THE SECRET CODE OF KNITTING - What does it all mean?

Knitting Patterns Decoded

If you have set yourself the task of learning to knit, one of the most confusing aspects can be understanding what all the 'codes' of a knitting pattern mean.

Many knitting patterns will actually have a glossary for reference, as sometimes the style of stitch may vary from knitter to knitter. If the glossary is missing you can really be lost.

I've put together a brief outline of basic knitting terms and pattern instructions to get you started.

Firstly I must stress that even for seasoned knitters, sometimes patterns can seem quite cryptic.

The key is - to read very very carefully the instructions for each row.


Simple Pattern Glossary

CO   Cast On.

This instruction tells you how many stitches you need to start to item. There will generally be a number after this such as CO94.

DIFFERENT SIZES - If you find more than one number, it will be the instruction to cast on a different amount dependent on size. For example C094, 106, 120 will be the instructions for small, medium or large. Further to this, different sizes will generally be indicated with the series of numbers at all relevant sections. So look for which sequence the size you have chosen is listed then follow that instruction. Example if you are knitting the medium size and it is listed as the second number all instructions for medium will be the second number.

K    This indicates a knit stitch.  Watch the video in link to see how to Knit. Also known as plain knitting.

P     This indicates a purl stitch. Watch the video in link to see how to Purl

Garter stitch  This instruction means that all the knitting is done using plain knitting or K stitch.

St St  This abbreviation is used to indicate Stocking Stitch or Stockinette Stitch (interchangeable terms). Knit one row in plain K stitch then the alternate row in Purl stitch. It gives the knitted fabric one smooth side and a knobbled side.

Rib This indicates that a pattern of alternate Knit and Purl stitches are used to make a ridged pattern. The Rib is often used for cuffs or edges. Rib will often be abbreviated to 2x2 Rib, or 1x1 Rib (sometimes called Single Rib). This will be 2 knit then 2 purl, or 1 knit then 1 purl. Watch the video to see how to Rib.

K2Tog   This indicates you need to Knit two stitches together. A common method to decrease your work.

Cast Off or Bind Off  - end the knitting or remove some of the stitches. Watch this video to see how to Cast Off.


If a knitting pattern was written in plain English this is how it would read.

CO 30

Cast on 30 stitches

Knit 8 rows in 2 x 2 rib

Knit 2 stitches, then 2 purl stitches, knit 2 stitches, purl 2 stitches across the whole row in sequence.

Do this for the next 8 rows

Cont. in St.St for till piece measures 30cm.

On the 9th row knit all stitches, then on the 10th row purl all stitches.

Continue in this sequence knitting one row, then purling the alternate row until your knitting measures 30cm from the cast on edge.

Knit 8 rows in 2 x 2 rib

Next row will be knit 2 stitches, purl 2 stitches in sequence across the whole row. Continue in this sequence for 8 rows.

Cast Off

The final row - cast off all stitches and knot at end.


This Glossary is only the basic stitches, but it gives you a idea of where to start.

Happy knitting! :)