are enough, sew them together to create a warm sampler pillow or afghan.

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Where did I begin?

Counting stitches can be difficult when working in continuous rounds. To help keep track of where you are, place a stitch marker at the beginning of the first round, then slip the marker when you come to it on each round. Use a pencil and note pad or a row counter to keep track of the rounds you have worked.

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Yarn weights are: fingering, baby, sport, worsted, and bulky or chunky.

For best results, work an intricate stitch pattern with plain yarn and simple stitch patterns with novelty yarn. A novelty yarn can be such an attention-grabber, that an intricate stitch pattern often goes unnoticed when worked with it.

For a finished item that looks like the photograph, it is best to use the yarn recommended; if you are unable to find the yarn, or if you prefer to use another brand or yarn fiber, these simple guidelines will help you select a suitable yarn substitute.

The substitute yarn should work up to the same gauge stated in the pattern and should take approximately the same number of yards to make the item, but it may not weigh the same.

Ounces to Grams Grams to Ounces
1 28.4 25 7/8
2 56.7 40 1 2/5
3 85.0 50 1 3/4
4 113.4 100 3 1/2
Standard Weight Yarn Gauge
Bulky Sport
3 sts = 1 inch 6 sts = 1 inch
4 rows = 1 inch 8 rows = 1 inch
Size 11 needles Size 5 needles
Worsted Fingering
5 sts = 1 inch 7 sts = 1 inch
7 rows = 1 inch 9 rows = 1 inch
Size 8 needles Size 3 needles

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